Tom Vendafreddo

 Tom Vendfafreddo Headshot March 2017

Tom believes in the “actor’s music director.” His energetic style of direction meets the actors where they are and helps them create the musical and vocal world in which the story lives. Tom’s goal as a music director is always to lead each and every actor to truth in their musical expression. It is important that musical theatre performers feel comfortable and confident hitting the stage every night; Tom’s versatility as a musician enables him to get the best of the actors in any vocal style.  

Current News

Tom received a 2016 Jeff Award nomination for Outstanding Music Direction for his work on Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd at the Paramount Theatre. This marks Tom’s 6th Jeff Award nomination and his 5th nomination for music direction at the Paramount Theatre. Read the full press release here

Tom is currently teaching a Song Study class at the School at Porchlight. Full session enrollment is closed, but you can “Drop in” and audit a single class for just $12! Check out the info here

Click here to read Denise Crosby’s recent article in the Chicago Tribune, featuring Tom’s role as music director/conductor at the Paramount Theatre. 

Paramount_JCSuperstar_Tom in pit


In the Fall of 2014, Tom became the Founding Artistic Director of the Chicago Artists Chorale, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that serves as the choral home to over seventy artists in the Chicagoland area! Check out the Chorale’s website or “like” us on Facebook. Oh, and buy tickets here for the Chicago Artists Chorale’s upcoming concert, in other words, on Tuesday, May 16! 


If you are interested in coaching new material, preparing for an audition, building your repertoire, strengthening your vocal technique, having music transposed or transcribed, or booking Tom to teach a workshop or master class, click here.





 Jesus Christ Superstar                                  (dir. Ron Kellum)

 Paramount Theatre, Aurora, IL
 Sweeney Todd                                                 (dir. Jim Corti)  Paramount Theatre, Aurora, IL
 The Little Mermaid   Paramount Theatre, Aurora, IL

Mamma Mia!                                                    (dir. Jim Corti)

Paramount Theatre, Aurora, IL

Company                                                           (dir. William Brown)

Writers Theatre, Glencoe, IL

**West Side Story                                               (dir. Jim Corti)

Paramount Theatre, Aurora, IL


Paramount Theatre, Aurora, IL

**A Christmas Story                                           (dir. Nick Bowling) 

Paramount Theatre, Aurora, IL

**Oklahoma!                                                        (dir. Jim Corti)

Paramount Theatre, Aurora, IL

**Les Misérables                                                 (dir. Jim Corti)

Paramount Theatre, Aurora, IL
The Who’s Tommy                                          (dir. Jim Corti) Paramount Theatre, Aurora, IL
Mary Poppins                                                  (dir. Rachel Rockwell) Paramount Theatre, Aurora, IL
In the Heights
(dir. Rachel Rockwell)
Paramount Theatre, Aurora, IL
The Wedding Singer                                       (dir. Ron Kellum) Red Mountain Theatre Company, Birmingham, AL
Shrek: The Musical
(dir. Rachel Rockwell)
Chicago Shakespeare Theatre
Sweet Charity
(dir. Michael Halberstam)
Writers Theatre, Glencoe, IL
**The Spitfire Grill BoHo Theatre, Chicago
(AMD to Todd Almond)
Old Globe Theatre, San Diego
Hello Again
(AMD to Chris Littlefield)
University of Rochester
It’s a Wonderful Life
(AMD to Billy Thompson)
Cygnet Theatre, San Diego
Cindy’s Fella (reading) Original Musical, Chicago
You Can’t Take It with You
(created original music with Josh Schmidt)
University of Rochester, NY

**Denotes Joseph Jefferson Award nomination 

MFA Showcases: San Diego State University, Fall 2010 and Spring 2011: Music directed, arranged, and accompanied selections from the canon of American musical theatre literature from George M. Cohan to Stephen Sondheim.


Music Director – Senior MT Showcase


Music Director – BFA MT Dance Showcase

Northwestern University

Northwestern University

Roosevelt University

Music Director – Emerging Artists Program Circle Theatre – Oak Park, IL
Musical Theatre Instructor/Accompanist La Jolla Playhouse
Musical Theatre Teacher/Acting Teacher San Diego State University
Voice Teacher/Coach/Accompanist SDSU
Music Director/Accompanist Grossmont Community College
“Hands Together, Heart to Art,” Music Director Auditorium Theatre – Chicago
Director of Choirs/AP Music Theory/Keyboarding Lakes Community High School
Accompanist/Presenter, various annual projects Illinois Theatre Association

Master Class Accompanist: Jason Robert Brown, Michael Lavine, Sheri Sanders, Leslie Kritzer (Legally Blonde), Dan Gettinger (Manhattan School), Timothy Shew (Les Miz, The Scarlet Pimpernel), and Mary Saunders (Penn State)


San Diego State University Master of Fine Arts – Musical Theatre
Eastman School of Music Bachelor of Music – Vocal Performance, Music Education
(Secondary Study in Piano Performance)
Goodspeed Opera House Music Direction Intensive, 2012 (Michael O’Flaherty)
Voice Laurinda Nikkel, Mary Legere, Karen Holvik
Piano Tony Carmen
Alexander Technique Constance Haas
Jazz and Tap Steve Anthony, Kristen Gurbach-Jacobson


vocal arranging, orchestrating, and dance arranging (genres ranging from operetta to contemporary), sight reading, keyboard programming, creating incidental music, teaching: music theory, keyboarding, sight singing, musical theatre styles, acting (performance resumé available upon request)


Sweeney Todd at the Paramount Theatre 

“And as always, Tom Vendafreddo and his musicians bring the full brilliance of the score to surging life.”

      -Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

“Much of its splendor came from the orchestra pit, where 19 instrumentalists — under the unerring direction of conductor Tom Vendafreddo — played the musical’s original orchestrations.”     

      -Barbara Vitello, Daily Herald

“The musical score is luscious, beautiful and memorably performed by Paramount’s live 19-piece orchestra, conducted by Tom Vendafreddo.”

      -Regina Belt-Daniels, Northwest Herald 

“…brilliant Music Director Tom Vendafreddo and Sondheim’s full, original orchestrations, allow the gorgeous 19-piece orchestra to set the tone.”

      -Barry Reszel, Chicagoland Musical Theatre

“Paramount’s orchestra does not disappoint. The dark tone of this stunning production is immediately apparent. The first notes from the beautifully full orchestra plunges the audience into a dark place.” 

       -Stephanie Dykes, Picture This Post 

The Little Mermaid at the Paramount Theatre

“And the power of the show’s large orchestra, conducted by Tom Vendafreddo, generates its own stormy spells.”

      -Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

“They’re all supported musically by a full-sounding orchestra led by music director Tom Vendafreddo.” 

      -John Olson, Chicago Theatre Beat 

“Brilliantly conceived and creatively staged by director/choreographer Amber Mak, with music direction by Tom Vendafreddo, Paramount’s revival sounds as good as it looks.” 

      -Barbara Vitello, Daily Herald 

“The orchestra, conducted by Tom Vendafreddo uses roughly 13 musicians to sound like a full orchestra. The music is magnificent and yet, never overpowering. We hear every word of every song.”

      -Alan Bresloff, Around the Town Chicago

“…with solid musical direction by the talented Tom Vendafreddo, and supported by a superlative team of artists, both on- and off-stage, this show stands out as one of Paramount’s finest, most memorable in a long line of musicals.”

      -Colin Douglas, Chicago Theatre Review 

Mamma Mia at the Paramount Theatre

“Paramount’s “Mamma Mia!” has been ideally directed by Jim Corti…with exuberant choreography by William Carlos Angulo…[and] lush musical direction by Tom Vendafreddo (leading a top-notch orchestra). Most notably, this is the first time this musical’s two dozen songs…feel as if they were written specifically for the show, rather than simply being retrofitted with a wink-and-a-nod into Catherine Johnson’s carefully devised story. While never denying the songs’ infectious pop vibe, through some form of alchemy, Corti and his actors have managed to make the whole thing feel like a zestily contemporary Greek myth. And the sometimes abrupt endings so typical of pop songs are made to feel right here, underscoring the characters’ ambivalence about many of the dilemmas they face.”

      -Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

Company at Writers Theatre

“The actors’ conversational approach to the lyrics is superb…(under the musical direction of Tom Vendafreddo, with a fine seven-piece orchestra).”

       -Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times 

“And with the astute coaching of music director Tom Vendafreddo, the ensemble is also so vocally adept that Sondheim’s tricky score easily pours off their tongues.”

      -Scott Morgan, Daily Herald

“Sondheim and bookwriter George Furth cleverly chronicle the complications and crises in bittersweet, ambiguous showpieces like “Sorry/Grateful” and “Poor Baby,” as well as the vaudevillian warmth in “Side By Side By Side” and the title song. Those songs, ably shaped by music director Tom Vendafreddo, revolve like a carousel around eligible bachelor Bobby, a very un-lonely New Yorker celebrating a pivotal birthday.”

      -Lawrence Bommer, Stage and Cinema 

“William Brown’s production of this classic, musically directed by the gifted Tom Vendafreddo and choreographed by the award-winning Brock Clawson, smoothly brings this 70’s musical into the 21st century. Sondheim’s beautiful music and biting lyrics together with Furth’s no-holds-barred book prove to be the perfect fit for this stellar, ever-evolving ‘Company.'”

        -Colin Douglas, Chicago Theatre Review 

West Side Story at the Paramount Theatre

“Corti, ever brainy and audacious, and his invaluable choreographer, William Carlos Angulo, have remained fully faithful to the original. Yet at the same time they have made innovative choices in this near operatic musical (backed by a galvanic 19-piece orchestra led by music director Tom Vendafreddo) that feel completely of-the-moment.”

      -Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

“Paramount’s production offers a modern, bruising take on the beloved musical. The “Romeo and Juliet” tale comes to life with an impassioned cast and an exceptional 19-piece orchestra under music director Tom Vendafreddo that does justice to the dazzling score, one of the finest composed for the stage.”

      -Barbara Vitello, Daily Herald 

“…the curtain rose and the orchestra began to play Leonard Bernstein’s  “Prologue” introducing us to the…Sharks and the Jets. At that moment, the magic began. Tom Vendafreddo and his orchestra took over and for the next two-and-a-half-hours a spellbound audience, many who have seen this musical many times, could feel the tragedy of the book by Arthur Laurents and the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim. What a night!”

      -Alan Bresloff, Around the Town Chicago

“Tom Vendafreddo’s musical direction and rich, full pit orchestra makes every number in Bernstein’s glorious score soar up to the heavens.”

        -Colin Douglas, Chicago Theatre Review 

“The dancers render the complete potential of the multi-layered score, beautifully played by the 19-member Paramount Theatre Orchestra and expertly conducted by music director Tom Vendafreddo.”

       -Barry Reszel, Chicagoland Musical Theatre

A Christmas Story at the Paramount Theatre 

“Young Michael Harp delivers an ebullient Ralphie, Danni Smith sings beautifully as his mom (the music, directed by Tom Vendafreddo, is superbly performed throughout) and Michael Accardo embraces the laughs as his Old Man.”

      -Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

“One of the great glories of any Paramount production is the 15-piece orchestra, led by musical director Tom Vendafreddo. You won’t find this kind of ensemble accompanying most national touring productions. Just another reason to head to Aurora.”

      -Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

“The result is a fast-moving, well-acted, lush-sounding production (kudos to music director/conductor Tom Vendafreddo and his 17-piece orchestra) that delights in just about every way.”

       -Barbara Vitello, Daily Herald

“The music is live with an orchestra led by Tom Vendafreddo, who makes 17 musicians seem to be 30.”

      -Alan Bresloff, Around the Town Chicago

“Young, talented Tom Vendafreddo once again does double duty, both as musical director, as well as playing the keyboard, while conducting the 17-piece Paramount orchestra.”

        -Colin Douglas, Chicago Theatre Review 

“Bowling’s handsome ensemble of more than 30 features perfectly cast leads and terrific vocals. Some fun choreography by Rhett Guter…complement[s] Paramount’s typically fabulous full orchestra under the direction of Tom Vendafreddo.”

       -Barry Reszel, Chicagoland Musical Theatre



Les Misérables at the Paramount Theatre

“Musically the production is a beauty, too, thanks to music director Tom Vendafreddo, who conducts a 14-piece orchestra using the show’s original orchestrations. Vendafreddo also is a master of balance, making sure that the score’s lush, operatic sound never eclipses the actors’ crystal clear delivery of the lyrics, which serve as the all-essential dialogue in this sung-through musical. And the voices — whether solo, in duets and trios, or in grand chorales — are stunning.”

       -Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times 

“Paramount’s production also impresses musically, with music director/conductor Tom Vendafreddo’s stellar 14-piece orchestra (playing the original Broadway orchestrations) complementing perfectly the cast’s rich, robust vocals. The combination is incredibly satisfying, in part because we’re not often treated to a pit orchestra this size that includes actual violins, oboes and horns. It makes a difference.”

       -Barbara Vitello, Daily Herald

“The fourteen piece orchestra (led brilliantly by Tom Vendafreddo) perfectly fills the classic theater and is a key factor in ensuring a big musical theater experience.  “

       -Noel Schecter, New City

“The orchestra under the direction of Musical Director Tom Vendafreddo is never overpowering, allowing the audience, no matter where seated, to hear every word that is sung.”

       -Alan Bresloff, Around the Town Chicago

” The show calls for full-throated musical accompaniment and the Paramount orchestra delivers with a sumptuous sound led by music director/conductor Tom Vendafreddo.”

       -Dan Zeff, Chicagoland Theatre Reviews

“…with the work by Tom Vendafreddo, one of the area’s youngest and most talented musical directors, this staging sounds fantastic. The most accomplished, best-trained Chicago voices sing this glorious score, accompanied by a full pit orchestra playing the original Broadway arrangements.”

        -Colin Douglas, Chicago Theatre Review 

“Paramount Artistic Director Jim Corti directs “Les Mis” with focus and dedication to the dialogue, with Tom Vendafreddo at his side as Paramount Theatre Orchestra music director and conductor providing the stirring and hauntingly beautiful score. I must add, this ranks as the first time I have witnessed such a carefully crafted clarity for the delivery of the story’s power lines, dripping in a range that spans clever exchanges, passionate pleas and, at times, humorous overtones. This director and cast make sure not a word is missed.”

       -Phil Potempa, Northwest Indiana Times

“The curtain’s rise is multi-sensory as Musical Director Tom Vendafreddo…lead[s] the most exquisite 14-member orchestra possibly assembled through the show’s original, full orchestrations. Their work is big, precise and brilliant, adding depth, flavor and the right amount of whimsy…And when an ensemble includes stars in their own right…the vocal strength and blend is simply superb. “

       -Barry Reszel, Chicagoland Musical Theatre

The Who’s Tommy at the Paramount Theatre

“Music Director Tom Vendafreddo’s eight-piece band truly rocks.” 

       -Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times 

“…the orchestra, directed and conducted by Tom Vendafreddo (8 musicians sounding like a full orchestra) add[s] to what is the sheer magic in Aurora.”

       -Alan Bresloff, Around the Town Chicago 

“Musically directed and conducted by area wunderkind, Tom Vendafreddo, the mostly electronic Paramount pit orchestra soars up to the back row of the balcony.” 

       -Colin Douglas, Chicago Theatre Review 

“The band under Tom Vendafreddo fully conveys the emotional impact of every song.” 

       -Jacob Davis, Chicago Critic

“‘Tommy’ is not easy to play (who wants to re-create Keith Moon’s durmming?), and the full orchestra, under the direction of Tom Vendafreddo, is impressive.” 

      Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune 

In the Heights at the Paramount Theatre

“Backed by a full-size orchestra using the original Broadway orchestrations (one could not say that of the last touring production to come through Chicago), the performances here really are first-rate. The big ensemble numbers, under musical director Tom Vendafreddo, sound lush and full.”

          -Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

“The music sounds spicy-hot under music director Tom Vendafreddo, since the Paramount proudly boasts that they’re performing Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman’s full Broadway orchestrations.”

          -Scott Morgan, Daily Herald

“And its fine original orchestrations are played by a live orchestra (with great brass and percussion sections) under the music direction of Tom Vendafreddo.”

          -Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

“Tom Vendafreddo’s pit orchestra [is] full and gorgeous.”

          -Colin Douglas, Chicago Theatre Review 

Shrek the Musical” at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre

“…four able musicians, led by Tom Vendafreddo, sound great and much larger in numbers, which shows that it is not the quantity of musicians but the quality that makes it sound just right.

          -Alan Bresloff, Around the Town Chicago

The Spitfire Grill at BoHo Theatre

“Musical director Tom Vendafreddo brings the score to life, employing an unseen and uncredited ensemble of piano, cello and mandolin. This simple tale, although told primarily through its music, seems to rejoice most in its quieter, reflective moments”

          -Colin Douglas, Centerstage Chicago

The songs are delivered with uniformly superb vocals by the [cast and] are backed by piano and an occasional cello, under the musical direction of Tom Vendafreddo.

          -Scotty Zacher, Chicago Theatre Beat

Sweet Charity at Writers’ Theatre

“Conductor Tom Vendafreddo and a first-rate combo give a great jazzy sound to Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields’ familiar and delightful score.”

          -Leah Zeldes, Chicago Theatre Beat

“A loft above the action houses a jazz combo serving up the rich sound of [Doug] Peck’s re-imagined score [and featuring] conductor/pianist Tom Vendafreddo.”

          -Leanne Star, Splash Magazines