The Canadian conductor, violist, composer, and arranger, Walter (Andrew) Babiak, studied from 1939 to 1951 at the Toronto College of Music (RCMT) with John Montague (violin), Elie Spivak (viola), and Louis Murch (piano). He studied at the University of Toronto with Nicholas Goldschmidt, Oskar Morawetz, Godfrey Ridout, John Weinzweig, and others, receiving B MUS in 1955.
Walter Babiak was a violist in the Hart House Orchestra, CBC Symphony Orchestra in 1959-1960, and Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 1957 to 1960. He studied conducting with Boyd Neel, Walter Susskind, and, in 1962 at the University of Amsterdam, with Franco Ferrara. He was associate conductor from 1960 to 1966 and guest conductor from 1984 to 1987 of the National Ballet of Canada; Music Director of the Canadian Chamber Orchestra (Toronto) from 1968 to 1972, the Brantford Symphony Orchestra from 1968 to 1974, the Stratford Festival theatre Orchestra in 1969, and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet from 1981 to 1984; and guest conductor of the Stuttgart Ballet from 1979 to 1981 and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens in 1989. He founded the North York Symphony Orchestra in 1970. In 1971 he was guest conductor of the Vienna State Opera Ballet during its first North American tour. In a long association with the Shevchenko Musical Ensemble in Toronto, he has frequently been its guest conductor and arranger-orchestrator, most recently beginning in 1984.
In addition to hundreds of adaptations, arrangements, and orchestrations, Walter Babiak has composed over 40 original works, including Sinfonietta for Strings which won a 1957 Canadian Composers' Award, Soliloquy for Violin... 'To be or not to be' (1987), and A Child's Christmas in Wales (1989) for two narrators and orchestra. In a career distinguished by wide versatility, Babiak has also been a broadcaster, adjudicator, and lecturer.
Walter Babiak has continued to perform as a studio violist, but he is best known for Sue Hammond's Classical Kids series of recordings with the Studio Arts Orchestra, including such popular releases as Beethoven Lives Upstairs and Mozart's Magic Fantasy, which won Juno awards for best children's album in 1990 and 1991 respectively. He also led the Toronto Philharmonia on the educational disc Peter Ustinov Reads the Orchestra.