Talking Strings ‘N’ Things with Peggy Whitson

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich

The Whitson Chamber Music Workshop brings together students from all over the country to learn and play together. This summer, Music Motive was privileged to host this workshop! One of our very own instructors, Emily Cox, was even part of the teaching staff. Peggy Whitson, director of the Whitson Chamber Music Workshop, was kind enough to give us some insight on the program.

0_0_0_0_406_511_csupload_45660469_largeWho are you, Peggy?

My name is Margaret (Peggy) Whitson. I am a music educator, performing artist and owner of Whitson String Studio currently living in Arroyo Grande. In 2003, I relocated from Palo Alto where I was Executive Director of the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra (PACO) – an educational student organization my late husband was Founder and Music Director of.  He and I created a music workshop program involving roughly 100 student and staff musicians, which we ran for over 30 summers.

How and when did the Whitson Chamber Music Workshop get started?

Shortly after my husband’s passing, I relocated to the Central Coast where I established the Whitson Chamber Music Workshop (WCMW) to honor my husband’s memory as well as carry on the legacy we’d established in Palo Alto.

What does the Workshop involve?

IMG_3513-XLLike that 1st program, WCMW is esigned to offer young string musicians the chance to play chamber music (string trios, quartets, quintets) with other young musicians from around the nation, while receiving daily coaching from professional adult musicians — all at an affordable price. Partial scholarships are available to deserving applicants.

How do the kids hear about it and sign up?

The week-long program is limited to a maximum of 20 students nationwide and requires a private instructor recommendation and audition for acceptance. WCMW’s resources are limited. There is little advertising outside of the Central Coast, so most hear about the Workshop from past participants or by referral from a music conductor, educator or instructor.

IMG_2608WCMW hires a small staff of professional artists who coach the student chamber groups. The staff to student ratio is 1:5. The Workshop is divided into 3 main program sections. The most important section devotes 75% of time to rehearsing (with and without coaches) as a small ensemble (3-5 players); 20% to working as a chamber orchestra (all staff and students); and 5% to private lessons, master classes and occasional outings of a social and musical nature. The Workshop culminates with an afternoon Soiree (informal concert) for friends, family and the local community. Visiting staff and students are hosted by local families.

What do you personally enjoy the most about putting on this the Workshop?

As WCMW’s Director, the most gratifying aspect of the program is watching the immediate social connections which form between students and staff – all of whom come from very diverse backgrounds – as a result of their common love for chamber music.  WCMW’s mission is to “foster human relationships through the intimate art of chamber music.”  As with the earlier Palo Alto program, most WCMW alums form life-long friendships with one another.


We are grateful for Peggy’s dedication to this program and enriching our lives with beautiful music! Here you can watch a video from the final rehearsal of the Whitson Chamber Music Workshop:


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