Bio

Born in Wisconsin Rapids, WI, on October 4, 1932, Phelps Dean Witter moved shortly after with his family to Los Angeles, California. There, Mr. Witter began piano studies at an early age with Ethel Leginska, and composition with Halsey Stevens. His family later moved to San Francisco, where he continued his piano studies with Egon Petri, and composition with Alexander Tcherepnin and Darius Milhaud. At age sixteen, Mr. Witter was awarded First Prize in the San Francisco Chronicles’s Annual Talent Contest, for his Suite in E-flat for piano.

When he was seventeen, Mr. Witter’s family moved to France, where he continued his musical studies at the École Normale and the Paris Conservatory, becoming the first American ever to receive a First Prize in the regular French section of the school. His teachers included Yvette Descaves, Nadia Boulanger, and Maurice Duruflé in composition, Gary Graffman, Yves Nat, and American pianists Julius Katchen and Leon Fleisher, in piano, and conducting under Werner Wangenheim in Salzburg. Mr. Witter’s works were performed frequently throughout France, and his Violin Sonatine was awarded a First Prize at L’École de Fontainebleau, where it was first performed by Jean Pasquier and the composer. Mr. Witter performed many concerts throughout Europe, playing his own compositions as well as standard classical repertoire. Mr. Witter was invited to give a series of lectures on music for the Armed Forces Radio.

Upon returning to the United States, Mr. Witter and his wife Barbara, settled in San Francisco, where they raised four children.

Among his many compositions are three Symphonies and two Sinfoniettas for orchestra, the first of which won First Prize at The Kensington Orchestra’s Composition Competition in 1982, and was subsequently performed by the orchestra. Mr. Witter’s extensive catalogue includes chamber music, many piano works, several song cycles, and a series of preludes.