Alec Wilder

April 27, 2021


Born Alexander Lafayette Chew Wilder in Rochester, New York, Alec Wilder, wrote a great deal of music of remarkable originality in many forms: sonatas, suites, concertos, operas, ballets, art songs, woodwind quintets, brass quintets, jazz suites and hundreds of popular songs. He studied for a time at the Eastman School of Music but was for the most part a self-taught musician. As a young man, he moved to New York City and made the Algonquin Hotel his permanent home, though he traveled widely and often.


Mitch Miller, whom Alec met at Eastman, and Frank Sinatra were initially responsible for introducing his music to the public. It was Mitch who organized the historic recordings of Wilder octets beginning in 1939. Combining elements of classical chamber music, popular melodies and a jazz rhythm section, the octets became popular and eventually legendary. In 1945, Frank Sinatra, an early fan and avid supporter of Alec’s music, persuaded Columbia Records to record an album of Wilder solo wind works with string orchestra, Frank conducting. The two became lifelong friends and Frank recorded many of Alec’s popular songs. His last song, A Long Night, was written in response to Frank’s request for a “saloon” song. Alec’s relationship with popular and jazz singers was especially close. He was admired and respected by fellow musicians such as Marian McPartland, Bob Brookmeyer, Stan Getz, Mabel Mercer, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett and Jackie and Roy. In the early 1950s, Alec became increasingly drawn to writing concert music for soloists, chamber ensembles and orchestra. Throughout the rest of his life, he produced dozens of compositions for the concert hall. His collaborations resulted in larger-scale works, expanding his song concept into operas and musicals; one of which, Miss Chicken Little (1953), written with William Engvick and based on the familiar children’s story, was commissioned for television by CBS. He also had an ongoing collaboration with Arnold Sundgaard. The operas Sunday Excursion (1953) and The Opening (1969) and the musical comedies Kittiwake Island (1953) and Nobody’s Earnest (1973) are examples of their work together. Closely related to his large-scale opera writing was Alec’s work on film scores. Friend and filmmaker, Jerome Hill, asked him to do three film scores: the Academy Award-winning documentary Albert Schweitzer (1957), The Sand Castle (1959) and Open the Door and See All the People (1963).


Alec arranged a series of Christmas songs. He also wrote many children’s songs for television productions and records and wrote hundreds of easy study pieces for many different instruments. In the mid to late 1970's, Alec was featured in a radio series with co-host Loonis McGlohon; based on his definitive book, American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900–1950 (1972). He was never really interested in being categorized as a "classical" or a "popular", or even a "famous", composer. Alec’s ambition was to write good music. And he did, creating a large catalog of work characterized by intelligence, grace, elegance, sensitivity, and honest sophistication. Among his best-known songs are Moon and Sand, It’s So Peaceful in the Country, I’ll Be Around, While We’re Young, Who Can I Turn To? and Blackberry Winter. We are honored to represent such an amazing catalog of music.



We are honored to represent such an amazing musical catalog.


Take a listen to some of Wilder's most memorial songs: