Music was his 1st career choice

A business trip last year to St. Petersburg, Russia, prompted the latest read for Piedmont Natural Gas CEO Thomas Skains.

He recently cracked “Peter the Great” by Robert Massie, a choice in line with Skains' partiality to biographies and history. His all-time favorite work of nonfiction is “American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964” by William Manchester.

On the fiction front, he enjoys interesting characters. The Texas native's favorite is the Pulitzer winning “Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry.

Skains gets his morning news dose from the Observer, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. During the day, he's reading online. For pleasure reading, he enjoys golf and travel magazines.

His loaded iPod – jazz, R&B, pop and rock – reflects a love of music, his first career choice.

Skains, 51, started college as a music major, attending on a scholarship for his skilled trumpet playing. His older brother, a mentor, persuaded him to switch to business. But he put himself through college and law school playing with orchestras and jazz and dance bands in Houston. He also freelanced for touring entertainers, including Tom Jones.

Skains doesn't play much anymore, although he broke out the trumpet a couple of years ago for a ribbon cutting at Providence Day School. For his 50th birthday, Skains' wife reconditioned his trumpet and flugelhorn and had a silencing technology added.

“She's encouraging me to practice but do it quietly,” he joked.