Professor - Musicology, Popular Music Studies
Office: TC 227
Phone: 519-661-2111 x85104
Robert Toft arrived at Western in 1989 and over the years has pursued a variety of interests. He has been involved in the performance practices of singing for most of his career and has given master classes and lectures on historical principles of interpretation in Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, and the United States. He first became interested in coaching as an accompanist (lute), when he realized that he could help vocalists animate songs in exciting ways by rooting their performances in period treatises. In the early 1980s, very few researchers studied historical approaches to singing, and so he embarked on a long and rewarding journey to base his vocal coaching on older principles of interpretation.
Along the way, he wrote a doctoral dissertation and published four books on the history of singing:
Aural Images of Lost Traditions: Sharps and Flats in the Sixteenth Century (1992)
Tune thy Musicke to thy Hart: The Art of Eloquent Singing in England 1597-1622 (1993)
Heart to Heart: Expressive Singing in England 1780-1830 (2000)
Bel Canto: A Performer’s Guide (2013).
He also took the lead role in developing Western’s major in popular music and is now active in that field as well. He has been keen to break down the barriers that exist between ‘classical’ and ‘pop’ and has published several articles that demonstrate specific ways in which these two rich traditions are closely related. In 2011, Continuum published his first book on popular music, Hits and Misses: Crafting Top-40 Singles, 1963-1971.