Donald Palma, a founding member of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, founded and coaches the NEC Chamber Orchestra, a conductorless orchestra modeled on Orpheus, and one of the first such orchestras at a music school.
Palma received his formal education at the Juilliard School and joined Leopold Stokowski's American Symphony Orchestra at the age of 20. At age 24, he joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and later joined Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra as principal bass.
As music director of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. Palma won two ASCAP-Chamber Music America Awards for adventurous programming. With the contemporary music group Speculum Musicae, he serves a double function as bassist and conductor, having appeared in both capacities at the Warsaw Autumn Festival, the Geneva Festival, the Miami Festival, the New York Philharmonic Horizons Festival, and the Library of Congress. He has conducted critically acclaimed recordings of works by Poul Ruders, Lee Hyla, Elliott Carter, Peter Lieberson, Stephen Jaffe, and has recorded over thirty CDs of contemporary works.
Palma recorded the complete Wagner Ring Cycle with James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera, and has made over fifty recordings with Orpheus for Deutsche Grammophon including a Grammy award–winning Stravinsky CD. Palma was principal bassist for Leonard Bernstein in his recoding of West Side Story, and was a featured artist on Kathleen Battle's CD Grace.
As a chamber musician, Palma has appeared in recital with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Jan DeGaetani and Jorge Bolet, and has performed with the Nash Ensemble, the Juilliard Quartet, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the Da Camera Society of Houston.
Palma has given masterclasses at Rice University, the Hartt School, the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, Mannes College, and the Toho School.
B.M., The Juilliard School. Double bass studies with Frederick Zimmermann, Robert Brennand, Orin O’Brien, Homer Mensch. Recordings on New World, Nonesuch, CRI, Deutsche Grammophon, Bridge, Columbia, Sony Classical, MusicMasters. Former faculty of Princeton and Columbia universities, Manhattan School of Music. Also faculty of Yale University.