William Peterson retired from the department of music at Pomona College, Claremont, California, at the end of the spring semester 2018 and was named Harry S. and Madge Rice Thatcher Emeritus Professor of Music and College Organist. He performed in two events in his final semester at the college on the Hill Memorial Organ by C. B. Fisk, Inc. (Op. 117, 2002) in Bridges Hall of Music. In February he presented a recital that included music by Bach, Guilmant, Defossé, Ibert, Kohn, and Flaherty. Peterson was one of seven organists who participated in the 11th Annual Presidents’ Day Organ Festival sponsored by the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Guild of Organists in Claremont on February 19.
Peterson joined the faculty at Pomona College in 1979. He earned the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, having earlier received the B.A. and B.M. degrees from Oberlin College and Conservatory. At Oberlin he studied organ with David Boe and harpsichord with Fenner Douglass. At Pomona College he taught organ and courses in music history, and he served as chair of the department of music.
As a performer, he has played recitals in recent years in many parts of the United States, including all-Bach programs featuring complete performances of Clavierübung III. As a scholar he has focused on French organ music of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was co-editor with Lawrence Archbold of French Organ Music from the Revolution to Franck and Widor (University of Rochester Press, 1995). Peterson is author of Lemmens, His Ecole d’orgue, and Nineteenth-Century Organ Methods. His article, “Storm Fantasies for the Nineteenth-Century Organ in France,” appeared in Keyboard Perspectives (2009). A translation of this article was published in 2010 in the Belgian periodical, Orgelkunst. With his brother, the political scientist James Peterson (Valdosta State University), he has given eight papers in recent years on Czech music and politics in the period 1848 to 1924; they also published an article in Kosmas (March 2018).
Research projects have been supported by a Fulbright grant (1985–1986, in Belgium), by the Mellon Foundation, and by the Pomona College Research Committee. A CD, Recital at Bridges Hall, Pomona College, was released by Loft Recordings in 2018. The recording project was made possible by a Sontag Fellowship, given by the dean of Pomona College.