Thaddeus Tukes is a vibraphonist, composer, arranger, pianist and bandleader, hailed for bringing “poetry to the vibraphone” (Chicago Tribune). A Chicago native, Tukes began playing the piano at age 5 and three years later began inclusive percussion studies with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Percussion Scholarship Program, under the direction of Patricia Dash and Doug Waddell.
He was inspired to play jazz vibraphone after hearing vibraphonists Lionel Hampton and Stefon Harris. Tukes played percussion and piano in jazz combo, band, orchestra and wind and percussion ensembles at Chicago’s Whitney M. Young Magnet High School. Along with performing at New York's Carnegie Hall with the school’s band, Tukes received superior ratings in solo competitions and earned recognition as the best Illinois jazz vibraphonist among high-school competitors.
At Northwestern University, where Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member Victor Goines is director of jazz studies, Tukes earned a combined bachelor’s degree in jazz piano and vibraphone studies, the first jazz vibraphone degree program at a non-conservatory university. Tukes has earned the honors of being a Ravinia Jazz Scholar, Jazz Institute of Chicago’s Kewitt-Wang Scholar, Luminarts Fellow, Vivian K. Harsh Society awardee, Percussive Arts Society International Convention/Yamaha Terry Gibbs Vibraphone Scholarship recipient. A member of the Apostolic Church of God Youth Orchestra and many others, Tukes studied with Jim Cooper, Willie Pickens, Gerald Powell, Theophilus Reed and many renowned Chicago-area musicians. A former member of Chicago’s Gallery 37/After School Matters Center for the Arts Advanced Jazz Band program, Tukes currently the director of its jazz band.
In 2020, Tukes and a group of local musicians formed the Chicago Freedom Ensemble, a music performance and social justice advocacy organization. Through the Chicago Freedom Ensemble, Tukes has supported and led protests, provided political and financial literacy for the local music community, led jam sessions throughout the city and created a city-wide network of young, diverse instrumentalists. Tukes and a small delegation of these musicians were invited to perform at the 2020 World’s Expo in Dubai.
As a professional, Tukes has released three albums under his own label, Vibetown Studios; one of the albums was recorded in jazz great Ahmad Jamal’s former Chicago home. Tukes has performed as a bandleader and special guest at the Chicago Jazz Festival, Hyde Park Jazz Festival, with the South Side Jazz Coalition and at jazz clubs and ensembles throughout the United States. He is a member of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, under the direction of Orbert Davis, and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of Jeffrey Lindberg.
When not performing, Tukes can be found leading percussion ensembles at elementary and high schools in the Chicago area.