Dick Walker, a violinist, fiddler, and pianist, is a versatile musician who plays in a number of genres, from classical to country and western. Since 1996, he has played and traveled as a fiddler with the Wedgwood Trio.
Dick was born in Denver, Colorado, the son of Paul Arthur and Verna Dorothy Miller Walker. From his earliest years he was surrounded by country music, an activity that included both the immediate and extended family. Initially a reluctant student on the violin, he changed his mind when, at age fourteen, he began taking lessons from John Coppin, a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Inspired by the playing of that teacher and other serendipitous musical experiences, he began practicing three to four hours each day, a schedule he followed for the three years that he studied with Coppin. He made remarkable progress and began giving recitals, served as the concertmaster for his teacher's orchestra, The Montebello Symphony, and frequently played solos in a number of settings.
During this time he also studied piano and music theory. Music became his refuge from tensions in the home, and he immersed himself in recordings of music by Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Brahms, Debussy, Satie, Ravel, and others. He also began to listen to recordings of jazz and was intrigued by its spontaneity and freedom. Although the music of his family was country music and he had grown up surrounded by it, he had not been encouraged to gain a proficiency in it and the improvisatory skills it required, something he later regretted.
Immediately upon graduation from high school in 1956, Walker went to work in a music store in Fullerton, California, where he stayed for the next five years. Even though he was now working in music, he had stopped playing his violin in his senior year in high school and would not resume playing it for more than twenty years.
He enlisted and served in the United States Coast Guard Reserve, beginning in 1960. In 1961 he began a career in law enforcement and for the next eighteen years served in the sheriffs' departments in Los Angeles and Riverside counties. Following completion of a B.A. in psychology in 1981 at California Baptist University in Riverside, he worked for five years in psychiatric hospitals.
In the 1990s, Walker resumed music study at Redlands University, where he completed an M.Mus. in 1994, and later pursued additional music study at Claremont Graduate University in California. He was elected to membership in Pi Kappa Lambda while at Redlands. He also played in the second violin section of the Redlands Symphony for eight years, under the direction of conductor Jon Robertson, a musician and man he greatly admired. He later wrote about his time with the orchestra:
Those years I spent at the front of the second violin section with leader and friend Dr. Art Svenson and stand partner Bill Alpert are among the brightest of my musical memories. To play second fiddle to the likes of concertmasters Todor Pelev and later Palvel Farkas and other violinists of the orchestra was a proud time for me. Those cats could play and I was one of them!
The other positions in the orchestra were filled by some of the finest musicians in the area, many from Los Angeles and Hollywood. There on the stage in the midst of all those players I had one of the best seats in the house. We string players, joined by the wind players on their oboes, clarinets, flutes, and the brass players with their trumpets, trombones, and tubas, and the percussion players, together created intricate rhythms beyond imagination. There were glorious harmonies, with everyone playing their heart out and Maestro Robertson leading us with his intensity. I remember more than once in the midst of those concert moments muttering a silent prayer, "Lord, since I have to die someday anyhow, could it be at a moment like this." It is as close to heaven on earth as I have been.
It was a grand time for me. I rehaired bows for many of the string players and their students. Having that skill placed me among that group of luthiers (people who work on and make instruments played on the string) that had that seemingly mystical skill. Hence, I was in demand.
It was also the time I finished my Master of Music degree in Violin Performance at the University of Redlands.
Walker also returned to his family's musical roots in country music by becoming an adept fiddler and mandolin player. Starting in 1996 and to the present, Walker has played with the Wedgwood Trio, a group that plays sacred folk and country music, as a fiddler and mandolin player. During that time he has played with them in concerts in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the U.S. He more recently wrote about that experience and the realities of live performance:
The Wedgwood Trio is made up of three friends. Bob Summerour was from Georgia and plays the guitar and banjo, Jerry Hoyle was from North Carolina and plays the bass and harmonica, and Don Vollmer, also from North Carolina, plays the guitar and bass, and all three sing. They met during the 1960ís as teenagers and shared a mutual interest in music that became a life-long bond and musical success. In addition, each became successful in his chosen field, Bob in psychiatry, Jerry in psychology, and Don as a pastor. During our concerts while introducing themselves, Don has often said that they were all in the same field, helping people, he just charged less. Bob would rejoin that at least he and Jerry did not charge 10 percent of their patientsí income!
I met Jerry in Redlands, where I worked on his daughterís violin bow. One day in about 1996 he called me and asked if I would play fiddle with them in a concert they were performing in a church in Calimesa, California. I did and that concert marked the beginning of my relationship with them that is still ongoing. We have given concerts in many places in the United States, two concert series in Australia, which included the making of a video, a concert series in New Zealand, and other concerts in Canada.
Wedgwood is based in southern California. After Letha, my wife, and I moved to Texas in 1999 I would fly alone to our concert destination and meet them. Travel for me is very stressful, especially after 1991 with all the gear I have to carry. Our concert travel is always smoother when their wives travel with us. The wives are "take charge" kinds of people and make sure things move along smoothly and are better organized. We also stay in better hotels and eat in nicer restaurants when they are along. Regardless, we work hard, probably too hard, and make wonderful music together, most often to full houses, standing ovations, and repeated encores.
During our concerts, Bob is the leader. It has gotten to the point where he and I can read each other with eye contact and make adjustments as we are performing, a form of communication I really enjoy. All of us have a good way of pulling together to make things work.
Live music is fraught with endless possibilities for disaster. Strings break, sound systems squawk or donít work at all, words to songs are forgotten at crucial moments, and the fiddle player forgets to make his entrance, just standing there with a goofy look on his face. All these things can and do happen. And in the midst of them, Jerry is unflappable and keeps on as if nothing has happened, even when he pulls one wrong harmonica after another out of his pocket. In the years I have known him I donít remember Jerry complaining about anything. He just keeps writing wonderful songs and making his music.
I first heard Don sing the hymn Softly and Tenderly during one of my first concerts with them. To watch and hear him sing that hymn was for me a moment of great insight into the love of God, a moment I carry with me to this day.
Today, Walker operates Dick Walker Music, in Leakey, Texas. He enjoys a reputation as one of South Texas' finest musicians and is in demand as a performer and teacher. He is an active Christian whose teaching studios are provided by the First United Methodist Church in Kerrville, Texas, and the Utopia Baptist Church in Utopia, Texas.
He is a member of the country music band of Geronimo Trevino III and with them has opened concerts by leading country music stars, including Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Ray Price, and others. Walker also performs frequently with Tim Porter, guitarist, and Gary Hatch, bassist, as The Dick Walker Trio. His artistry on the fiddle, violin, viola, mandolin, and piano is featured on a number of recordings (www.dickwalkermusic.com/record).
The content of this biography is based on information found at Dick Walker's website under "Dick's Forum," a series of autobiographical essays about his life and experiences in music. The excerpts are from Numbers 10 and 13, respectively. www.dickwalkermusic.com