Bilson was born in Los Angeles, California. In 1957 He graduated from Bard College and later studied in Berlin and Paris. Now he is the Frederick J. Whiton Professor of Music at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. With years Bilson developed a reputation as a fortepiano performer. In 1974 he founded the Amadé Trio that was performing on historical instruments. Being retired since 2006, he remained active in teaching and performing.
Bilson has published several articles on the topic of interpreting late 18th- and early 19th-century works by Schubert, Mozart and Beethoven in Early Music and Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae.