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Phil Wilson began taking piano lessons at the age of four. By the time he was six, a piano teacher discovered that he had dyslexia; Wilson had been playing almost completely by ear. The teacher suggested he take up a single-line instrument that didn't require reading dense notation, so Wilson began playing trombone. Despite the dyslexia, Wilson excelled at music. He was playing with professionals near his Belmont, MA home at age 15. He attended the New England Conservatory of Music and the Navy School of Music; he also played in Herb Pomeroy's Boston-based big band (1955-1957). Wilson left New England Conservatory after two years to go on the road with the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. After military service he played with Woody Herman (1962-19655). In 1966 he joined the faculty at the Berklee School of Music, where he has taught for years. While Wilson's subsequent reputation is largely as an educator, he is a big band arranger and leader of note. He wrote extensively for Buddy Rich in the late '60s, and has led several big band record dates. His arrangements are staples of the standard collegiate stage band repertoire. He has also played as a sideman with Rich, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, and Clark Terry, among others. Wilson has been chairman of the jazz department at the New England Conservatory, and has taught clinics at the Frankfurt Conservatory, Harvard, Yale, Mellon Arts Center, Kansas State University, Sidney Conservatorium, and the University of California. Since 1966 Wilson has led an after-hours rehearsal band at Berklee. Originally called the Thursday Night Dues Band, its name was changed to the Rainbow Band in 1985. Past members include drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, guitarist John Scofield, saxophonist Ernie Watts, and trumpeter Roy Hargrove.