Donny’s musical journey began at age four after his parents discovered him playing “Ode to Joy” on the organ after church one day. Soon after beginning lessons, Donny’s first performances were in the mall where the Hammond organ store would push an organ into the common area to entice shoppers. He won his first music composition competition in San Diego at age 6 with “My Country, My Flag.” High school presented a challenge when it was discovered that carrying an organ onto a marching band field was impractical. Donny was introduced to percussion and then piano in the jazz band at Bonanza High School where he became friends with fellow band mate Kenny Rampton. Donny excelled in percussion and won All-State principal seats in his junior and senior years. Donny wrote several pieces of music in high school, including a competition field show drum feature performed his senior year. Securing a full Liberace Scholarship for composition and percussion at University of Nevada Las Vegas, Donny studied composition with Dr. Beth Mehocic, jazz arranging with Walter Blanton and percussion with Frank Gagliardi, Bob Bonora, and Walfredo Reyes, Sr. He performed with a number of ensembles, including the Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra, Wayne Newton Orchestra, Las Vegas Civic Symphony, and Latin percussion with local band Home Cookin’.
After earning a Bachelors of Music from UNLV, Donny purchased the local Gingiss Formalwear franchises and successfully grew that business over the next 11 years. After the sale of the business, Donny taught for 2 years in the Clark County School District as a music specialist at an inner-city school before being invited to join U.S. Bank in 2002 where he quickly became a top performer. Donny has won numerous innovation awards that have impacted the payments industry. He has led teams over the past 17 years spanning 5 states and currently enjoys his role as Regional Payments Market Manager for U.S. Bank’s Commercial & Enterprise Banking Division.
Donny’s love of education and music, along with his business acumen, has afforded him the opportunity to support philanthropic efforts across the Las Vegas Valley. Donny donated funds and helped found the Arbor View High School Band Boosters 501(c)(3), has founded a number of scholarships and grants, and the Thompsons have been named a UNLV Honorary Rebel Family. He was looking for his next passion when he happened upon Kenny teaching a jazz clinic with Gary Cordell at Arbor View High School and was thrilled to be invited to participate in the founding and growth of this outstanding project. Since 2017, Donny has served as Secretary for Jazz Outreach Initiative. As of February 2019, Donny serves as Executive Director.
When Donny accepted the role of Executive Director, he determined the continued growth and infrastructure development of JOI depended on more than previous business and leadership skills. He was accepted to Louisiana State University where in 2020 he completed his Masters of Science in Nonprofit Administration and has used that experience to build a solid foundation for growth which has resulted in JOI becoming nationally recognized.