Berklee Today

Phil Wilson Honored

  Phil Wilson
  Phil Wilson
  Farnsworth Blalock photos

On April 16, the college marked the 40th anniversary of Phil Wilson's Rainbow Band with a concert celebration and the bestowal of an honorary doctor of music degree upon Wilson for his many contributions to jazz education at Berklee.

Wilson joined the Berklee faculty in 1965, and during his first year formed an after-hours big band that became known as the Thursday Night Dues Band (which was later renamed the Rainbow Band). Through the years, the band has featured some of Berklee's most successful alumni, including Abraham Laboriel, Sr. '72, John Scofield '73, Terri Lyne Carrington '83, Greg Osby '83, Antonio Hart '91, Abe Laboriel, Jr. '93, and many more.

During the course of the April 16 concert, Wilson led the band through seven of his own arrangements, two by Tsunenori "Lee" Abe '04, and one by Makoto Ozone '83, which featured a number of faculty and student soloists, including Wilson himself on trombone.

Before presenting the honorary degree to Wilson, President Lee Eliot Berk cited Wilson's efforts to make the Rainbow Band one of the college's most prestigious ensembles and an in-demand attraction that has made its mark through appearances in the United States and at European jazz festivals.

"Over the course of his 40 years at Berklee," said Berk, "Phil Wilson has helped to guide the careers of some of our most successful alumni and earn a reputation as one of the college's most beloved professors. Through his arranging classes and in directing the Berklee Rainbow Band, Phil Wilson has touched the lives of two generations of musicians from around the world."

Wilson was enthusiastic about the performance and the musicians assembled for the concert. "I've had so many good players in this band over the years, but this lineup is as strong as any I've had." Reflecting on receiving the honorary doctorate, Wilson remarked, "I come from a family with generations of distinguished educators. It was frustrating when I wanted to come to Berklee in 1955. My parents didn't allow me to attend because Berklee was not able to grant degrees back then. A Berklee degree is what I wanted 50 years ago. That makes this honor now so sweet."