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Gordon Peters

Artists/Composers - Composers P-T
Gordon Peters

Gordon Peters


Gordon Benes Peters has made a name for himself as an orchestra player, conductor, teacher, administrator, author and composer.

Peters grew up in Cicero, Illinois, where he began his music studies at the age of six. He commenced his orchestral career in the fifth grade, later performing in the famous J. Sterling Morton High School Orchestra and Band programs under Louis M. Blaha. As a teenager Peters was timpanist of the Roosevelt College Orchestra and the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra. (In November 2000, Terry Applebaum, a former student of Peters, endowed the Gordon B. Peters Principal Timpani Chair in the CYSO.) Peters' primary percussion teachers included Harry J. Brabec (principle percussionist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1951 to 1956), Roy Knapp, Otto Kristufek, José Bethancourt, Clair Omar Musser, Saul Goodman, Morris Goldberg and William Street.

Peters spent three years in the special service U.S. Military Band at West Point. He went on to earn both bachelor's and master's degrees from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where he founded the Marimba Masters. This unique ensemble of seven players appeared several times with both the Rochester and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestras and played numerous professional engagements in New York State, including eleven radio/TV shows with Arthur Godfrey (1955) and Ed Sullivan (1958). Peters also studied conducting extensively with Pierre Monteux in Hancock, Maine, and received the Monteux Discipleship Award in 1962.

Prior to his appointment to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra , Gordon Peters played with the Rochester Philharmonic under Erich Leinsdorf and with Chicago's Grant Park Symphony (1954 to 1958).

Since returning to Chicago, Peters has appeared as soloist with the Orchestra, taught at Northwestern University (1963 to 1968), and accumulated an impressive list of podium accomplishments. In 1987 he completed a twenty-two-year tenure as conductor and administrator of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago (the training orchestra of the Chicago Symphony), a post to which he was appointed by CSO music director Jean Martinon. During this time the Civic Orchestra gave fifty-two Chicago premieres (twenty-nine by American composers) and the world premiere of Gustav Mahler's Tenth Symphony as realized by Chicagoan Clinton Carpenter. Among the works Peters introduced to Chicago audiences were Bartók's Four Pieces for Orchestra, Varése's Ameriques and works by composers as diverse as Carl Ruggles, Frank Proto, Antonio Salieri and Andrzej Panufnik.

From 1968 until 1973 Peters served as music director of the Elmhurst Symphony. He was also assistant conductor (and member of the board of directors) of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra for twenty years. In 1993 he conducted the Bangor Symphony Orchestra (Maine) in a memorial concert honoring conductor-composer Werner Torkanowsky.

In addition to The Swords of Moda-Ling, Peters has transcribed numerous symphonic and "popular" works for marimba ensemble with the intention of establishing a true chamber music library for percussionists utilizing only one player to a part and no conductor. He has authored many pedagogic outlines and articles in the fields of percussion and conducting. His 411 page master's degree dissertation, A Treatise on Percussion (1962) was revised in 1975 and published by the author as The Drummer: Man. He has recently made a second major revision/extension of this work and donated it to the Percussive Arts Society where it has been republished in disk form.

Peters served as the first national president of the Percussive Arts Society (1964 to 1967), and he was a member of the board of directors of the Conductors' Guild (1979 to 1990).

Antiques, graphics, books, gardening and his summer home in Hancock, Maine, are some of his personal interests. Gordon has two daughters, Rénee Kemper Press and Erica Kemper Peters, and six grandchildren: Julia, Benjamin, Wylie, Natelie, Caroline and Joshua.

Peters was engaged by th Chicago Symphony Orchestra as principal percussionist and associate principal timpanist by Dr. Fritz Reiner in 1959. He was awarded the Theodore Thomas Gold Medallion for Distinguished Service upon his retirement from the CSO in January, 2001.

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