Don Wheater: Making beautiful music on his own time

Courtesy photo
Don Wheater of Hinesburg is a professional trumpet player who most enjoys being part of an orchestral ensemble. He prefers to play music with others, but he has done some solo performances, as well as some duos with an organist.  Now that he is retired, Wheater has more time for his various orchestral endeavors


Don Wheater started playing the trumpet when he was in grade school and has never found a reason to abandon the instrument. The Hinesburg resident enjoys playing in a variety of musical groups across the state of Vermont.

The 68-year-old Wheater is a fan of orchestral trumpet music. He has performed other genres, like jazz, but he is happiest when he is part of an orchestral ensemble. Wheater has been a member of the Vermont Philharmonic Orchestra on and off since 1975. Currently playing second trumpet, he did a stint as principal trumpeter.

In addition to the Philharmonic, Wheater is a full-time member of the Burlington Civic Symphony, the Montpelier Chamber Orchestra and the Champlain Philharmonic Orchestra. Prior to its dissolution, he occasionally played with the Burlington Chamber Orchestra as well as some other groups, and he was part of a brass quintet that got together, mostly for the pleasure of making music together. This spring, he accompanied the Burlington Choral Society for one of their performances. He also plays with some wind ensembles like Vermont Symphonic Winds. He prefers to play music with others, but he has done some solo performances, as well as some duos with an organist.

Wheater doesn’t have one particular piece of music that he likes more than others but said most brass players will list Mahler as their favorite composer because his work is consistently “brass-heavy.” Wheater has performed primarily in Vermont and considers the Barre Opera House, the Chandler Opera House and the Highland Center for the Arts in Greensboro to be his favorite venues.

A graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Wheater spent 33 years at IBM working in the semiconductor field. Around the time he retired in 2007, the state of Vermont asked towns to review their old maps and determine if they wanted to claim or abandon the so called “ancient roads” that weren’t being used. A resident of Hinesburg since 1968, Wheater became a member of the town’s Ancient Roads Committee.

“Hinesburg had the fortune, or perhaps misfortune, of having records going back to the 1700s,” he said. “We went through them and catalogued them and I wrote some software to search for surveys based on specific criteria and display them on satellite images of the town to see where they were and decide what to do with them.”

In the end, the town decided to abandon most of the roads but they learned quite a bit since most of the surveys which were done prior to 1850 had some errors.

Another Hinesburg activity in which Wheater has participated is the Hinesburg Artist Series. He has also been part of the pit orchestra for productions by the Hinesburg Community School.

Now that Wheater is retired, he has more time for his various orchestral endeavors. During the slower months, there will be times when he has no engagements or rehearsals and those breaks allow him to travel with his wife in their RV, but in the spring and fall he finds himself spending every weeknight except for Fridays at events or rehearsals.

“There were times I had two or three places to go on a given night,” he said “but I had to cut back. I’m retired and I don’t need to make an income from it but I do love to play.”

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