Past Directors


Gabriel Pinto

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Gabriel Pinto, born and raised in Hamilton Ontario, began his musical education at 14 with The Hamilton Portuguese Band as an alto saxophonist. He was a member of HPB for 10 years 5 as Principle Alto playing under the direction of, Sergio Pavao, Gary Roque and Nelson Pinheiro. After completing high school (Cathedral High School) he continued his musical studies at Mohawk College focusing on Conducting, Composition, and Saxophone.

In 2008, at age 21 he was asked to be the conductor of The Holy Spirit Marching Band of Cambridge Ont. Making him the youngest musician to become a conductor of a Portuguese band in Canada. He was there for one year after which he was asked to become the Music Director of The McMaster University Marching Band where upon the band’s trip to Montreal’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the band placed 2nd. In addition, in 2010 he became a member of The Sacred Heart of Jesus Band of Toronto (St. Helen’s Parish) as Principle Alto Saxophonist playing under Conductors Joao Soares and Miguel Domingos, he remains a member. He joined The Royal Canadian Navy in 2012 in the Cadet Instructor Cadre where he was awarded The Commanding Officer’s Commendation (HMCS Ontario) for composing a march in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. Most recently, he was the Conductor and Artistic Director of F.L.B.J Band (Oakville’s Portuguese Marching Concert Band) from 2013 until 2016. He also worked with The Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra as Orchestra Manager/Librarian as well with The Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. He continues to be in high demand as a saxophonist, conductor and composer with various groups in Canada, USA and Europe.


Richard (Rick) Haighway

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Richard (Rick) Haighway, began his musical studies at the age of 12 under Charles Brown, while attending Beatty-Fleming Senior Public School in Brampton Ontario. After graduating to Brampton Centennial Secondary School he met his mentor (and music teacher) Rob Kinnear and his private instructor Sal Fratia.

Under Sal and Rob's direction Richard obtained his ARCT-Performers from the Royal Conservatory Of Music at age 17, and performed in several performances of the first Toronto production of "The Lion King."

In 2003 at age 18, while attending Mohawk College, Richard met Dr. Glenn Mallory (then the conductor of the Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra) and began performing and conducting the group regularly. Also under the guidance of Dr. Mallory, Rick landed his first concert with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and the Toronto Philharmonia.

Richard has since attended Wilfred Laurier University and received his Masters degree in conducting from the University of Toronto. Rick has studied with such international names as Mike Polci, Peter Oundijan, Tim White, Dave McMurdo, Mike Malone, Ravi Armenian, Garry Kulesha, Rob Somerville and many more.

In 2008 Richard co-created the SteelTown Symphony Orchestra, a community orchestra in central Hamilton, which focuses on the education of all musicians, amateur and professional, from all walks of life.

Currently 28, Richard is on the faculty at several institutions across Ontario, while conducting and performing regularly with SteelTown Symphony, McMaster Symphony, McMaster Concert Band, Toronto Philharmonia, Caledon Concert Band, Brampton Symphony, Timmins Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Windsor Symphony and Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra.

As the new director of the Top Hats, Rick is very excited to bring a new sense of life to an already amazing group of players and people. He also looks forward to creating more CD's, performances and many more memories in the years to come.


Bryce Walker

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Bryce Walker is a graduate of the University of Toronto, Faculty of Music with a Bachelors Degree in Music Education.

Bryce is a long time resident of Burlington Ontario. Bryce is an instrumental music teacher having recently retired after 31 years with the Halton District School Board. Bryce got his start in music taking piano and theory from Keith Hopkins, music director of Port Nelson United Church. A career trumpet player Bryce got his start with the Burlington Teen Tour Band at the age of 9 under the direction of Elgin Corlett. He received trumpet and music theory instruction from his mentor, Eric Ford, also a former music director of the Teen Tour Band who penned many of the great marching tunes still performed by the Red Coats such as "Strike Up The Band" and "The Hustle" as well as many of the great marches performed by the THMO. The highlight of Bryce's career was to study and perform with renowned Canadian jazzman Phil Nimmons and his band Nimmons & Nine plus Six.

As the new music director of the Top Hats, Bryce is making his mark through his pops oriented musical arrangements and his colourful conducting style.

Under his direction he was instrumental in the creation of the Top Hats three CD’s “A Top Hat Christmas”, “The Top Hats Greatest Hits” and "Swinging into Christmas". As well as directing and writing for the group Bryce is an active participant in the Band’s busy parade schedule.


Toni Clement

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Toni started playing the piano at the age of 8, one of many instruments she would master and successfully completing the Royal Conservatory level of Grade 8 piano and her Grade II theory.

When at Maplehurst School, in Grade 7, she started playing the flute and decided right then that she wanted to teach music. In that same year she started taking flute lessons with the City of Burlington and joined the Junior Redcoats (formerly known as the Peanut band).

Throughout high school she was often seen coming home for the weekend carrying a different instrument. She would figure out how to play it and somehow master it before Monday came around. While in high school she started her first band, the Aldershot Stage band. For her Graduation she played “flight of the bumble bee” on the piccolo in a record 1min and 3 seconds. It was a request from her graduating class.

She moved from the Peanut Band to the Burlington Teen tour band where she flourished and stood out as a flautist and piccolo player. The ever famous “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Phillip Sousa, which the BTTB was well known for playing, her piccolo solo could be heard well over the marching band of 200 plus coming down the street. The Teen Tour band was made up of many little bands within the big 200 piece band; a Dixieland band, dance band, salon group and concert band. She played in all of them as well as being section leader of the Flutes.

After high school she studied at Queens University obtaining her Bachelor of Music. She then decided to stay for another year to obtain her music performance degree in flute, becoming one of the top Flautists in our area.

It was at the University of Toronto where she earned her Bachelor of Education. It didn’t take long for Toni to land a job. She found herself at Parkside High School in Dundas, where she developed her love of directing choirs. She built the music program with a choir of over 100 students in her first year there. After a few years she went to Ancaster High School where she, once again, developed the music program and created a choir of over 100 students. After some years there, an opening came up at Parkside for the head of the music department and she returned, once again developing a choir. She also created a music theatre arts class which was approved by the Board of Education and participating students get a credit for it. She organized a yearly trip for her bands and choirs to such places as Montreal, Boston, New York City, New Orleans, Europe; all successful trips while using her experience garnered while travelling with BTTB.

If all this wasn’t enough to keep her busy she realized how much she missed playing the flute and became a member of the Top Hats. Just something to keep the chops up, she’d say. It was out of the Top Hat talent pool she started her own big band “No Strings Attached” who went on to play gigs, and still do, all over the Golden Horseshoe and GTA. Throughout this time she took the reins of the Tops Hats, becoming the music director from 1999-2003. As director she pushed the members to explore the possibilities of their abilities, always pulling out arrangements that were just the right amount of a challenge to push them. She even arranged some pieces including one the band still loves to play at Christmas time “The Grinch”.

The effect Toni had on everyone she taught and directed in music was powerful and transforming. She had a way of bringing the best out of you whether you wanted it or not. One of her students at Parkside said it best,

“I am such a better person for having known you. You were a strong, inspiring and wickedly funny mentor, teacher and friend. You lit up the room and infused all your students with joy, pride and enthusiasm. I will always hold with ironclad pride the time I spent as your Choir President, the performances and concerts we ...planned, the pranks we pulled and the ever unexpectedly cool songs we sang. I will miss the mischievous glint in your eye, the lessons you taught me in music as well as in life, and the way you could inspire a choir of 150 with a few choice chords on your keyboard. Thank-you will never be enough.”

Jonathan Worman

Sadly we lost Toni on December 12th, 2010. She passed away after a 5 year battle with Cancer. She will forever be in our hearts and on the street with us. This writer carries her with him every time he steps out onto the street to entertain the crowds, and entertain he will.


Jeff Thomas

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Although Jeff Thomas started piano lessons in grade 3 – his first introduction to music - he didn't really become interested in music until high school when he started studying the trombone (his first choice was tuba, but there were only 2 tubas in the school and 3 players!). He started taking music much more seriously in Grade 11 when he began studying with Mr. Fred Willett in St. Catharines.

Jeff enrolled in the Humber College music program in 1979 where he studied with Alastair Kay. He switched to Mohawk College after the first year and studied with Dave McMurdo. Following Mohawk College, Jeff studied Music Education at McMaster.

In 1988-89, he attended the Faculty of Education at the University of Toronto where he received his Teaching Certificate. Within a month of his graduation from U of T, Bob Webb called him to ask if he would conduct the Top Hats in preparation for the June Concert in The Park in Burlington. Following that concert, he was offered the position of Musical Director, a position he held from 1989 - 1999. At that time, he resigned from the band in order to pursue a role in high school administration. In 2002, he became a Vice-Principal for the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board.

When asked what the Top Hat Marching Orchestra meant to him, he said “I would like to say that my years working with the members of the Top Hats have remained an extremely important and significant period in my life. In fact, I look forward to the day in the not too distant future where I open up my trombone case, dust off my Top Hat (yes I still have one), and join the trombone section again."

Jeff currently lives in Smithville with his wife Anna, and his teenage kids, Jacob and Emily. He is presently Vice-Principal of Westdale Secondary School in Hamilton.


Eric Ford

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Eric Ford began his musical career at the age of 8 years on the violin, changing two years later to the cornet. By the age of 15, he was playing professionally as a cornet soloist at Toronto’s Massey Hall. Studying at the Royal College of Music in Toronto further enhanced Eric’s training.

In 1947, Mr. Ford joined the R.C.A.F. Band as a trumpet soloist and arranger under the direction of Lt. Col. Cliff Hunt (past director of the Burlington Concert Band). In 1963, Eric became chief arranger for the Canadian Armed Forces. One of his accomplishments in this position included composing and conducting the fanfares for the official opening of Expo ’67 in Montreal.

Retiring from the Armed Forces in 1968 after 28 years of service, Mr. Ford moved to Burlington and became Supervisor of Music for the City and the Music Director of the Burlington Teen Tour Band, a position he held until 1977. During his time as a music instructor, numerous youngsters received invaluable instruction from a man of great experience and talent. Many of his students have continued in his tradition by becoming music instructors or playing professionally.

In 1981, Mr. Ford and Robert Webb, former marching instructor with the Teen Tour Band, co-founded the Burlington Top Hat Marching Orchestra. Eric continued to direct and arrange music for the Top Hats until the late 1980’s. It was with great sadness that Mr. Ford, a true friend of the Top Hats and the music world, passed away in 1992.

In 1993, the Top Hat Marching Orchestra established the ERIC FORD SCHOLARSHIP FUND  to assist in the training of young band musicians, in the tradition that Eric would have liked. This scholarship is awarded to young, promising musicians with the intent of furthering their technical ability as well as enhancing the students’ love and appreciation of music.