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Dave Wilson

Composer, Jazz Composer

Born: 1980


Dave Wilson is a saxophonist, clarinetist, composer, scholar, and a leading voice in the music community of Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington. His music bridges avant-garde and experimental practices with various groove-oriented styles from the worlds of jazz, R&B, electronic music, and more. With each of his projects as an artist-scholar, educator, and music community leader, he brings together new configurations of collaborators to extend ongoing creative conversations and unleash new ones.

Wilson grew up in the Chicago area before spending a decade in Los Angeles and several stints living in Skopje, North Macedonia, where first he worked in non-profit and later as a music researcher, composer, and performer. For the last seven years he has been based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington, where he moved to help develop and lead the jazz research and performance area at the New Zealand School of Music—Te Kōkī (NZSM) at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington. During that time, he has joined the broader community in thinking through what it means to participate in Black American Music on a group of islands in the Pacific grappling with their ongoing legacies of colonisation.

His most recent recordings include SLANT (pfMENTUM, 2019), a duo project with pianist Richard Valitutto and supported by the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, and In Passing ​(SkyDeck Music, 2017), an album of original music for oud and clarinet/bass clarinet. In 2013, his composition Springs of a Desperate Heart was performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the Earshot Readings in conjunction with the American Composers Orchestra and the Jazz Composers Orchestral Institute. His forthcoming album Ephemeral, featuring his original music for a nine-piece improvising ensemble including string quartet, will be released at the end of 2023 on Thelonious Records.

Both Dave’s music and his scholarship are about people connecting with one another and with the world around them. His musical projects are all grounded in his conviction that musical interaction and listening built on trust, respect, gratitude, and generosity can infuse our communities with those same qualities.

Currently, Dave is a Senior Lecturer in Music at NZSM. He has served on the Jazz Advisory Panel for the Wellington Jazz Festival, and as the NZSM Jazz Performance Programme Director. He received his PhD in ethnomusicology at UCLA, and his book Gateways to Understanding Music, co-authored with Timothy Rice, was published in its second edition in 2022.