When Evan Toth sings, “Silence must be broken,” there’s an urgency behind the words. Toth GSN’12 is a singer-songwriter and an English instructor at Felician University and The Community High School in Teaneck, New Jersey (where he’s also assistant principal), and words are at the very core of what he does. “I love language,” he says, a passion that’s apparent not just in his career choices, but also in his carefully crafted lyrics.
An ample selection of those lyrics will soon be accessible in The Show, an album of original music, scheduled to drop in July. It’s the third album he’s released, after Welcome Back to Hell in 2007 and 2016’s Everything Is Fine, and it has particular meaning for Toth. A longtime fan of singer-songwriter Billy Joel, Toth was thrilled to record it with three members of Joel’s original band, drummer Liberty DeVitto, saxophonist Richie Cannata, and guitarist Russell Javors. (The album also features Malcolm Gold on bass and Toth on piano and vocals.)
“It was just a dream come true,” he says of the opportunity to record with DeVitto, Cannata, and Javors, which came to fruition after a fellow musician arranged an introduction. Playing alongside his idols was also a little intimidating, he says. “The opportunity to do this and not mess it up was a scary prospect.” He credits the band’s professionalism with the fact that the recording sessions were not only smooth but also “just fun.”
That Toth is a fan of Joel, widely lauded as a storyteller of the highest order, is hardly a surprise, given Toth’s musical education. While neither of his parents were musicians, they loved music, and as a child Toth was enthralled with his father’s expansive record library, particularly his many original Broadway cast recordings. “As a result of my father’s Broadway collection,” Toth says, “there’s a real theatrical streak in a lot of my music.” Nearly all his musical inspirations, from the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen to Warren Zevon and Elvis Costello, showcase that same dramatic bent.
His experience at Rutgers also helped shape him as a lyricist. As a graduate student in English, he says, he was encouraged to delve deeply into the work of imagistic poets like William Carlos Williams, most notably under Professor Rachel Hadas, a poet herself.
While his English training is extensive, as a musician Toth is largely self-taught, which hasn’t kept him from developing into a skilled pianist. Over the last 25 years, he’s performed in dozens of venues, among them The Bitter End and Bar Nine in New York City, Tangier in Los Angeles, and the Hackensack Performing Arts Center and Newark’s Riverfront Stadium in New Jersey. He also played the wedding singer in the 1999–2000 national tour of Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding and he’s reprised the role several times.
His musical interests are evident in his other endeavors: The Evan Toth Show on WFDU radio, which he calls “a high-energy oldies morning show,” and his podcast, Radar, for which he’s interviewed a broad range of musical guests, from fellow singer-songwriters Kenny Loggins and Suzi Quatro to legendary New York DJ Cousin Brucie.
He sometimes brings music into his classrooms—often in a very direct way. Recently, for example, in an English class held remotely with his students at Felician University, he was discussing the poet A. E. Housman’s dramatic change of tone in the poem “Loveliest of Trees.” To underscore the point, he moved his camera to the piano and demonstrated the idea musically.
Toth plans to spend the coming weeks fine-tuning the new album. “It’s been a long road and a lot of work and organization,” he says. On the other hand, he notes that he has “plenty more music in me—and given the opportunity, I’m ready to share it.” Silence, after all, must be broken.
Learn more about Evan Toth at www.evantoth.com.