Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson on the HR* Tenor 8

"The HR* Tenor mouthpiece gives me the warmth of sound that allows me to access the full range of expression in the diversity of styles that I play. The sound is consistently big and rich, and also flexible enough for me to adapt to a wide variety of musical settings both as an artist and as a contributor to the projects of other musicians."

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Dave Wilson Biography

Dave Wilson is a saxophonist, clarinetist, composer, scholar, and a leading voice in the music community of Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. His music bridges avant-garde and experimental music 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. 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 colonization.

Dave's albums include SLANT (pfMENTUM, 2019), a series of original improvisation-based co-compositions on tenor saxophone 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 duo co-composed and performed with Gabe Lavin. 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 interests as a scholar include how music and sound relate to race, belonging, social change, nationalism, relationships among humans and non-humans, and the production of social space. He is co-author, with Timothy Rice, of the music appreciation textbook Gateways to Understanding Music (2nd Edition, Routledge 2023), and his writing has also appeared in Popular Music, Music & Politics, Ethnomusicology, Yearbook for Traditional Music, Commoning Ethnography, Arts, Leonardo Music Journal, Ethnomusicology Review, and Journal of World Popular Music.

As a researcher in southeast Europe his work has been supported by the ACLS (American Council of Learned Societies), the American Councils for International Education, the Herb Alpert Foundation, the UCLA Graduate Division, and the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship Program (FLAS) of the US Department of Education. Related to this project have been the premier of his work at the Days of Macedonian Music new music festival, collaborations with DJs in the Macedonian electronic music scene, recordings with Macedonian folk music-inspired group Ljubojna, and the album On the Face Place (SkyDeck Music, 2016) by CSPS Ensemble featuring a number of his compositions for small jazz ensemble.

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.

Dave is currently Senior Lecturer in Music at the New Zealand School of Music–Te Kōkī at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington. He has served as Program Director of the NZSM Jazz Performance Program (2020–2022) and on the Jazz Advisory Panel of the Wellington Jazz Festival (2018–2020). He received an MA and a PhD in ethnomusicology from UCLA, an MBA in Arts Innovation from the Global Leaders Institute, and an undergraduate degree in Music Education with an emphasis in saxophone at Indiana University.

Dave plays hand-crafted clarinet barrels by Andrew Doyle Clarinets and is an endorser of JodyJazz mouthpieces.



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