Peter Wilson is an engaging and multifaceted violinist, conductor, arranger, composer, and ambassador of music whose artistry has been noted as “first-class” by The Washington Post. He serves as Music Director of the Waynesboro Symphony and Richmond Philharmonic Orchestras in Virginia and Concertmaster of the American Festival Pops Orchestra in the National Capital Region. Peter is the former senior enlisted musical advisor to The White House, where he performed for three decades as a violinist in support of countless dignitaries, heads of state, senior military leaders, and celebrities during five Presidential administrations. A Master Gunnery Sergeant, he served as String Section Commander for “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band and upon retiring in 2020 was awarded the Legion of Merit. Peter has conducted the National Symphony and National Gallery of Art Orchestras and is a faculty member at George Mason University. He holds music degrees from Northwestern University and The Catholic University of America, where he earned a Doctor of Musical Arts.
A musician in demand for his high energy and versatility, Peter commands respect in a variety of musical genres and is active as a guest conductor, soloist, recording artist, and performance clinician throughout the United States. He began his career as Concertmaster of the Walt Disney World Orchestra and has soloed in many unique venues including the American Embassy in Paris, the Presidential Retreat at Camp David, and the private chambers of the Vatican before Pope John Paul II. Peter made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2015 and has appeared as violin soloist with such legendary artists as Rosemary Clooney, Renée Fleming, Bernadette Peters, Randy Travis, and Trisha Yearwood. In addition, he has performed chamber music in concert with Ida Kavafian, Steven Tenenbom, and Peter Wiley. He is cofounder of the acclaimed string duo “Bridging the Gap” (with bassist Aaron Clay), which has been hailed by The Washington Post for “superior arrangements and uncommon musicianship.” Both were honored in their home state with the Music Award from the Arts and Humanities Commission of Fairmont, West Virginia in recognition of their “outstanding leadership and devotion to the enhancement of the arts.”
Among the international magazines in which Peter has appeared, The Strad stated, “Wilson’s performance stressed the warmth and romanticism of the music… [His] technical skills brought a sparkle to the [concerto] and overall, [Wilson] made music that had the stamp of quality.” The Washington Post has further observed his “pristine melodic lines” and “showering virtuosity.” He has performed such acclaimed works as John Corigliano’s “The Red Violin: Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra,” after which he was praised by the award-winning composer: “[Peter Wilson’s] beautiful performance of my Chaconne…how gorgeous it was…and so true to the piece.” He performed Theme from “Schindler’s List” at The Kennedy Center under the baton of Academy Award-winning film composer John Williams, who wrote of the occasion, “[Peter’s] poignant, tender and highly personal reading of the music made clear to all that we were in the presence of a brilliant musical artist.” The Washington Post additionally singled out Peter for his “impassioned violin solo.”
Peter is frequently invited to perform his moving violin solo arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner for high-profile events including Major League Baseball games. In 2000, he was invited to Beverly Hills, where he performed violin solos in tribute to Bob Hope and Jack Valenti as part of a USO celebration hosted by then Defense Secretary William Cohen. Secretary Cohen would later call on his “favorite fiddler” to perform as solo violinist for a private book-signing event honoring Quincy Jones and the release of his autobiography “Q.” Peter has performed with the National Symphony and Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestras and also appeared in concert with orchestras backing up such iconic performers as Beyoncé, Ray Charles, The Empire Brass, Aretha Franklin, Josh Groban, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Johnny Mathis, and Joni Mitchell, as well as Jimmy Page and Robert Plant in their “Zeppelin UnLEDed World Tour.” He performed at the Library of Congress with Gershwin Prize recipient Stevie Wonder as part of a 21-piece orchestra in the world premiere of Mr. Wonder’s “Sketches of a Life.”
A Cleveland native, Peter began his musical training at age two as a violin student of his mother while beginning piano studies at age five with his grandmother. He later moved to Morgantown, West Virginia where he became the first musician ever to receive the Governor’s Award for Exceptional Achievement in the Arts. His other violin teachers included Linda Cerone, Jody Gatwood, Robert Gerle, Dorothy Mauney, Blair Milton, and Donald Portnoy. Peter studied conducting with Victor Yampolsky, trained with Marin Alsop and Gustav Meier, and in 2008 was one of nine conductors selected to work with Leonard Slatkin at the acclaimed National Conducting Institute, an intensive leadership training program for rising music directors. ClevelandClassical.com reviewed a live concert recording at the National Gallery of Art, stating it was “…beautifully performed by the National Gallery Chamber Players under the direction of conductor Peter Wilson.” As Music Director of the Waynesboro Symphony, Peter has led the organization to national recognition as a multiple award-winning orchestra by The American Prize.
For 12 years Peter was a lecturer at the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at Catholic University, where he taught courses in conducting and string techniques while serving as Resident Conductor of the University Symphony. He served as Music Director of The Youth Orchestras of Fairfax in Virginia (2010-2013), where he conducted its flagship ensemble, the United Youth Symphony Orchestra, and he served as a violin instructor on the faculty at James Madison University (2014-2017). Peter maintains his commitment to working with young musicians as a frequent guest conductor and adjudicator for various district and regional middle and high school honors orchestras nationwide. Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia national music fraternity honored Peter with the prestigious “Signature Sinfonian” award for his “outstanding commitment and dedication to the performing arts while serving as a successful role model, helping others realize their potential and exhibiting high standards of excellence.”