The Walter Thompson Orchestra (WTO) was founded in 1984 and was first known as the Walter Thompson Big Band. From 1984 until 1994 they were in residence at the Greenwhich House Music School in the West Village (New York City). The majority of their performances were in Downtown Manhatten in clubs and concert halls such as Neither/Nor, Chandelier, ABC No Rio, The Knitting Factory, Greenwich House Haydn Auditorium, Sweet Basil’s among many others.
During the first 15 years the WTO comprised some of the most adventurous and accomplished musicians on the New York “Downtown Scene” such as: Thomas Chapin, Herb Robertson, Steve Swell, Dave Douglas, Steven Bernstein, Frank London, Hollis Headrick, Rolf Sturm, Don Davis, Tom Varner, Phillip Johnston, Tomas Ulrich, Mark Feldman, Theo Bleckman, Ethan Iverson, Rob Henke, among many others.
During the early 1990’s Thompson was commissioned by Lincoln Center to compose a piece that would include audience participation. Thompson added actors Leese Walker and Joshua Taylor to the orchestra, modifying the Soundpainting langauge to include actors. After the performances at Lincoln Center Thompson decided to continue with his multidisciplinary work. During the same year Thompson was commissioned by choreographer Margery Segal and developed the Soundpainting language with dancers. Thompson composed a Soundpainting in Austin, Texas outside on the Congress Avenue Bridge – which was closed specifically for the performance. The orchestra comprised 100 female dancers, a 35-piece orchestra of musicians and over 1 million bats, which Thompson and Segal hoped would come out from the pilings of the Congress Avenue Bridge. The bats regularly, more or less, flew out at a certain time everyday to go looking for food….turning the skype black with bats…and as Thompson and Segal hoped, they came out as planned signalling the end of the compostion.
Presently, The Walter Thompson Orchestra is a mutldisciplinary orchestra presenting Soundpainting performances in New York and around the world.