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Forrest Tobey
Professor of Music

Forrest Tobey is a very eclectic musician. He is the music director of the Earlham Orchestra and teaches courses in Western Music Theory and in Music Technology, where he oversees the Computer Music major. He plays both classical and jazz piano and composes both acoustic and electro-acoustic music when the mood suits him.

His recordings include an album of his original piano music, released online as “Awakening,” and an online album with his band Off Chants, called “Dancing Down the Dawn,” which is a creative blend of jazz, folk and Indian classical music. A new album of works based on chant, recorded in collaboration with Lynnell Lewis, is forthcoming.

His involvement with computer music focuses on the use of the computer for interactive live performance. On December 31, 1999, he performed live computer music with the Buchla Lightning at the start of the Millennium celebrations in Times Square. Since then, he has focused his attention on working with a number of real-time controllers, including the Kinect, the Ableton Push, the Roli Seaboard, and the Moog Matriarch synthesizer.

In addition to his musical studies, Forrest is deeply committed to Earlham’s Tibetan Studies in India program, which he has led in the past and will lead again in the future.

Contact Info

Campus Mail
Drawer 31



247 Center for the Visual and Performing Arts

Office Hours


  • Music
  • Arts Management Applied Minor
  • Contemplative Studies Applied Minor
  • Digital Arts Applied Minor


  • D.M.A., Peabody Conservatory of Music
  • M.M., Western Washington University
  • M.M., Peabody Conservatory of Music
  • B.A., Whitworth College
  • B.M., Western Washington University

Selected Courses:

Making Music with Computers opens the student up to experimental music using the programs Max/MSP and Ableton Live. 

My three semester music theory sequence is based on my own material and transcends the usual music theory to include areas of philosophical and spiritual inquiry.  

"The Beatles and Their Time," an investigation of the Beatles music and their historical period, and "Music and the Esoteric Traditions," which looks at various musics from the standpoint of deeper understandings of physical and psychic reality.

  • Human/machine interfaces via gestural control.
  • Tibetan buddhist ritual music music theory instruction as a gateway to the understanding of universal principles of inner and outer harmony.


The interaction between gesture and computer. How does a computer respond musically to human gesture? Currently exploring the deep relationship between music and mathematics. I aspire to be Magister Ludi, the master of the Glass Bead Game.

National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. World Premiere, echoic landscape. April, 2011. Forrest Tobey, Buchla Lightning Performer.

  • International Computer Music Association 
  • Collegiate Orchestra Conductor's Association 
  • College Music Society

I was born in Brooklyn, New York, raised in Ramsey, New Jersey, educated in the states of Washington, Colorado and Maryland and spent 3 significant years living in India. I play the piano, loving Bach and Beethoven, Debussy and Ravel, Gershwin and Copland, but also eternally drawn to the candle flame of jazz playing, revering Evans and Monk, Miles and Coltrane, Jarrett and Corea. I compose, but want to compose more, much more. The clock is ticking. My music is inflected by mode because of my love of Indian classical music and jazz, but there's the experimental side as well because of the odd things I've done with computers and gestures. I'm a Buchla Lightning performer. I've played Times Square and the National Gallery. I'm not done with that yet. Now I teach at Earlham College. I love it, it's a great place to be. I'm here for the long haul.

Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

Earlham College
801 National Road West
Richmond, Indiana
1-765-983-1200 — Main Switchboard
1-800-EARLHAM (327-5426) — Admission


Earlham admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin, age, gender and sexual orientation to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin, age, gender and sexual orientation in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.