× Upcoming Events Dean's Circle Donate Email Sign-up Staff Shenandoah Conservatory Past Events
Olly WIlson
A City Called Heaven

Olly Wilson’s varied musical background included not only the traditional composition and academic disciplines, but also his professional experience as a jazz and orchestral musician, work in electronic media, and studies of African music in West Africa itself.

Born in 1937, the St. Louis, Missouri, native completed his undergraduate training at Washington University (St. Louis), continuing with his master's studies at University of Illinois (returning later to study electronic music in the Studio for Experimental Music), and received his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. His composition teachers included Robert Wykes, Robert Kelley and Phillip Bezanson.

His work as a professional musician included playing jazz piano in local St. Louis groups, as well as playing contrabass for the St. Louis Philharmonic, the 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, as well as the University of California at Berkeley where he began teaching in 1970.

Wilson's works were performed by major American orchestras such as the Atlanta, Baltimore, Saint Louis, Detroit and Dallas Symphonies, along with such international ensembles as the Moscow Philharmonic, the Netherlands Philharmonic, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. He received commissions from the Boston, Chicago, and Houston Symphonies, as well as the New York Philharmonic and the American Composers Orchestra. He was awarded numerous honors, including the Dartmouth Arts Council Prize (the first international competition awarded for electronic music for his work Cetus); commissions from the NEA and Koussevitzky Foundation; an artist residency at the American Academy of Rome; several Guggenheim Fellowships; a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship; membership at the American Academy of Arts and Letters; and the Elise Stoeger Prize awarded by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

In addition to being a published author (Wilson wrote numerous articles on African and African-American music), he often conducted contemporary music concerts.

Olly Wilson died in 2018. His music is published by Gunmar Music and G. Schirmer, Inc.