Xavier Magazine

Music with a Message

Bill Tonnis listened to his heart and heard music. It was 1997, and Tonnis was enjoying a solid career as a news reporter for Cincinnati’s WLW radio. But despite his apparent success, the 1982 graduate was struggling with a lack of fulfillment. Then Tonnis was sent out to cover the devastation of an Ohio River flood.


“I spent a week covering the flood, immersed with the pain of people all around me and in my own pain,” he recalls. “At the end of that week I sank onto the couch at my home. I gave up. In the silence something inside spoke to me and said to get my guitar and start writing.”

Tonnis did just that. The process was slow, but he soon found a direction—contemporary Christian music. Within two years, he was performing with two local groups, including Celebrate, which in 2001 released a CD featuring three of his songs and was soon invited to Atlanta to perform on “Backstage,” a show on the Catholic television network EWTN.

Tonnis also enrolled in the College of Mount St. Joseph, receiving a master’s degree in religious and pastoral studies in 2004, which added to the depth of his songwriting. Then early this year, Tonnis released “Listen to Your Heart,” his first solo outing, to excellent reviews. He’s not quitting his day job, but he is exploring ways to get his uplifting message to more ears.

“We’re all children of God,” he says. “We’re all called to bring the kingdom of God to life by spreading love, compassion and mercy. We are all given gifts and talents, and we should develop them and use them in service.”

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