Support Spokane Arts’ work to foster creativity & culture in our region for years to come by donating today! Your gift of any amount helps us continue impactful programs, public art projects, and direct granting to artists, arts organizations, & creative businesses! Learn more about all the ways to support here!

Artist: Thomas TarpleyHe/Him/His

Artistic Discipline: Music
Location: Spokane Valley, WA

Currently based in Spokane Valley, Washington, Tom is a native of northwest Louisiana.  His first experience in organized music was in the Austin area playing snare drum in the marching band at Del Valle High School just outside Austin, Texas.

His family moved back to Louisiana after he finished the ninth grade at Del Valley, Texas.  At his new school, Notre Dame High School in Shreveport, Tom continued his music activities in both the marching band and choir.  In his last two years of high school, he was first chair snare drum in the marching band.  Also while in high school, he played in bands that performed in nightclubs and juke joints from northwest to central and south Louisiana.  He was the youngest member by far in some groups and would have to be vouched for by the older members in order to play in some of the clubs.  During the last three years of high school he played in several different bands including Soul, R&B, high school show bands as well as Rock & Roll and Rock bands.

After high school, it was off to college for a couple of semesters and then his first stint in the Air Force as a weapons technician.  For a couple years Tom was a spectator and fan of live music in particular.  That would change while in Germany.  He was invited to a jam session just outside of Bitburg where he was living at the time.   He drove an old village where he found all the players set up in the barn and had a great time playing again.  About a week or so later one of the people from the jam session asked if he would like to hear the tape of the session and of course he did…and he did.  To the standard of playing he was used to for himself, it sounded terrible.  A decision had to be made at this point.  Either quit right now or buy a drum set and practice….a lot.

That set him off on an adventure that included attending Lakeside Music Conservatory in Shreveport, Louisiana where he private lessons as part of his program and performed in and around the Shreveport area.  During that time he worked with both David Egan and Michael Johnson. Both area musicians who would make significant achievements on their own after being band mates in Shreveport.

Fast forward to Tacoma, Washington, where Tom wound in the military again, auditioning for the Air Force band where he spent five or nearly six years performing all around the Northwest, including Canada, Montana, Nevada and Northern California honing down his skills as a percussionist (drummer) with the 724th Air Force Band of the Pacific Northwest.  After that adventure, an offer came from a label backed global touring band from Austin, Texas.  Michael E Johnson and the Killer Bees, made an outstanding offer not only for the spot as the drummer but also to contribute to the song repertoire of the band as well.  Tom had been submitting material to the band for consideration and it paid off.

While in the Austin area, both during and after his tenure with The Killer Bees, Tom was in demand and worked with other World Music, Reggae, Salsa and African Music bands in the area.  He also, between tours, worked as a House Manager for the famed Willie Nelson venue, The Austin Opera House, as well as sponsoring African Rhythm and Instrument Making Clinics featuring Odis Johnson from Shreveport, Louisiana.  He organized music based fund raisers for victims of extreme weather events and was a staff member for the short lived annual Marcus Garvey Festival in Austin.

Some of these events took place while Tom was a single parent.  And although he provided excellent care for his children while on the road, there came a time that his absence could lead to some life changing events for his children.  A decision was made and he was off of the touring road on to straight-laced work and at home for his children.

He continued while raising his children to work on his song writing, eventually re-married, after twelve years and now he’s home with his wife, a native of Spokane, to continue an adventure that started in western Washington years ago.

He operates a music production company (humanmusique productions), in his spare time.  Just recently he released his second electronic CD/EP under the moniker -Papa T/ a little dub’ll do ya-  and looking to continue the saga of music making in the Northwest.