Kalil Wilson

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Kalil Wilson
Background information
OriginOakland, California
GenresJazz soul classical R&B
Occupation(s)Musician, singer, voice teacher
Instrumentsvoice, percussion, piano
Years active1995–present

Kalil Amar Wilson (born 1981) is an American vocalist, pianist, songwriter, and ethnomusicologist. Wilson began singing as a child with the Oakland Youth Chorus, studied at the UC Berkeley Young Musicians Program, and graduated magna cum laude from the UCLA Music and Ethnomusicology Departments, where he was named the "Distinguished Ethnomusicology Student" of his graduating class.[1] There, renowned jazz guitarist and UCLA music professor Kenny Burrell wrote of Wilson, "A very special young talent with a unique sound that crosses through genres." Kalil is a faculty member at the California Jazz Conservatory and is a visiting professor at the Jazz & Musical School, St. Petersburg, Russia.



Wilson has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic,[2] Los Angeles Opera,[3] the Oakland East Bay Symphony, at Walt Disney Concert Hall,[4] the Getty Museum, the Hollywood Bowl, the Aspen Music Festival, the Mendocino Music Festival, and UCLA Live at Royce Hall, among others. Wilson was named winner of the top prize at the Western Regional Auditions of the Metropolitan Opera National Council and competed on the Met stage in New York,[1][5] For two years he held a fellowship at the Aspen Music Festival and School, where he performed the title role in Benjamin Britten's Albert Herring. The Aspen Times reported, "Wilson brought a silken tenor sound and an engaging and often funny stage presence."[6] Wilson has appeared numerous times with the Oakland East Bay Symphony. After hearing Wilson perform in a master class at Aspen, Renée Fleming said, "Kalil makes me cry."[7]

In 2012, Wilson was invited to perform at the Hollywood Bowl in a collaboration with Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller, Wayne Shorter, Cindy Blackman, Zakir Hussain, Dave Holland, George Whitty, and Carlos Santana for an all-star concert, "Celebrating Peace."[8]

Jazz, Soul, R&B[edit]

Wilson's journey into popular music is rooted in his family history. His father is Nigerian bassist and bandleader Babá Ken Okulolo, and as a youth he frequently performed with his father's ensembles.

In 2006, Wilson was urged by his vocal coach Seth Riggs to extend his efforts into jazz, R&B, and other contemporary vocal genres. That year, Wilson was selected as a finalist in the first annual Jose Iturbi International Vocal Competition.

Wilson soon began headlining at various West Coast jazz venues and festivals, including the Jazz Bakery,[9] the Central Avenue Jazz Festival,[10] the UCLA Jazz Reggae Festival,[11] and Yoshi's.[12] In July 2009, Wilson performed onstage with his mentor, Kenny Burrell, at the Catalina Jazz Club in Los Angeles.

In 2009, in collaboration with pianist Berkeley Everett, Wilson released his full-length debut recording, Easy to Love, an album devoted to the American Songbook.

In 2010, Kalil made his European performance debut at La Sala Apolo, in Barcelona with the Barcelona Jazz Orchestra. Among his European concerts, he performed in vocal duet with Omara Portuondo and the Buena Vista Social Club. That same year, Wilson was selected to appear in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocalist Competition in Washington DC.

He currently performs regularly in the San Francisco Bay Area with his jazz trio.


Wilson performed with guitarist Carlos Santana on his Grammy award-winning composition Novus, at the Oakland East Bay Symphony's November 2010 season opening concert.[13] and at the Hollywood Bowl. In 2011 he sang in a duet vocal performance with Omara Portuondo and the Buena Vista Social Club at the L'Auditori in Barcelona.

St. Petersburg, Russia[edit]

In 2017 Kalil began a series of close collaborations with musicians in Russia, centered in and around the burgeoning jazz community of St. Petersburg. He completed his first tour of Russia in 2018, headlining in such locations as Tuva, Abakan, Murmansk and Moscow. [14]

Personal Life[edit]

In 2017 Kalil was invited by Maestro Michael Morgan to join the Oakland Symphony in their first annual participation and leading of the Oakland Pride Parade and Celebration.[citation needed] Kalil has been a proud member of the LGBTQ community since his coming out to his family and close friends in his mid-teens.[citation needed]



  • 2008 – Kalil Wilson "Classical Choices" (Independent)
  • 2009 – Kalil Wilson and the Berkeley Everett Trio Easy to Love (Independent)
  • 2018 – Kalil Wilson "Time Stops" (Six Degrees Records)


  • 2017 - Mads Tolling & The Mads Men "Playing the 60s" (Jobete Music Co Inc.) "My Girl"
  • 2009 – The Elliot Deutsch Big Band "Weeknight Music" (Independent) "A Beautiful Friendship"
  • 2010 – Dan Marschak "Likewise" (Independent) "I Love You", "Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You"
  • 2010 – Vocal Sound Track, "Piano Fingers" (film)



  1. ^ a b "Kalil Wilson wins NY Met Regional". Berkeley Daily Planet. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
  2. ^ "Los Angeles Philharmonic". L.A. Philharmonic. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
  3. ^ "LA Opera Community Outreach Artists". LAOpera. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
  4. ^ "LASplash Review". LASplash.com. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
  5. ^ "Quick Takes: Finally". Google Search. October 30, 2007. Retrieved November 23, 2013.
  6. ^ "Albert Herring". Aspen Times. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
  7. ^ Fleming's masterclass w/ tenor Kalil Wilson on YouTube
  8. ^ "Hollywood Bowl: Celebrating Peace". Hollywood Bowl. Retrieved 2013-10-28.
  9. ^ "Bakery". culturalcocktailhour. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
  10. ^ "Central Avenue Jazz Festival". Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
  11. ^ "2009 Jazz Reggae Festival". UCLA Live. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
  12. ^ "Kalil Wilson at Yoshi's, Oakland". Yoshi's. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
  13. ^ "Kalil Wilson & Carlos Santana at OEBS" (PDF). OEBS. Retrieved 2011-04-07.
  14. ^ "Polovtsian Dances at the Hotel California". BezFormata.Ru. Retrieved 2018-04-11.

External links[edit]