Tom Callinan

Contributed Profile


I am a full-time professional folk singer, storyteller, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and sea-chanteyman.  In 1991 I was designated Connecticut’s first “Official State Troubadour” via legislation passed by our General Assembly, and signed by then Governor Lowell P. Weicker, Jr.


My dad had played bones in minstrel shows, music halls, and as part of some small-time accapella groups as a young man in 1930’s Connecticut.  As a small boy at his knee, I remember him taking spoons out of the dish-drainer, and playing them as bones to polka tunes that pulsed out of our kitchen radio every Sunday morning.  


I do a lot of arts-in-education programs in schools, libraries, teacher-training, etc. along the Eastern Seaboard, from Maine to Florida. I’ve taught thousands of people how to play the spoons, and inspired a few into trying rhythm bones using my assortment of rhythm bones made of varying materials illustrates the different timbres that are possible. I really enjoy being able to spark students’ recognition and appreciation of distinctions in sound potential. 


In performance, I use rhythm bones for Irish music, old-timey Americana, and sea chanteys – and wherever they seem to fit the mood.


For over twenty years my wife, Ann Shapiro, and I have toured performing participatory family-oriented songs in harmony, accompanied by a wide variety of wind, string, and percussion instruments. As storytellers, Ann and Tom embellish tales with humor, music, sound-effects, and audience involvement. For audiences of all ages.