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.

David Ott is a richly acclaimed composer of national and international reputation with a vast range of musical experiences. 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. His compositions have been performed on four continents and recorded by the world’s greatest symphony orchestras, including the London Symphony, the Czech Radio Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony and the Milwaukee Symphony. Following in the traditions of the orchestral masters Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Bartok and Britten, Ott was heralded by Symphony magazine as one of a dozen composers who have amply contributed to American symphony music in the past 50 years. He has collaborated on projects with such musical luminaries as Mstislav Rostropovich, Jaime Laredo, Raymond Leppard and Robert Shaw. Each praised Ott for his gift for melody, brilliant orchestrations and structural integrity.

Ott is a gifted lecturer in the manner of Leonard Bernstein with a passion for educating young audiences. He has created half a dozen unique orchestra presentations with him either conducting or narrating, reaching more than 25,000 students, including collaborations with the symphonies of Indianapolis, Kansas City, Evansville, Knoxville, Colombia, Pensacola, Panama City, Des Moines, Biloxi and Lafayette. His is the creator of “Music to My Ears,” the Panama City Symphony Orchestra’s outreach program performed in the Panhandle’s immediate area elementary school districts. His drive for educating the public about music inspired him to author two books about composers. Having been on the faculty of four universities, Ott is naturally at ease with today’s college students. He has completed composer residencies at the University of South Alabama, Millikin University, Southwest Baptist University, University of Arkansas and Pfeiffer University.