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Don Walker is regarded one on the greatest arrangers and orchestrators of American musical theater. He orchestrated his first Broadway score in 1935 for Sigmund Romberg's Maywine and would go on to orchestrate over 100 Broadway shows including such classics as Richard Rogers' Carousel (1945), Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate (1948), Jule Styne's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949), Richard Adler and Jerry Ross' Damn Yankees (1955), Frank Loesser's The Most Happy Fella (1956), and Jerry Bock's Fiddler on the Roof (1964).
Before he was 21, Walker was writing arrangements for Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians, one of the nation's most popular orchestras. He orchestrated for Fred Waring's radio show, and while working in radio, he met Sigmund Romberg and made the leap to theater. Later, in television, he conducted for NBC's Your Hit Parade (1957). He was a composer too, collaborating with Clay Warnick on the entire score, music and lyrics, of Memphis Bound, an adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore that featured an all black cast. He composed music for S.J. Perelman's Beauty Part (1962), as well as other scores and approximately thirty published songs. Walker was instrumental in the founding of the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope.
Education and Training
Rider College, Trenton, New Jersey, 1921
Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1923 (admitted at age 16)
Teachers and Influences
Oscar Hammerstein II, Sigmund Romberg, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Mary Gillingham Brown, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Mary Martin, Gene Kelly, Carol Channing, Irving Berlin, Jack Lawrence, and Clay Warnick.
Connection to Bucks County
Don Walker was born in Lambertville, NJ and lived in New Hope in an 18th century house on Aquetong and Covered Bridge Roads from 1935 until his death. The house was paid for with money from his first big-time success orchestrating for Sigmund Romberg. He was instrumental in the founding of the Bucks County Playhouse and served as the corporation's vice-president from its founding in 1939 to 1952 and as president for twelve years. He composed Ah! Sweet Mistress, in collaboration with Ira Wallach, which received a tryout production at the Bucks County Playhouse in 1957. He also owned and operated a commercial farm which hybridized and grew gladiolus under the name Harmony Hill Glads.
Colleagues and Affiliations
Oscar Hammerstein II was a colleague and friend.
Donald Walker was a part of the group that founded the Bucks County Playhouse, Inc. in 1939. He also served as its vice president for thirteen years (1939-1952) and president for twelve years. He was the director of Bucks County Productions Company and was affiliated with the New Hope Historical Society.
Teaching and Professional Appointments
Music Theatre International, where he restructured, translated, and reorchestrated grand operas
Lecturer, Music Heard, Music Written, Hunter College, School for Adult Education, 1957-1959
Fiddler on the Roof
The Pajama Game
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Walker co-orchestrated over one hundred musicals and was the sole orchestrator of twenty musicals.
Big Hit Records
Orchestrated songs for Fred Waring, recorded on RCA and Victor
Wrote music for Allah Be Praised, 1942, and songs for Memphis Bound, 1945
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