Peter Wilson - Violinist, Conductor, Performance Clinician

There were some first-class solos by concertmaster Peter Wilson.” — THE WASHINGTON POST

Peter Wilson conducting the Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra
Peter Wilson with Composer John Williams, 2003


Violinist, Conductor, Music Director

Peter Wilson is an engaging and multifaceted violinist, conductor, arranger, and composer whose artistry has been noted as “first-class” by The Washington Post. He serves as Music Director of the Richmond Philharmonic Orchestra and The American Prize-winning Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra in Virginia as well as Artistic Director and Conductor of the American Festival Pops Orchestra in the National Capital Region, an appointment that began in 2022 following his 12 years as AFPO Concertmaster. Peter is the former senior enlisted music advisor to The White House, where he led countless ensembles and performed as a Marine violinist for 30 years in direct support of five U.S. Presidents. He served as String Section Commander for “The President’s Own” U. S. 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 holds music degrees from Northwestern University and The Catholic University of America, where he earned a Doctor of Musical Arts.

In demand for his high energy, versatility, and authentic performances, Peter commands respect in a variety of musical genres and is active as a guest conductor, violin soloist, recording artist, and performance clinician throughout the United States. A true ambassador of music, he has soloed in many unique and distinguished venues around the globe including the American Embassy in Paris, the Presidential Retreat at Camp David, the private chambers of the Vatican before Pope John Paul II, and Carnegie Hall. Peter began his career as Concertmaster of the Walt Disney World Orchestra in Orlando, Florida. He has appeared as violin soloist with such legendary artists as Rosemary Clooney, Michael Feinstein, Renée Fleming, Bernadette Peters, Randy Travis, and Trisha Yearwood and has performed chamber music in concert with Ida Kavafian, Steven Tenenbom, and Peter Wiley. Peter is cofounder of the acclaimed string duo “Bridging the Gap” (with bassist Aaron Clay), which was hailed by The Washington Post for “superior arrangements and uncommon musicianship.” Both were honored by their home state of West Virginia with the Arts and Humanities Commission “Music Award” in recognition of their “outstanding leadership and devotion to the enhancement of the arts.”

Bridging the gap - violin and double bass duo

Among the international magazines in which Peter has appeared, The Strad stated, “Wilson’s performance stressed the warmth and romanticism of the music and captured its youthful innocence and rapture… Wilson’s technical skills brought a sparkle to the Moto perpetuo [of Barber’s Violin 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 the award-winning composer raved, “Peter’s beautiful performance of my Chaconne…how gorgeous it was…and so true to the piece.” He performed the Theme from “Schindler’s List” at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts under the baton of Academy Award-winning film composer and conductor John Williams, who wrote of the occasion, “Peter Wilson’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.” In 2008, Mr. Williams requested Peter to appear again at The Kennedy Center with the legendary composer, this time playing the fiddle part to his music from the film “The Reivers.” Under Peter’s direction, the Waynesboro Symphony received national acclaim in 2021 when it was awarded The American Prize for its live performance of Mahler’s First Symphony. The organization also named the WSO “Honored Artists” in 2020 in recognition of its “sustained excellence” for the previous decade of performances led by Peter. 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.”

Biography continues below . . .

Peter Wilson as Walt Disney World concertmaster
Peter's early Marine Corps portrait
Peter Wilson with Pope John Paul II, 1993
Bernadette Peters with Peter Wilson
Peter Wilson in JMU's Forbes Center 2015

Watch Peter Wilson perform the National Anthem

Peter is frequently invited to perform his moving solo violin arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner for high-profile events. He has played the National Anthem for Major League Baseball games including at Comiskey Park for the Chicago White Sox, Coliseum for the Oakland Athletics, and Oracle Park for the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. In addition, Peter makes annual appearances at the West Virginia University Coliseum to perform the National Anthem in his hometown prior to WVU Mountaineer Men’s Basketball Games. One of the many video recordings of his performances of the Anthem went viral on facebook and has acquired nearly three million views. In 2000, Peter 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 Secretary of Defense 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 also appeared on several studio albums including as guest soloist on the “Eddie From Ohio” CD IRODEFIDOHOME.

See Peter's complete conducting repertoire list

As a member of the Marine Orchestra, Peter had the privilege of performing for countless historic events such as the memorial services at the Washington National Cathedral in honor of former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, and George H.W. Bush. He also appeared with the Marine Orchestra on an episode of “Late Show with David Letterman” in the Ed Sullivan Theatre. For 25 years, Peter served as a founding member, fiddler, and singer of the Marine Band ensemble “Free Country,” leading the group for 13 years both in concert and for events at The White House. When President Obama took office, he requested that Peter expand the group’s repertoire to include pop, rock, and R&B. Peter led the ensemble through a successful transition that included adding horns, and “Free Country” went on to become a popular and requested ensemble that covered a wide variety of commercial music from James Brown to Prince, Charlie Daniels to Brad Paisley, and Maroon 5 to Bruno Mars. Peter has performed as violinist with the National Symphony and Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestras and 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 Wonder’s “Sketches of a Life.

For 12 years Peter served as a lecturer at the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art at Catholic University, where he taught courses in conducting and string techniques while serving as Resident Conductor of the University Symphony. He was Music Director of The Youth Orchestras of Fairfax in Virginia (2010-2013) and a violin instructor on the faculty at George Mason University (2017-2021) as well as 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 its 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.”

Peter Wilson with conductor Leonard Slatkin in 2008

Peter Wilson with conductor Leonard Slatkin in 2008.

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 and John Paynter, 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. Peter appears on the “Distinguished Alumni” wall at his alma mater, Morgantown High School, and he is an alumnus of the ENCORE School for Strings as well as the Interlochen Arts Academy “National Music Camp,” where he was a member of the World Youth Symphony Orchestra. As a senior in high school, Peter was the sole representative from the State of West Virginia in the first ever National High School Honors Orchestra in Anaheim, California. While pursuing his undergraduate degree at Northwestern, he spent three years marching in the bass drum line for the NU “Wildcat” Marching Band.

An advocate for new music, Peter has performed on violin or conducted several world premieres of works by important American composers including John Beall, Elena Ruehr, and Donald Womack. He has also composed works for solo violin, duos for violin & cello and violin & bass, and original songs including his acclaimed “An American Pledge,” which has been performed regularly on the South Lawn of The White House during patriotic holidays for over two decades. Inspired by and featuring the American “Pledge of Allegiance,” the song was premiered at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia on September 8, 2001—just three days before the terrorist attacks that forever changed America. Less than a month following the attacks, Peter was interviewed by CNN for a feature that included a performance of the song, which aired nationally. On the second commemoration of 9/11, another interview and performance of the song were aired in prime time on ABC’s Travel Channel.


During the pandemic and “stay at home” directives of 2020, Peter began composing violin descants to be paired with each of the Preludes from Bach’s Six Suites for Solo Cello after being inspired by the Bach-Gounod “Ave Maria.” Peter completed this pandemic project in 2022 by recording each of his six original violin descants on the Skywalker Sound Stage at Skywalker Ranch with world-renowned cellist Jennifer Kloetzel, who played each of the Bach preludes. Additionally, Peter has arranged over 100 string quartets of various genres for events at The White House during his 30 years of service there. Having developed a passion for historically informed performances, he has researched and conducted several “restorations” of George Gershwin’s original 1924 jazz orchestra version of “Rhapsody in Blue.” His personally prepared critical edition was used in a performance at Carnegie Hall on the very stage Gershwin performed the work as well as for the Marine Band’s 220th Anniversary Concert at Strathmore Hall in Maryland, which was performed and conducted by Bramwell Tovey. In addition, Peter has championed Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” Concerti, performing as violin soloist and conductor.

Peter Wilson was As a U.S. Marine, Peter achieved the rank of Master Gunnery Sergeant in just 13 years and went on to become the highest and most decorated enlisted Marine Bandsman in history. For 25 of his 30 years in the Marine Corps, Peter volunteered beyond his musical duties by serving as “The Voice” of Marine Barracks, Washington, DC. In this capacity, he performed all announcing duties of “The Oldest Post of the Corps” as the official ceremonial and special events narrator for parades, retirements, changes of command, relief and appointments, promotions, awards, and Marine Corps Birthdays. In addition, he was the chief script writer for all Marine Corps ceremonies for which he narrated. He continues to work as a voiceover artist and announcer alongside his career as a musician. He has twice served as Guest Public Address Announcer for “Bands of America” regional championships and has provided countless voiceovers for various military, federal, civilian, and commercial projects.

Peter performs with the Wounded Warrior Band
Stevie Wonder with Peter Wilson, 2009
Peter Wilson with Bruce Springsteen, 2014
Peter Wilson with Rubber Duckie
Peter Wilson with Ida Kavafian


Critics, Composers, Conductors and Audiences have all praised Peter Wilson’s musicianship 

“Peter – I want to thank you so much for helping make our little anniversary dinner so special. To take the time, above and beyond your service to the nation, really meant a lot to the First Lady and me. All the best, Barack Obama”

Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

“[Peter Wilson] made music that had the stamp of quality.”

The Strad, International String Magazine

“From the opening notes of the Theme from Schindler’s List, [Peter Wilson’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.”

John Williams, Academy Award-winning composer and conductor
“. . . pristine melody lines . . . showering virtuosity” “impassioned violin solo” “first class”
Concert Review, The Washington Post

“…beautifully performed by the National Gallery Chamber Players under the direction of conductor Peter Wilson.”

Concert Review,

“[Peter Wilson’s] beautiful performance of my Chaconne… how gorgeous it was… and so true to the piece.”

John Corigliano, Grammy and Academy Award-winning composer


Peter Wilson performance clinician
Peter Wilson, conductor
Peter Wilson, conductor
Peter Wilson violinist
Peter Wilson violinist