Tom Neilson

May 2018 will be the 30th anniversary of Tom completing his doctorate, but a more significant date for him was February 1986 when colleague Bonnie Mullinix told him he should get together with her husband, Dave McCurry and with Mark Lynd, to start playing music. They encouraged him to record his music and 16 albums later, he has performed his award-winning songs of humor, compassion, and political affairs in 21 countries on 5 continents. For his efforts he has also been arrested and/or taken into custody in four countries on three continents.


Tom has received over two dozen awards, to include two song of the year awards from Independent Musicians in 2012 and 2015. In 2013, "Running For the Gold" was nominated for the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation commemoration song. In 2017, he received the Arab American Women Association Award for Global Education Through Performance Art "For His Support And Dedication Around The World For Truth And Justice In Palestine." (right)


Perhaps his most significant recognition was to be nominated in 2015 for the United Nations Nelson Mandela Award for Lifetime Achievement in Peace and Justice.


Combining art with activism, he has been at the forefront in helping communities around the country organize against water privatization, mountain top removal, nuclear energy, incinerators, fracking, pipelines and toxic waste. Locally he played active roles in stopping the incinerator in Greenfield and the NED pipeline crossing Western MA.


He is Music Director for Western MA Jobs with Justice, playing Albert Parsons and a West Virginia coal miner at Blair Mountain in the annual theater production of Voices in Labor History.  


At 70, he still plays basketball, hits 90% of his free throws and wherever there are children, you will find him coaching.  He lives with his wife Lynn (with whom he also performs) in Greenfield.  


Michael Stock, of WLRN in Miami said, “Tom does a great job of reminding people of what is really important, and the power of folk music to say it.” [3/18]    


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CIE Graduate