Walt Straiton, Director of Academic and Institutional Partnerships, brings a blended career combining education, business, entertainment, and professional performance to the Music First family. A music industry veteran, Walt has previously served in the educational divisions of both the Yamaha and Conn-Selmer Corporations.
Formerly Director of Orchestras and Assistant Director of Marching Bands at Williamsport Area High School in PA for 26 years, he has taught both winds and strings at all levels, having also served as Director of Orchestras at Messiah College (PA). Rounding out his varied career also as instrumental music producer for HersheyPark for 17 years, Walt was honored to receive a coveted John F. Kennedy Center Fellowship for Teachers in the Arts, and also appeared as a finalist for “Teacher of the Year” in the nationally-televised Walt Disney Corporation’s “American Teacher Awards”. A graduate of Millersville University (PA) and the Eastman School of Music, he previous pursued Doctoral Study in music education at the Pennsylvania State University.
Professional guest conducting appearances include performances with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, the New World Symphony Orchestra (Miami Beach, FL), the United States Air Force Symphony Orchestra, the Champaign-Urbana (IL) Symphony Orchestra, and the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra (PA). Beginning in 2010, Walt served as the founding Artistic Director of the Corona (CA) Symphony Orchestra prior to his return to the east coast in 2013. Walt has produced and conducted numerous concert events featuring a variety of contemporary pop/jazz artists, including Chris Botti, Bob James, Burt Bacharach, Michael Cavanaugh, David Benoit, Maynard Ferguson, Chuck Mangione, Buddy Rich, Lionel Hampton, Phil Woods, The Captain and Tennille, The Spinners, Patti Austin, Neil Sedaka, Franki Valli and the Four Seasons, The Empire Brass Quintet, and Bobby Rydell.
Walt remains active as a guest conductor and adjudicator for student festival orchestras throughout the country, including appearances with All-State Orchestras in Florida, Vermont, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia. Recognized as a leader to bring both standard and contemporary jazz repertoire to the American symphony orchestra, he has presented clinics at various MEA and NAfME conferences, as well as the Midwest Band/Orchestra clinic. Published articles to his credit include such topics comprehensive orchestral program development, conducting, and music technology, and have appeared in the Jazz Education Journal, American String Teachers Journal, and the Technology Institute for Music Education.