Walter White (b.1963) grew up in a musical family in the Detroit suburb of Oak Park, Michigan. His dynamic trumpet playing has deservedly landed him work with many top names in jazz, including Maynard Ferguson, Bob James, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Dave Holland, Gunther Schuller, the Woody Herman Orchestra, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, the Jaco Pastorius Big Band, the Mingus Big Band, and the Manhattan Jazz Orchestra. Walter’s playing has graced numerous sound recordings and soundtracks for film and television, including the network sitcoms Taxi and The Cosby Show.
The youngest of five children, Walter began playing his brother’s Boy Scout bugle at age five, then the baritone horn, tuba, and, at age nine, trumpet. Inspired by Louis Armstrong, Rafael Méndez, Al Hirt, Herb Alpert, Doc Severinsen, Maynard Ferguson, Beethoven, and The Beatles, Walter had his first brush with the stage in third grade, winning a school talent show by playing a medley of popular songs and television tunes, including “A Taste of Honey,” the theme from “The Pink Panther,” the “Frito Bandito” jingle, and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
After a solid early public education in Ferndale, Michigan, Walter intensified his musical training in high school at the Interlochen National Music Camp and Arts Academy (now the Interlochen Center For The Arts). There, he performed with the choir, band, orchestra, jazz band, studio orchestra, and brass ensemble. His teachers included Jerome Amend, Leon Rapier, John Lindenau, Larry Herman, David Sporny, Robert Marcellus, and Vernon Howard.
After Interlochen, Walter pursued classical trumpet studies with the legendary William Vacchiano at The Juilliard School, with additional instruction from Mel Broiles and Carmine Caruso. While in New York, he met producer/keyboardist Bob James, and participated in James’s recording sessions for the hit TV show, Taxi. During this time, Walter also frequented the iconic Village Vanguard to hear, among others, Elvin Jones, Chet Baker, and Woody Shaw. Walter performed at the equally iconic Blue Note with his own jazz quartet, Lines (including Promised composer, Charlie Ernst, on piano), and with salsa bands in Brooklyn and Queens.
Walter received a full scholarship to the University of Miami, transferring there to focus on jazz performing, arranging, and composing. In Miami, Walter again immersed himself in the local music scene, working with prominent Colombian and Cuban bands. In 1984, Walter toured with the Bob James Band, performing at the Hollywood Bowl as part of that year’s Summer Olympics. During the summers of 1985–88, he participated in the summer Jazz Studies program at The Banff Centre, working on advanced performance and composition techniques with Dave Holland, Kenny Wheeler, Dave Liebman, Cecil Taylor, Pat LaBarbera, Don Thompson, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, John Abercrombie, Julian Priester, Kevin Eubanks, and Jay Clayton.
Walter’s collaboration with saxophonist Rick Margitza culminated in winning the 1987 Hennessy Jazz Search, judged by Gerald Wilson, and being selected from more than four hundred competing acts both to headline the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl (hosted by Bill Cosby) and to record for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Cranberry Records. Walter followed this by touring with Maynard Ferguson’s Big Bop Nouveau band from 1989–1991, and recording Live from London at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, which features a sizzling trumpet duel with Ferguson on “The Fox Hunt.” He was a finalist in the Smithsonian Institution’s Louis Armstrong International Trumpet Competition in 1990, judged by Red Rodney, Snooky Young, and Clark Terry. By the mid-1990s, he was a frequent guest performer with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, recording Duke Ellington’s A Tone Parallel to Harlem with the DSO under maestro Neeme Järvi, and performing the piece to rave reviews with Järvi and the DSO at Carnegie Hall.
As a studio owner, Walter currently produces music for recordings, advertising, television, and film. Additionally, he authored the Walter White Long-Tone Accompaniment, a play-along CD for music practice, which has garnered worldwide acclaim as a developmental tool. Walter has composed over forty original works for large jazz ensembles, receiving commissions for jazz, chamber, choral, woodwind and brass ensemble, and orchestral works. Walter’s recent work, Homage To Armstrong, a twenty-minute medley for trumpet soloist, jazz trio, and full orchestra, has become a favorite of orchestral pops audiences