Walter Ross (1936-2021), whose works have been performed in over 40 countries, is perhaps best known for his compositions featuring brass and woodwinds. Raised in Nebraska, he became a professional orchestral French horn player by the age of seventeen and went on to gain more performance experience in college as member of the University of Nebraska symphonic band, as a string bass player in a polka band, and as a flute player with a baroque ensemble. Currently he plays bass in the Blue Ridge Chamber Orchestra in Charlottesville VA.
After participating in the undergraduate program at the University of Nebraska, Ross received much of his early compositional training under Robert Beadell. One of his composition professors told him never to write in a void, but always to write for a specific group or soloist; this would give limits and guidelines to his writing. All of his many compositions have been written as commissions or requests.
After receiving his Master’s Degree in music, he went on to Cornell where he studied under Robert Palmer and Karel Husa. In 1965 he received an Organization of American States fellowship to study composition privately under the famous Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera.
Ross began teaching composition and theory in the music department at the University of Virginia in 1967. He established the Charlottesville University and Community Orchestra, which he conducted for two years. During his tenure at the University he served as chairman of the Department of Music and was awarded a University Outstanding Teaching Award.
In 1997 he wrote a cantata featuring the poetry of Rita Dove, the Americana Poet Laureate who sang the premiere. Recent choral works include Lux Aeterna to honor the victims of 9/11, which has been performed upon a number of occasions including a performance at Ground Zero.
The influences of his own extensive performance background and his musical training under composers who stressed bright orchestration and rhythmic excitement can be heard in many of his over 150 works. He likes to write music that musicians enjoy performing and audiences enjoy hearing. Many of his recent works are representative of his current interest in neomodal, pandiatonic composition. Ross has already written a number of major orchestral concertos, including pieces for oboe, harp and string orchestra, oboe d’amore, bassoon, clarinet, flute and guitar, trombone, tuba, double bass, and violin. He prefers the concerto form because of its more varied possibilities for artistic expression in contrasting the solo against the orchestra.
Ross has received a number of awards, prizes, significant grants and fellowships. He has served as president of the Southeastern Composers League and served as a judge at international composition symposia, and he has been a visiting composer at the Aspen Music Festival and a featured composer at several universities and forums and on national and international radio broadcasts and has had two residencies at the MacDowell Colony.