Ravinia Appoints Steve Wilson Co-Director of Jazz Program

In anticipation of the reopening of its gates for the 2021 season, the Ravinia Festival has announced the appointment of saxophonist Steve Wilson as a co-program director of the Ravinia Steans Music Institute (RSMI) Program for Jazz. Wilson joined the program for Jazz faculty in 2019, bringing his extensive performance expertise and a deep respect for jazz education to the role. A talented multi-instrumentalist specializing in alto and soprano saxophone performance, he has served as the director of Jazz Studies at City College of New York and conducts clinics and master classes around the world. Jazz Times calls him “the consummate saxophonist-composer” and “one of the finest alto and soprano saxophonists of our time.”

Highly regarded as a musician’s musician and a bandleader in his own right, Wilson has brought his distinctive sound to more than 150 recordings and ensembles led by such celebrated artists as Michael Brecker, Ron Carter, Billy Childs, Chick Corea, George Duke and Dianne Reeves, among many others.

In his new role, Wilson will serve as a program director alongside longtime friends and colleagues bassist Rufus Reid and pianist Billy Childs. Wilson will join Childs and Reid every summer for two weeks in June at Ravinia’s prestigious Steans Music Institute, overseeing two programs: Ravinia’s Bridges Composition Competition and the one-week Program for Jazz. Both programs provide opportunities for young professional jazz musicians to compose new works for performance, collaborate with their colleagues, and perform on Ravinia’s stages. RSMI’s alumni have gone on to illustrious performance and teaching careers all over the world. 

The Bridges Competition, started in 2018, is a composition competition challenging young composers to write new works for string quartet and jazz rhythm section. The Program for Jazz selects 15 of the best young professional jazz musicians from around the world to spend a week in residence at Ravinia Festival, composing and performing with their peers. Musicians attend the program tuition-free. After being shuttered in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, RSMI reopens this year (with safety modifications), with the Bridges Program taking place from May 31 to June 4 and the Program for Jazz running from June 4 to 11.  To learn more, visit