William Peterson is the Harry S. and Madge Rice Thatcher Professor of Music and College Organist at Pomona College. He received the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. Earlier he received the B.A. and B.M. degrees from Oberlin College and Conservatory. At Pomona College he teaches organ and courses in music history.
As a performer, he has played concerts in recent years in many parts of the United States. He has performed a number of all-Bach recitals at various locations, including complete performances of Bach’s Dritter Theil der Clavierübung. In April of 2005 he played a concert of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century German music on the Taylor and Boody organ at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, and in September of 2006 he played a concert of French music – "French Organ Music from the Time of World War I" – on the Fisk organ (Fisk, Op. 116) in Finney Chapel at Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music. He played a concert on the recently installed Fisk organ in the Christopher Cohan Center in San Luis Obispo, CA in 2008. On March 28, 2010 he played a concert on the Hill Memorial Organ (Fisk Op. 117) at Pomona College – “The Music of Johann Sebastian Bach” – planned in recognition of the 325th anniversary of Bach’s birthday.
As a scholar he has worked extensively on French organ music of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He is co-editor with Lawrence Archbold (Carleton College) of French Organ Music from the Revolution to Franck and Widor (University of Rochester Press, 1995, now in its third printing), a volume that includes eleven articles by a group of American and French authors. Peterson is author of "Lemmens, His Ecole d’orgue, and Nineteenth-Century Organ Methods" and co-author of an article focusing on organ music during the French Revolution in that volume. He is the author of "Organ Music in the Shadow of the Great War: A Preliminary Investigation" published in La Flûte harmonique (2007), a special issue devoted to the proceedings of a conference held in Paris and Reims in 2006. His article, "Storm Fantasies for the Nineteenth-Century Organ in France," appeared in Keyboard Perspectives, volume II (2009). A translation of this article on Storm Fantasies – “Stormfantasieën voor het 19de-eeuwse orgel” – appeared in the Belgian periodical, Orgelkunst, in 2010. In 2009 his research centered on Czech music and politics, and in the Fall he presented, with James Peterson (Valdosta State University), a paper – "Musical Signposts at Political Crossroads in the Czech Lands (1848 to 1918)" – at the national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies in Boston. In November of 2010, he presented a paper titled “World War I Apprehended through the Lenses of Czech Music” at the National Meeting of the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies in Los Angeles. In July 2011 he presented a paper – “Documenting Organ Registration Practice in Nineteenth-Century France: The 1880s and 1890s” – at the Regional Convention of the American Guild of Organists (San Francisco). Research projects have been supported by a Fulbright research grant (1985-86, in Belgium), by the Mellon Foundation (Mellon Summer Research Grant, 2005), and by the Pomona College Research Committee.
In October of 2002 he played the Inaugural Concert on the Hill Memorial Organ built by C.B. Fisk, of Gloucester, MA (Fisk, Op. 117) for Bridges Hall of Music at Pomona College. He was heard on "Pipedreams" (National Public Radio) in a 2006 broadcast: the program included music of Tournemire, Duruflé, and Widor recorded in concerts he presented in Bridges Hall in 2002 and 2003.