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Dr. Brian S. Wilson

Director of Jewish Studies, Professor of Music

Brian Wilson Headshot with Disney tie in Weill Hall
Dr. Brian S. Wilson




GMC 2068


BRIAN SCOTT WILSON was born in the city of Lynn, Massachusetts, near Boston. Son of an accountant, Wilson began his musical life with trombone lessons in the fourth grade and piano lessons in the seventh. He discovered his love of composing and conducting as a member of the brass choir at St. Joseph Catholic Church. There, he received, gratis, lessons in music theory and counterpoint from Fr. David Gallagher.

Wilson studied Jazz Piano with Jaki Byard at Hartt College of Music and received his Bachelor's degree in Composition and Music Education with distinction in performance from New England Conservatory. Graduate study in Chicago led to a Master's in Composition and Theory from the University of Chicago. Wilson received a Doctorate in Music Arts in Instrumental Conducting and Composition from the University of Arizona in Tucson. His principal teachers include Malcolm Peyton, Edward Diamente, Dan Asia, Ralph Shapey and Shulamit Ran in composition; and Barbara Schubert, Michael Walters, Gregg Hanson and Kurt Klippstater in conducting. Wilson has participated in conducting master classes by Frederick Fennell and Sergiu Commissiona.

Wilson has taught music to people of all ages and abilities. During his first job teaching music in grades 4-12, he began a 20-year association with the University of Detroit's Classic Theatre Study Abroad program. As music director, he composed original music for modern adaptations of classic Greek plays; prepared the singers and led their performances on the island of Spetses and on tour in Greece. Wilson has led numerous music and theatre ensembles at summer festivals in New York, New England, Pennsylvania and Northern California.

Wilson served as director of bands at Hartwick College (NY) from 1992-2001. In 2001 he joined the faculty of California State University–Sonoma, serving as director of bands and music education. After a 13-year tenure as music department chair, Wilson returned to full-time teaching as head of music theory. Over the course of his career, he has taught classes in conducting, orchestration, brass methods, survey of music history; and private instruction in piano, jazz piano, trombone, composition, counterpoint, orchestration and arranging.

Wilson is a versatile composer, arranger and conductor. His book, Orchestrational Archetypes in Percy Aldridge Grainger’s Wind Band Music, analyzes Grainger's distinctive orchestrational voice, using those findings to"dish up" three of Grainger's voice and piano pieces for wind band. Finding diverse inspiration from Stravinsky, Mingus and Varèse, Wilson composes with economy, purpose and sometimes humor. His catalog of more than 150 works includes four operas, three symphonies, choral and vocal pieces, jazz combos, solos and chamber music. The Avanti Feels Glued to the Road Even When Cruising at 100 MPH! for solo trombone and percussion, won the 1998 International Trombone Association Composition Competition. Most recently, Elements for piano trio and clarinet received its premiere in April 2024.

Wilson has travelled the globe as guest composer and conductor and seen his music performed in Anguilla (the Caribbean), Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Estonia, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland and Taiwan. He resides in Rohnert Park, California, with his wife, cat and several dozen goldfish.

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University of Arizona,  D.M.A.. Instrumental Conducting and Music Composition, 1992 

University of Chicago,  M.A. Composition and Theory, 1987

New England Conservatory of Music, Boston, MA, Composition and Music Education, 1985


Ph.D., B.S.

Academic Interests

My background is in trombone, piano, music education, composition and conducting and thus I have taught just about every course in the curriculum.  Versatility is my curse!  I love teaching music theory and conducting groups for special projects.  I teach Diatonic Harmony, Chromatic Harmony, Form and Analysis and Private Instruction in Composition.  I also have been known to sweep the floors, wash the windows and take out the trash!