A native of Windsor, Ontario, David Willms grew up in a musical family. He began studying the violin at age seven in Detroit. By age 14 he was performing in the Windsor Symphony while continuing violin studies in Detroit and Windsor. He continued his violin studies at Western University as part of a Bachelor of Music Education degree. While at Western he was encouraged to switch to the viola by his mentor and principal teacher, Ralph Aldrich. This successful transition led to him being appointed to the Principal Viola position in the UWO Symphony Orchestra followed by his acceptance into the viola section of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. There he performed under such eminent international conductors as Simon Streatfield and Georg Tintner.
Willms began his first professional leadership position as Principal Violist of the Windsor Symphony. In addition to his symphony position, Mr. Willms pursued his Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Windsor, after which he taught string techniques at the Windsor Centre for the Creative Arts.
Looking for new musical challenges, David and his partner, Hamilton-born violinist Barbara Hindrichs, relocated to Holland where they both performed with the Netherlands Opera Orchestra in Amsterdam. They returned to Ontario to raise their 2 boys, then settled in west Hamilton and later in Burlington. Willms then established a busy freelance career as a violist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra, the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, among others, including Broadway musicals in Toronto such as Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera. He has also recorded and toured extensively with popular Canadian artists such as Diana Krall, Bruce Cockburn and The Philosopher Kings.
David Willms also has a keen interest in early music. For over 15 years he performed extensively with Toronto’s Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, including many tours through Europe, the UK, Japan and Singapore. While in Germany with Tafelmusik, the orchestra recorded all of Haydn’s Masses and all of Beethoven’s symphonies and piano concertos for the Sony Classical label, under Maestro Bruno Weil.
In 2006, Willms resumed his passion for education and began teaching music at Aldershot High School where he built up an award-winning Concert Band program. He taught there until 2016 when he moved to his current position at Abbey Park High School in Oakville where he established the only strings program in the Halton District School Board. This program has flourished under Mr. Willms’ guidance and the Abbey Park String Ensemble has been awarded a gold level adjudication at Musicfest Canada at every festival appearance.
Willms has a strong passion for both music-making and educating young musicians. He is thrilled to be the HPYO Music Director and looks forward to working with the musicians and sharing their talents with the Hamilton community.