Home > Uncategorized > Abram Wilson (1973-2012)

Abram Wilson (1973-2012)

I felt great shock, followed by profound sadness, upon hearing about the passing of Abram Wilson on 9 June. Specializing in trumpet, Abram was first and foremost a jazz musician. Hailing from New Orleans, he attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA). He also received a bachelor’s degree in music education from Ohio Wesleyan University, as well as a master’s degree From Eastman School of Music. After spending some time in New York, Abram eventually moved to the United Kingdom in 2002, where he received much acclaim for his talents. In addition to being nominated for a MOBO Award and three BBC Jazz Awards, Abram won the International Songwriting Competition for Best Jazz Composition (2005) and Best New CD from the British Jazz Awards (2007). He also appeared on BBC a year after Katrina to discuss fundraising efforts to help victims of the catastrophe, which he followed with a performance (unfortunately, the interview is not readily findable).

The news of his passing is very personal. During my first two years at Ohio Wesleyan, he and I were among four first-year students assigned to the same dormitory suite. We all probably would have described ourselves as having very different primary musical tastes, at least in terms of genre, but we found a great deal of complementarity and appreciation as we heard each other’s music.

The first day on campus took some getting used to. This would mark the beginning of my first extended sojourn away from home and parents. The dormitory had no air conditioning, save for whatever fans we brought, the outdoor temperature probably hovering around 90 F / 30 C. Luckily, I started making social connections to ease into this new stage of my life. Along with my other roommates, Abram was a part of that process. After his family helped him move into the dormitory, we started talking about music. He mentioned something about needing to study the trumpet section of Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Since I happened to have a recording, I let him borrow it.

Practically everyone was drawn to his personality; always friendly and ready for banter, sometimes bemused by people acting “crazy,” and occasionally expressing frustration with the phrase “Dog it!” My parents both enjoyed speaking with him as well. Even though my mother owned no jazz recordings, she conversed with him about some of the legends contemporaneous with her youth. He even played for my parents a few times when they came to visit campus.

Abram became an on-campus legend as well. He would practice in various locations, including Ohio Wesleyan’s Sanborn Hall, where passersby heard his trumpet into the wee hours of the night / morning. In addition to his late night practices, Abram carried his trumpet everywhere, no matter what else he needed to haul around campus. He would even balance food court trays on his trumpet case. As with such idiosyncrasies, there’s a story behind it. Before he came to university, Abram happened to meet one of the Marsalis brothers, who offered to jam with him. Unfortunately, Abram didn’t have his trumpet. It never left his side after that. After all, who knows when another chance to play with a renowned musician would ever occur again?

Fortunately for Abram, that did occur spontaneously his senior year.  I wasn’t present for his act of chutzpah, but it apparently happened during a Harry Connick, Jr., concert in Columbus, Ohio. At one point, Abram started playing a solo from his balcony seat, bringing the performance by Connick and his ensemble to a standstill. Rather than being kicked out, Abram’s risk paid off, with Connick inviting him to join them. The morning after Abram’s passing, mentor Larry Griffin recounted on Facebook his reason for breaking the boundary between spectator and performer: “I only have one chance in life and I am going to take advantage of every opportunity to become successful with my music.”

Luckily for him, and for the rest of us who were graced by his presence, he did just that. At our graduation ceremony, before members of the Class of 1995 left Ohio Wesleyan to go on their individual life journeys, Abram gave everyone there one last trumpet solo. I can only hope that he’s now in a place where he can continue his journey, and express himself through music. As the most recent posting on his homepage reads:

Abram left this earth for a new life in the stars. It was where he was always aiming and where he now belongs.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,
  1. DeAnna Zahniser
    June 13, 2012 at 08:14

    I remember Abram’s smile was a big as the sun. We will truly miss him!
    ~ DeAnna Wolf Zahniser, OWU 1995

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