Born into a Slovak-Ukrainian family of organists, pianists, vocalists, accordionists and folk dancers, Thomas Pavlechko was dancing to the music of family polka bands at the age of 4, on the piano bench by age 6, playing tuba in the school band by 11, on the organ bench by 13, and earning five dollars a week as a self-taught church organist by 15, a post once held by his mother and two cousins. He also began arranging music for small instrumental ensembles with the hopes of someday becoming a band director.
Pavlechko's first organ lesson took place on the Casavant organ in Youngstown's St. Columba Cathedral a few weeks after his graduation from Chaney High School. He went on to earn an organ performance degree with honors from the Dana School of Music of Youngstown State University, and the Master of Music from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, all in his native Ohio. His principal organ teachers were Anthony DiCello, Roberta Gary, Ronald Gould & Robert Hopkins. His studies in composition and counterpoint were with Allan Sapp and Mark Walker.
Pavlechko's first hymn tune was sketched at a picnic table after a summer worship meeting in 1982. Two of his hymn tunes were first published in 1994. Then, in 2001, Pavlechko was named the 2002 Emerging Hymn Tune Composer by The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, and now 83 of his 102 hymn tunes are in print on four continents.
In 2002, the Churchwide Offices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America appointed him to serve on the Liturgical Music Editorial Team to assist in choosing and editing the liturgical music for Evangelical Lutheran Worship, the ELCA's new hymnal and worship book, a resource which also includes his own liturgical music settings and hymns.
Just as the new Lutheran hymnal was released in 2006, Church Publishing commissioned Pavlechko and Carl P. Daw, then Executive Director of the Hymn Society, to co-edit the new primary worship planning books for the Episcopal Church, U.S.A., Liturgical Music for the Revised Common Lectionary, published in three volumes between 2007 and 2009. He then served as a member of one of the Music Advisory Teams for Church Publishing.
Since that time, Pavlechko has pursued post-graduate private study in symphonic orchestration at the University of Texas at Austin with Donald Grantham, co-editor with Kent Kennan of The Technique of Orchestration. Pavlechko's instrumental music has been premiered by members of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, the Balcones Community Orchestra of Austin, the Canfield Community Band of Ohio, Texas Lutheran University's Symphonic Percussion and Winds, St. Martin's Symphonic Winds, The Pinnacle Brass of Austin, and The Austin City Brass Ensemble.
- Augsburg Fortress Publishers
- Church Publishing
- Hope Publishing
- Live Oak House
- St. James Music Press
- Selah Publishing
Music also contained in hymnals and collections of these publishers:
- Abington Press
- Covenant Publications
- G.I.A. Publications
- HarperCollins Australia Publishers
- National Committee of the Three-self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China
As an organist, Pavlechko has played for worship services in primarily Lutheran and Episcopal Churches since 1978. He has also held posts in Catholic, Presbyterian and American Baptist Churches. He has played for regional and national conferences of the Association of Anglican Musicians, the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians and the Hymn Society, and has concertized at Washington National Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York. He has led numerous hymn festivals, including the first hymnfest in the history of the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina where the crowd was so large, that many members of the audience took seats on the floor wherever they could find space.
As a choral director, Pavlechko has led everything from amateur to professional choirs, from as few as a dozen volunteer singers in a small church to a massed choir of 500 voices before a congregation of over 5,000 in Virginia's Hampton Coliseum. He was founder and director of the Petersburg Festival Chorus, a 70-voice community-wide symphonic chorus in Southern Virginia.
Described in THE RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH as “…the catalyst for a renewed interest in things musical…” Pavlechko is the recipient of two mayoral commendations for his leadership in the arts in Petersburg, Virginia, where he served St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Bristol Parish, the nation's sixth oldest colonial parish founded in 1643, chaired the 350th Anniversary Committee, and directed the re-enactment of General Robert E. Lee’s son’s wedding 125 years to the hour of the actual ceremony at St. Paul’s. The Guest of Honor was Robert E. Lee IV who was in attendance to watch the re-enactment of his grandfather's wedding. At the age of 29, two years after founding the Petersburg Festival Chorus, Pavlechko revived the historic Petersburg Music Festival in May, 1991, previously dormant for exactly one hundred years, serving as the non-profit corporation’s first president, and as the festival’s artistic director and principal conductor for four seasons.
In addition to the Festival Chorus, Pavlechko conducted guest orchestras and choruses throughout the festivals, including the Richmond Symphony Chamber Orchestra, Williamsburg Symphonia, Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Richmond Choral Society and Virginia Choral Society. During this time, his orchestral conducting mentor was Thomas Wilkins, then associate conductor of the Richmond Symphony.
Concurrently, he taught on the adjunct faculty at William and Mary’s Richard Bland College, held a seat on the Petersburg Department of Tourism Advisory Board, and was a member of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission.
From 2000 to 2006, Pavlechko was the Organist-Choirmaster at Calvary Episcopal Church in Memphis, Tennessee, where he oversaw the rebuilding of a major portion of the Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ, restored the professional choir, led the combined choirs and choristers on a pilgrimage to sing at Washington National Cathedral, and led the music for worship services and a banquet honoring the retired Archbishop of Canterbury, The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Lord George Carey of Clifton, during his week-long residency at Calvary.
Following an 80-year Calvary tradition, Pavlechko conducted six performances of Handel’s MESSIAH, and he premiered his orchestral compositions as conductor of noon-time Christmas Pops concerts, a new tradition he initiated with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. He invited guest artists from Memphis’ historic Beale Street music district to add their touch of Jazz, Blues, Gospel and World Music to Calvary’s vast music menu. Pavlechko was also active in the Diocese of West Tennessee and with Episcopal CREDO.
Pavlechko is currently the Cantor and Composer-in-Residence at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church in Austin, Texas, a church he previously served as Director of Music and Principal Organist from 1994 to 2000. In his first six years at St. Martin’s, Pavlechko significantly increased the music ministry to involve over 150 volunteers, and expanded the palette of the formerly musically conservative parish. He drew the plans for a new music suite, now in use, and added a second pipe organ to augment the existing Baroque tracker organ, a symphonic accompaniment organ, now in the process of expansion. Along with a program grounded in classical music, he invites musical artists and ensembles of many genres to provide music for both concerts and worship in St. Martins' lofty space.
He has also served as chapel musician, adjunct faculty and liturgical consultant for the Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest, and served for four years on the worship committee of the Southwestern Texas Synod. In 1997, the Mayor’s office appointed him to a 2-year seat on the Music Advisory Panel of the City of Austin Arts Council.
Pavlechko is a commissioned Stephen Minister, has completed the pilgrimage and initial training to be a Labyrinth facilitator through Veriditas, and has earned the first level certificate in the Healing Touch Program. He began his 35th year in his vocation as a church musician on January 1, 2012.
- American Guild of Organists [AGO] since 1980
- Dean, Southside Virginia Chapter, 1990 – 1991
- Sub Dean, Youngstown Chapter, 1982 – 1984
- Youngstown Chapter Winner, National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance, 1985
- American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers [ASCAP] since 2006
- Association of Anglican Musicians [AAM] since 1992
- Featured Composer/Presenter, Mid-Winter Conference, New Haven, Connecticut, 2007
- National Conference Planning Committee, Tidewater, Virginia, 1993
- Association of Lutheran Church Musicians [ALCM] since 1996
- Organist/Music Coordinator, Opening Eucharist, National Conference, Houston, Texas, 2007
- Worship Chair, National Conference, San Diego, California, 2003
- Organist/Workshop Leader, National Conference, Kansas City, Missouri, 2001
- Organist/Workshop Leader, National Conference, Valparaiso, Indiana, 1997
- The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada since 1981 (Life Member)
- Showcase Leader, New Hymn Collection, WELLSPRING, Annual Conference, San Antonio, Texas, 2005
- Showcase Leader, New Hymn Collection, RADIANT CITY, Annual Conference, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 2002
- Named the 2002 Emerging Hymn Tune Composer, Annual Conference, Independence, Missouri, 2001
- Organist, Closing Worship, Annual Conference, Savannah, Georgia, 1997
- Hymn Premieres, Annual Conferences 2005, 2002, 2001, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1993