As I begin my sixth year as conductor of the Panama City Symphony Orchestra, I marvel at our growth and excitedly anticipate a bright and glorious future. Our remarkable orchestra has withstood adversity and like a Phoenix risen to thrive. Hurricane Michael threw its fury, but Michael failed to stop us. Covid-19 inflicted its pain, but Covid-19 failed to daunt us. In spite of these hardships, these wonderful musicians faced down hardships, joined as one, rose above them, and built a superb orchestra. Because a great city deserves a great symphony, we as dedicated musicians are better than ever and eager to make Panama City and Bay County the “cultural heart of the Florida Panhandle.

Conductor, composer, author and educator David Ott was born in Michigan and spent his youth in Janesville, Wisconsin, completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in 1969. His Master’s degree in Piano Performance was earned at Indiana University in 1971, and he received his Doctorate in Music Theory & Composition at the University of Kentucky in 1982.

His young music career had immediate impact, and he was named Outstanding Alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in 1987, and Outstanding Alumnus of the University of Kentucky, College of Fine Arts, in 1996. He was inducted into the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Hall of Fame in October 2007. He has served on the faculties of Houghton College (NY), Pfeiffer College (NC), and most recently DePauw University (IN), being honored as Outstanding Professor at two of these institutions. In 1991, he was named Composer-in-Residence of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and retained that position until 1997.

He served as Music Director/Conductor of the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra from 1999 through the spring of 2002. From 2001 through the spring of 2008 David Ott was Music Director and Conductor of the Philharmonic of Northwest Florida. He has also held the appointment of Pace Eminent Scholar and Composer in Residence at the University of West Florida. Currently he serves as Director of Music Ministries and Organist at Christ the King Episcopal Church in Santa Rosa Beach.

Ranking at the top of post-World War II born American composers, Dr. Ott’s works are among the most frequently performed of any American of the era. He has been cited as “one of the greats of American symphony music composers of the last quarter of the twentieth century.” Once nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in music by renowned cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, he has composed a large portfolio of compositions in every genre of music from large-scale orchestra works to short overtures. His works have been performed by the National Symphony and by orchestras in over a dozen major American cities. He has garnered critical praise and received numerous awards for his compositions and continues to be commissioned for works by major orchestras throughout the U.S. He is the author of two books on composers, and was the creator of a thirteen-part television series distributed through Florida Education Channel that ties together American history and symphonic music.