A digital special section of | Subscribe

Brian Courtney Wilson

Brian Courtney Wilson

Gospel & contemporary Christian singer | 2015 Traditional Gospel Album Of Year

Before he was Brian Courtney Wilson — world-renowned, Grammy-nominated, Dove Award-winning contemporary Christian singing sensation — he was Brian the 9-to-5 Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical rep, booking singing gigs on the side.

But when his big music break came — by way of a Texas pastor pal of Beyoncé’s dad, who just so happened to be looking for a talented new gospel acts — Wilson was ready.

And for that, he has a favorite former music teacher to thank.

“The person who impacted me the most was Dr. Ollie Watts Davis, who still serves as a tenured professor of voice and director of the Black Chorus,” Wilson says. “The nuggets of wisdom and knowledge she overflows with are too numerous to name but one conversation has always stood out over the years.

“One day, we were on a bus trip to one of our Black Chorus events and I asked her to give me voice lessons. She looked me straight in the eye and said, as I remember it: ‘Brian, you already know how to sing.’ I was a frequent soloist in the choir. ‘You are here to learn how to discipline yourself,’ she said. ‘You do not need voice lessons from me to learn that.’”

Four albums, three Grammy nominations and one Traditional Gospel Album Of Year award later, Wilson seems to have both the singing and the discipline parts down.

As for a favorite non-music setting from the economics major’s UI days, that’s as easy a call as most impactful professor is.

“It would be the legendary — at least among my crew — home of ‘burritos as big as your head,’ La Bamba,” he says. “I never had much money in school but my weekend trips to La Bamba were a luxury I rarely passed up.

“I remember the line stretching out the front door consistently so I know I am not the only one.”