Oakland Jazz Choir

Close this search box.
Walter Bankovitch

Pianist/Band Leader

Walter grew up in Burlingame, California, and studied with Anna Mears in Pacifica, California; Walter Rudolph, San Francisco; Walter grew up in Burlingame, California, studying classical piano privately and learning to play jazz in bands in high school and college. At Stanford University Walter was the pianist for the college Jazz Band, playing concerts with notables Stan Getz, Bobby Shew, and Larry Grenadier.

Walter has played, recorded, and performed in major festivals with various jazz and blues artists since the 1990’s and performed at many of the most recognized jazz venues around the Bay Area including The Garden City, Kuumbwa Jazz Center, SFJAZZ Center, Biscuits and Blues, Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, and Yoshi’s Jack London Square.In 1995 Walter was hired by Roger Letson to play piano for the top-rated jazz choir Vocal Flight at De Anza College. For 10 years the group performed, toured France biennially, and released albums biennially. During this time Walter started crafting choral arrangements for the group, which Roger commissioned, many of which were recorded. To this day Walter remains active with choral vocal jazz arranging. Presently he is the pianist for award-winning jazz choirs at Contra Costa College (San Pablo, CA, directed by Dr. Stephanie Austin) and Skyline College (San Bruno, CA, directed by Michelle Hawkins). He is also the pianist and assistant director for the Oakland Jazz Choir.
Walter has performed piano live with instrumental stars Louis Bellson, Bobby Hutcherson, John Lee Hooker, and Wayne Bergeron, as well as with vocal jazz luminaries Michelle Hendricks, Madeline Eastman, Rebecca Parris, Nicolas Bearde, Mary Stallings, Barbara Morrison, Kitty Margolis, Claire Martin, Dennis Rowland, Jamie Davis, Jackie Ryan, and Paula West.

Walter has composed and arranged tunes for large and small instrumental jazz ensembles, and he has been a faculty accompanist at Jazz Camp West each year since 1995. He also has worked as an accompanist for voice instructors including Patti Cathcart, Seth Riggs, Roger Letson, Rebecca Parris, Rhiannon, Faye Carol, Kellye Gray, Nicolas Bearde, Brenda Boykin, Madeline Eastman, Ledisi, Kitty Margolis, Ellen Robinson, Greta Matassa, Laurie Antonioli, and Sandy Cressman. For the past several years, Walter has been the house pianist and musical director for the SF Bay Area’s premier jazz competition, Jazz Search West.

Walter has always been a fan of jazz piano greats Chick Corea, Oscar Peterson, and Dave Brubeck. Other favorites include Randy Porter, Jovino Santos Neto, Glen Pearson, Joe Gilman, Larry Dunlap, Susan Muscarella, and the late great Smith Dobson, Sr.

Walter holds a B.S. in Mathematical and Computational Science (1986) and an M.S. in Computer Science (1987) from Stanford University and works his day job in software design/development for electronic equipment company Agilent Technologies in Santa Clara, California.