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Olly Wilson's richly varied musical background includes 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. His catalogue includes orchestral and chamber works, as well as works for electronic media.
Born in 1937, the St. Louis, MO, native completed his undergraduate training at Washington University (St. Louis), continuing with his masters 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 doublebass 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 his current position of professor of music at University of California at Berkeley, where he has taught since 1970.
Wilson's works have been 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 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 (the first international competition awarded for electronic music for his work
); 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 Prized 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), Wilson often conducts concerts of contemporary music. In 1995, Wilson was elected in membership at the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Olly Wilson's music is published by Gunmar Music (G. Schirmer, Inc.).
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