Alec Wilder

From Wind Repertory Project
Alec Wilder


Alec Wilder (16 February 1907, Rochester, N.Y. – 24 December 1980, Gainesville, Fla.) was an American composer.

As a young boy, Wilder traveled to New York City with his mother and stayed at the Algonquin Hotel. It would later be his home for the last 40 or so years of his life.

He was largely self-taught as a composer; he studied privately with the composers Herman Inch and Edward Royce, who taught at the Eastman School of Music in the 1920s, but he never registered for classes and never received his degree. While there, he edited a humor magazine and scored music for short films directed by James Sibley Watson. Wilder was eventually awarded an honorary degree in 1973.

Mr. Wilder was good friends with Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett and others who helped develop the American popular music canon. Among the popular songs he wrote or co-wrote were I'll Be Around, While We're Young, Blackberry Winter, Where Do You Go? and It's So Peaceful in the Country. He also wrote many songs for the cabaret artist Mabel Mercer, including one of her signature pieces, Did You Ever Cross Over to Sneden's?.

In addition to writing popular songs, Wilder also composed classical pieces for unique combinations of orchestral instruments. The Alec Wilder Octet recorded several of his originals, which often had off-beat, humorous titles ("The Hotel Detective Registers"), and were strongly influenced by jazz. He wrote 11 operas; one of which, Miss Chicken Little (1953), was commissioned for television by CBS. Wilder also arranged a series of Christmas carols for TubaChristmas.

Wilder wrote the definitive book American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900–1950 (1972). He was also featured in a radio series based on the book, broadcast in the middle to late 1970s. With lyricist Loonis McGlohon he composed songs for the Land of Oz theme park in Banner Elk, North Carolina.

Works for Winds