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Olly Wilson

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Information about Olly Wilson

Profile image of Olly Wilson

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Music Professor
Music Composer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue, Red, Yellow
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall, Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Italy
Favorite Quote:
This Too Shall Pass.

Birthplace

Born:
9/7/1937
Birth Location:
St. Louis, Missouri

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Music Professor
Music Composer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue, Red, Yellow
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall, Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Italy
Favorite Quote:
This Too Shall Pass.

Birthplace

Born:
9/7/1937
Birth Location:
St. Louis
See how Olly Wilson is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Retired music professor and composer Olly Woodrow Wilson, Jr., was born on September 7, 1937, in St. Louis, Missouri, to Alma Grace Peoples Wilson, a seamstress, and Olly Woodrow Wilson, Sr., an insurance salesman and butler. Wilson’s father had the reputation for having the best speaking voice and being the best singer in the family’s church choir. Wilson’s father insisted that all of his children learn to play the piano. As a result, Wilson learned to play the piano at the age of seven. Wilson attended and graduated from Sumner High School in 1955. He participated in a summer music theory program at Washington University the summer after graduation. Wilson applied and was accepted into Washington University in the fall of 1955. He was one of approximately ten African Americans enrolled at the university. Wilson graduated in 1959, earning his B.M. degree in music. He went on to earn his M.M. degree in music composition in 1960 from the University of Illinois.

In 1960, after receiving his master’s degree, Wilson started to look for employment and was offered a teaching position at Florida A&M University. Wilson remained there for two years and returned to school and earned his PhD from the University of Iowa in 1964. Wilson then returned to teach at Florida A&M University for one year before being offered and accepting a position at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 1965. He taught at Oberlin for five years, and in 1970, he joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1971, Wilson received a Guggenheim Fellowship and moved to West Africa to study African language and music firsthand. In 1972, he returned to the University of California, Berkeley, and continued to teach while setting up a program for music students to pursue their doctorate and other musical opportunities at the university. Wilson served as chairman of the music department between 1993 and 1997. He held the Jerry and Evelyn Hemmings Chambers Professorship in Music between 1995 and 1998. Wilson retired as professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2002.

Throughout his career, Wilson wrote articles for scholarly journals and recorded albums. Some of his recordings or compositions include Cetus, Piano Piece, Sinfonia, and In Memoriam Martin Luther King, Jr. Wilson won several awards including the Elise Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of New York’s Lincoln Center in 1992 and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1995.

Wilson passed away on March 12, 2018 at age 80.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Olly Wilson's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Olly Wilson lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Olly Wilson describes his mother, Alma Peoples Wilson
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Olly Wilson describes his mother's education
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Olly Wilson describes his parents' marriage and his mother's occupations
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Olly Wilson describes his mother's childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Olly Wilson describes his father, Olly Wilson, Sr.
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Olly Wilson recalls visiting his stepmother in the South
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Olly Wilson describes how his parents met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Olly Wilson describes his biological paternal grandmother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Olly Wilson describes his father's occupation
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Olly Wilson describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Olly Wilson describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Olly Wilson describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Olly Wilson describes his siblings
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Olly Wilson describes his neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Olly Wilson remembers World War II
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Olly Wilson describes his father's job as a railway mail clerk
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Olly Wilson recalls moving to an integrated neighborhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Olly Wilson describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Olly Wilson remembers his neighbors preparing chickens for dinner
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Olly Wilson describes the churches in St. Louis, Missouri
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Olly Wilson describes the congregation at First Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Olly Wilson recalls his musical education
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Olly Wilson remembers playing piano at St. Louis' First Baptist Church
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Olly Wilson describes his relationship to music and his father
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Olly Wilson remembers visiting his aunt in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Olly Wilson remembers his uncle
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Olly Wilson recalls performing music as a teenager
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Olly Wilson describes St. Louis, Missouri's musical history
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Olly Wilson describes his experience in segregated schools
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Olly Wilson recalls applying to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Olly Wilson remembers racism at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Olly Wilson remembers the difficulty of getting a job at a white university
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Olly Wilson reflects upon black academia in the 1950s and 1960s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Olly Wilson describes the political climate at Oberlin Conservatory of Music
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Olly Wilson remembers teaching at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Olly Wilson remembers traveling to Ghana on a Guggenheim Fellowship
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Olly Wilson remembers establishing affirmative action initiatives at the University of California, Berkeley, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Olly Wilson remembers establishing affirmative action initiatives at the University of California, Berkeley, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Olly Wilson talks about his retirement
  • Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Olly Wilson describes his musical influences, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Olly Wilson describes his musical influences, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Olly Wilson explains how he uses electronic music in his compositions
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Olly Wilson describes collaborating with Mary Lovelace O'Neal for his piece 'Call and Response'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Olly Wilson describes his composition 'Hold On'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Olly Wilson describes some of his most notable compositions and commissions
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Olly Wilson explains the appeal of popular music
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Olly Wilson describes his plans for the future
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Olly Wilson talks about his family
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Olly Wilson describes his core values
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Olly Wilson describes how he would like to be remembered