William Whitson

William Whitson, founder, conductor, and music director of the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra for its first thirty-seven years, was also a respected violinist and teacher.

He studied with the late Boris Sirpo of Portland, Naoum Blinder of San Francisco and Louis Persinger of New York, and developed his chamber music repertoire and style under the influence of the late Adolph Baller. In addition to conducting, he coached and taught a full private studio in Palo Alto.

Mr. Whitson established and was violinist of several chamber ensembles beginning as early as high school. His first chamber orchestra with adult musicians premiered in Palo Alto, August 1959. During military service, Mr. Whitson headed the string section of the U.S. Army Continental Command Band, performed in numerous orchestras and studied at The Julliard School of Music. As founder and violinist of the Whitson, Bell’ Arte and Nohant Trios, he performed throughout the U.S., Canada and the West Indies.

In 1966, Mr. Whitson founded the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra, and the following year initiated the Palo Alto Twilight Concerts, an outdoor chamber music series that ran for 24 seasons. He conducted Junior and Training PACO orchestras in their own separate concert seasons. Dating back to 1980, a series of recordings, which he began, have professionally preserved many of PACO orchestras’ top quality performances. A Bach Celebration! founded by Mr. Whitson, premiered in 1985 as an annual chamber music series of Bach’s works which are performed by talented PACO musicians and graduates as well as guest artists.

Mr. Whitson led the orchestra on numerous tours, both nationally and internationally, over the three and a half decades of his PACO career. He conducted PACO on twelve international tours to over fifteen countries on four continents. As an innovative musician and teacher, Mr. Whitson’s commitment to musical excellence and outstanding work with young musicians spanned 35 years. He received many awards and citations, the D.A.R. Medal of Honor, and personal congratulations from Itzhak Perlman, the U.S. Congress, and the President of the United States.

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