When I came to the Juilliard School in 2000 to run the jazz studies program, I wanted to get somebody who was instrumental in the creation of the music, so I hired Mr. Wilder. (I never called him Joe, not once.) But I felt that that was a privilege, that he was actually allowing me to hire him. Philosophically, I always believed that students should study with people who are doing what they want to do, and Mr. Wilder did what he wanted to do. He allowed me to lead the program, but at the same time he was always there for me to tap into his ideas and his life experience, and my students benefited from being able to sit in a room and speak about the music with him. My students had great relationships with him. He was very serious about the music, in his sophisticated, elegant, polite way, and he was very serious about his students. I think that the greatest lesson he brought to them was that you could be yourself and do whatever you want to do and still be classy.
The dedication he had for his instrument was easily translated to students in a way that they could understand it, specifically trumpeters. Mr. Wilder came up through Manhattan School of Music with the intention of studying classical music, and he was certainly talented enough to do it, but the struggles of racism at the time prohibited him from doing what was probably his first dream.