Houston Professional Musicians Association Treasurer and Secretary Bob McGrew, left, and UHD President Bill Flores present Robert Wilson with the 2010 Kemah Boardwalk Jazz Achievement Award as Wilson's wife, Julie, looks on.
UHD Jazz-Artist-in-Resident Robert C. Wilson has played with Ray Charles, Judy Garland, Stevie Wonder and other jazz greats, but an award he won this past weekend in Kemah may be more memorable.
Wilson won the 2010 Kemah Boardwalk Jazz Achievement Award at the festival he founded 13 years ago. Immediately after his wife, Julie, finished her vocal performance on the Kemah stage, Bob McGrew, secretary and treasurer of the Houston Professional Musicians Association, and UHD President William Flores took the microphone to make the announcement.
“It’s quite an honor, and I am very grateful,” said Wilson who was deliberately led to believe another individual was in line for the honor this year. McGrew and others had worked behind the scenes to surprise Wilson.
Wilson is a prime mover and shaker when it comes to the jazz world and still is active in putting this festival together.
“He knows everybody there is to know in the jazz world,” Flores said while presenting the award. “UHD is involved in Kemah because of Robert’s hard work. It doesn’t matter if you are talking to individuals in Houston, New Orleans or other places in between. Robert knows people and people know Robert.”
Wilson involves students in jazz outreach in New Orleans, Houston and abroad. He figures out ways to make things possible for his students, many of whom are first generation college students and need extra encouragement and support, Flores said.
Each year the Houston Professional Musicians Association selects an outstanding musician to honor. The recipient must be a living musician known for his or her contributions to the music profession. The recipient must also be committed to mentoring new artists and to furthering music education.
Wilson is the 12th recipient of this award that includes a cash prize.
In 2005, Robert was nominated for America’s highest jazz award – the Jazz Master’s Fellowship given out by the National Endowment for the Arts. His nomination came from the Houston Professional Musician’s Association Local 65-699 and the National Federal of Musicians in New York City for five decades of excellence in jazz education and jazz production.
In addition, that year, he was appointed to the Texas Commission for the Arts, and served two years on the group’s advisory panel for music and dance in Texas.
Other music legends that he has played with include Doc Severinsen, Chet Baker, Gene Ramey, Ernie Watts, Bob Mintzer, David “fathead” Newman, Arnett Cobb and Joe Henderson.
Wilson studied at the Houston Conservatory of Music, Sam Houston State University and the U.S. Naval Academy School of Music.
At UHD, he founded the Young Sounds of Houston Teen Orchestra and the UHD Civic Jazz Orchestra. Both groups are still playing in Houston and the surrounding area.