John Wilson Obituary, Death – After a long career of touring as a trumpet player, writer, and arranger for some of the greatest jazz musicians in history, like as Benny Goodman, Neil Hefti, Phil Woods, Gerry Mulligan, Bob Brookmeyer, and many more, Wilson, who was 96 years old at the time, started teaching at Duquesne in 1972. He created the first jazz studies curriculum in Pennsylvania, which was introduced in 1975, drawing on his knowledge and his degree from New York University.
He worked on the Duquesne jazz program for a total of 26 years before turning it over to Mike Tomaro, a former student of his who has been the program director of jazz studies since 1997. From 1976 to 1980, I was one of John Wilson’s students. He was a superb teacher and a fantastic mentor to all of his students, said Tomaro. “Those who had the chance to learn from him continue to sing his praises today.
Those of us who also played with him got to hear the quiet brilliance of his trumpet playing firsthand. Others among us got to execute his expertly composed arrangements, savoring yet another side of John Wilson’s abilities. John was a wonderful musical father figure for me throughout my life, and we remained in touch even after I graduated from Duquesne. I made several trips back to Pittsburgh to see John and his wife Barbara, and every time we got together, John and I would get into some kind of deep musical conversation.
I loved reading his writing and listening to his poetic trumpet playing as we frequently shared the bandstand. I was touched to be called by the University to become a candidate when John retired and it became necessary to recruit a replacement. When I got the job, our relationship grew even stronger. John expressed to me his joy at one of his former pupils carrying on his legacy by teaching at Duquesne. I am incredibly proud to uphold the standards that this musical maestro created.