Charles Pikler joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as a violinist in 1978 and, in 1986, he was named principal violist.
Pikler studied the piano with his parents and violin with Ben Ornstein, Bronislaw Gimpel at the University of Connecticut and Roman Totenberg at the Tanglewood Young Artist Program at the Berkshire Music Center. He appeared as soloist with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Eastern Connecticut Symphony and Manchester Civic Orchestra, among others. He holds a degree in mathematics with distinct honors from the University of Minnesota.
He launched his career as a violinist with the Minnesota Orchestra in 1971, later becoming a member of the Cleveland Orchestra (1974 to 1976) and the Rotterdam Philharmonic (1976 to 1978).
He has been featured as a soloist with the CSO, as well as with other orchestras in the Chicago area. Additionally, he has also been soloist with the Kingsport Tennessee Symphony, Orchestra of the Pines in Nacogdoches, Texas, National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica and National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra.
Pikler served as concertmaster of the Chicago Chamber Orchestra under Dieter Kober, touring with it and also performing as soloist; the Sinfonia Orchestra of Chicago; the Orchestra of the Apollo Chorus; the Chicago Opera Theater Orchestra; the Northbrook Symphony; and the Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest. He currently serves as principal violist of the Ars Viva Symphony Orchestra.
A chamber music enthusiast, he has performed with several ensembles, including the Chicago Symphony String Quartet. Pikler has been a guest artist with the Daniel String Quartet in Holland, the Vermeer Quartet of De Kalb, and the Louisville String Quartet. In 1990, he performed Frank Beezhold’s Viola Concerto, which was composed for and dedicated to him, with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago at Orchestra Hall. He also has recorded it in the composer’s own transcription for piano and viola with Dorothy Shultz.
He has recorded Easley Blackwood’s chamber music with the composer for Cedille Records. He was featured as soloist on the Sewanee Symphony’s recording of Berlioz’s Harold in Italy for Solo Viola and Orchestra, with Victor Yampolsky conducting. In 1995 and 1996, he served as guest principal violist for the Boston Symphony under Seiji Ozawa and was a guest violist at the Bay Chamber Concerts in Rockland, Maine. Pikler participates in the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. While on sabbatical from the CSO during the 2014–15 season, Pikler performed as a substitute section violist at the Lyric Opera of Chicago for two operas.
Pikler is on the faculty of Northwestern University. He coaches the violists of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, as well as other ensembles at the Midwest Young Artists program in Highwood, Illinois. Pikler is the founder and music director of I Solisti, a chamber orchestra which is part of the Midwest Young Artists program.
Pikler and his wife, Ruth, have two sons, David and Andrew, and a daughter, Amy.