Olly Wilson’s richly varied musical background includes not only traditional composition and academic disciplines, but also his professional experience as a jazz and orchestral musician, work in electronic media, and his studies of music in West Africa. His catalogue includes orchestral and chamber works, as well as works for electronic media.
Born in 1937 in St. Louis, Missouri, Wilson completed undergraduate training at Washington University (St. Louis) and continued with masters studies at the University of Illinois, returning later to study electronic music in the Studio for Experimental Music. He received a PhD from the University of Iowa. His composition teachers have included Robert Wykes, Robert Kelley, and Phillip Bezanson.
His work as a professional musician has included playing jazz piano in local St. Louis groups, as well as playing the double bass for the St. Louis Philharmonic, St. Louis Summer Chamber Players, and the Cedar Rapids Symphony. He has taught on the faculties of Florida A&M University and Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and is currently a Professor of Music at the University of California at Berkeley, where he has taught since 1970.
Wilson’s works have been performed by such major American orchestras as the Atlanta, Baltimore, Saint Louis, Detroit, and Dallas symphonies, along with such international ensembles as the Moscow Philharmonic, Netherlands Philharmonic, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. He has received commissions from the Boston, Chicago, and Houston symphonies, as well as the New York Philharmonic and the American Composers Orchestra. He has been awarded numerous honors, including the Dartmouth Arts Council Prize; commissions from the NEA and Koussevitzky Foundation; an artist residency at the American Academy of Rome; several Guggenheim Fellowships; a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship; and the Elise Stoeger Prize, awarded by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. In addition to being a published author (Wilson has written numerous articles on African and African American music), he often conducts concerts of contemporary music. In 1995 Wilson was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Olly Wilson's music is published by Gunmar Music (G. Schirmer, Inc.).