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Wynton Learson Marsalis (born October 18, 1961) is a trumpeter, composer, teacher, music educator, and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City, United States. Marsalis has promoted the appreciation of classical and jazz music often to young audiences. Marsalis has been awarded nine Grammys in both genres, and his Blood on the Fields was the first jazz composition to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Marsalis is the son of jazz musician Ellis Marsalis, Jr. (pianist), grandson of Ellis Marsalis, Sr., and brother of Branford (saxophonist), Delfeayo (trombonist), and Jason (drummer). Marsalis performed the national anthem at Super Bowl XX in 1986.

Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis 2009 09 13.jpg
Marsalis at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center (OSPAC) Seventh Annual Jazz Festival, in 2009
Background information
Birth name Wynton Learson Marsalis
Born (1961-10-18) October 18, 1961 (age 56)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Genres Jazz, classical, big band, Dixieland
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, educator, artistic director
Instruments Trumpet
Years active 1980–present
Labels Columbia, Sony, Blue Note, Marsalis Music
Associated acts Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra


Life and careerEdit

Marsalis was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on October 18, 1961, the second of six sons of Delores née Ferdinand and Ellis Louis Marsalis, Jr., a pianist and music professor.[1] He was named for the jazz pianist and composer Wynton Kelly.[2] Marsalis's brothers are: Branford Marsalis, Ellis Marsalis III (1964), Delfeayo Marsalis, Mboya Kinyatta Marsalis (1971), and Jason Marsalis. Branford, Delfeayo, Jason and father Ellis are also jazz musicians. Ellis III is a poet, photographer, and network engineer based in Baltimore.

At age eight, Wynton performed traditional New Orleans music in the Fairview Baptist Church band led by banjoist Danny Barker, and at 14, he performed with the New Orleans Philharmonic. During high school, Marsalis performed with the New Orleans Symphony Brass Quintet, New Orleans Community Concert Band, New Orleans Youth Orchestra, New Orleans Symphony, various jazz bands and with a local funk band, the Creators.

Marsalis graduated in 1979[3] from both Benjamin Franklin High School with a 3.98 GPA[4] and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (most NOCCA students attend traditional secondary school in the mornings and the arts school in the afternoons). At age 17, he was the youngest musician admitted to Tanglewood's Berkshire Music Center, where he won the school's Harvey Shapiro Award for outstanding brass student. He moved to New York City to attend Juilliard in 1979, and picked up gigs around town. During this period, Marsalis received a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to spend time and study with trumpet innovator Woody Shaw, one of Marsalis' major influences at the time. He was also mentored by Herbie Hancock, who he often performed with. In 1982 John McLaughlin described Marsalis as "the best classical trumpet player and the best jazz trumpet player we have today, a great star".[5]

In 1980, Marsalis joined the Jazz Messengers led by Art Blakey. In the years that followed, Marsalis performed with Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, Sweets Edison, Clark Terry, Sonny Rollins, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and countless other jazz musicians.

In 1995, PBS premiered Marsalis on Music, an educational television series on jazz and classical music hosted and written by Marsalis. Also, in 1995, National Public Radio aired the first of Marsalis' 26-week series, entitled Making the Music. His radio and television series were awarded the George Foster Peabody Award. Marsalis has also written five books: Sweet Swing Blues on the Road, Jazz in the Bittersweet Blues of Life, To a Young Musician: Letters from the Road, Jazz ABZ (an A to Z collection of poems celebrating jazz greats), and his most recent release Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life.[citation needed] There is a Language Arts study guide available for Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life for high school English teachers who desire to integrate the arts into their classrooms. It is aligned to the Common Core State Standards and has audio and visual supplemental materials.

Marsalis at the Lincoln Center in 2004

In 1987, Marsalis co-founded a jazz program at Lincoln Center. In July 1996, Jazz at Lincoln Center was installed as a new constituent of Lincoln Center. In October 2004, Marsalis opened Frederick P. Rose Hall, the world's first institution for jazz containing three performance spaces (including the first concert hall designed specifically for jazz), along with recording, broadcast, rehearsal and educational facilities. Marsalis[when?] serves as Artistic Director for Jazz at Lincoln Center and Music Director for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.[6] One of his most recent releases was a 2011 collaboration with blues-rock guitarist Eric Clapton, a Jazz at Lincoln Center concert that produced the live album Play the Blues: Live from Jazz at Lincoln Center.

In December 2011, Marsalis was named cultural correspondent for the new CBS This Morning.[7] Wynton Marsalis is a member of the CuriosityStream Advisory Board.[8]

Marsalis currently serves as director of the Juilliard Jazz studies program. In 2015, Cornell University appointed him as A.D. White Professor-at-Large. [9]

Awards and recognitionEdit

Statue dedicated to Wynton Marsalis in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain

Marsalis has won nine Grammy Awards. In 1983 and 1984, he became the only artist ever to win Grammy Awards for both jazz and classical records. He is one of only two artists, along with polka bandleader Jimmy Sturr, to win Grammy Awards for five consecutive years of musical contributions.

Honorary degrees Marsalis has received include those conferred by New York University,[10] Columbia, Harvard, Howard, the State University of New York, Princeton, University of Vermont, Northwestern University[11] and Yale. Marsalis was honored with the Louis Armstrong Memorial Medal and the Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts. He was inducted into the American Academy of Achievement, and was dubbed an Honorary Dreamer by the I Have a Dream Foundation. The New York Urban League awarded Marsalis with the Frederick Douglass Medallion for distinguished leadership and the American Arts Council presented him with the Arts Education Award.

Time magazine's list of promising Americans under the age 40 selected Marsalis in 1995, and in 1996, Time celebrated Marsalis as one of America's 25 most influential people. In November 2005, Marsalis received the National Medal of Arts. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan proclaimed Marsalis an international ambassador of goodwill for the United States by appointing him a UN Messenger of Peace (2001).

Marsalis receiving the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush in 2005

In 1997, Marsalis became the first jazz musician to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his epic oratorio, Blood on the Fields. In a personal note to Marsalis, Zarin Mehta wrote, "I was not surprised at your winning the Pulitzer Prize for Blood on the Fields. It is a broad, beautifully painted canvas that impresses and inspires. It speaks to us all ... I'm sure that, somewhere in the firmament, Buddy Bolden, Louis Armstrong and legions of others are smiling down on you."[12]

Marsalis won the Dutch Edison Award and the French Grand Prix du Disque. The Mayor of Vitoria, Spain, awarded him the city's Gold Medal, its most coveted distinction. In 1996, Britain's senior conservatoire, the Royal Academy of Music, made Marsalis an honorary member, the Academy's highest decoration for a non-British citizen. The city of Marciac, France, erected a bronze statue in his honor. The French Ministry of Culture appointed Marsalis the rank of Knight in the Order of Arts and Literature, and in the fall of 2009, Marsalis received France's highest distinction, the insignia Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, an honor that was first awarded by Napoleon Bonaparte.[13]

Marsalis, with Julyssa Almanza and Valerie Almanza, were group recipients of the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters Award.[14]

Marsalis has toured 30 countries on every continent except Antarctica,[15] and approximately seven million copies of his recordings have been sold worldwide.[16]

At a ceremony in September 2016 Marsalis was honored with a 2015 National Humanities Medal [17]

Music awardsEdit

Pulitzer Prize for Music

Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group

Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (with orchestra)

Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo

Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children

  • 2000 Listen to the Storytellers


Marsalis backstage in 2007

Jazz critic Scott Yanow regards Marsalis as talented but has criticized his "selective knowledge of jazz history" and has said that he feels the fact that Marsalis considers "post-1965 avant-garde playing to be outside of jazz and 1970s fusion to be barren" to be the unfortunate result of the "somewhat eccentric beliefs of Stanley Crouch".[18] Bassist Stanley Clarke said "All the guys that are criticizing—like Wynton Marsalis and those guys—I would hate to be around to hear those guys playing on top of a groove!" But Clarke also said, "These things I've said about Wynton are my criticism of him, but the positive things I have to say about him outweigh the negative. He has brought respectability back to jazz." [19]




  1. ^ Stated on Finding Your Roots, PBS, March 25, 2012
  2. ^ Campbell, Mary (June 22, 1982). "Wynton Marsalis: boy wonder of jazz has been 'discovered'". The Day. AP. p. 21. Retrieved 2018-02-19. 
  3. ^ "Digital Yearbooks". Benjamin Franklin High School. Retrieved 11 August 2017. 
  4. ^ "Wynton Marsalis". 
  5. ^ "Sounds: Donnie interviewing John McLaughlin and Paco De Lucia (1982)". Donnie Sutherland via YouTube. Retrieved 10 February 2017. 
  6. ^ "New Grove Article on Wynton Marsalis". Retrieved 11 January 2016. 
  7. ^ "Wynton Marsalis". December 15, 2011. 
  8. ^ "CuriosityStream Advisory Board". Retrieved 31 August 2015. 
  9. ^ "Wynton Marsalis". Retrieved 2018-04-08. 
  10. ^ "New York University Holds 175th Commencement". Retrieved 2012-07-21. 
  11. ^ Lestch, Corinne. "Jazz legend Wynton Marsalis to be June commencement speaker". Retrieved 2017-10-27. 
  12. ^ "Wynton Marsalis". Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  13. ^ "Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis Awarded Legion of Honor". NBC Bay Area. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  14. ^ National Endowment for the Arts (June 24, 2010). "National Endowment for the Arts Announces the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters". Washington: National Endowment for the Arts. Archived from the original on September 17, 2010. Retrieved July 19, 2010. For the first time in the program's 29-year history, in addition to four individual awards, the NEA will present a group award to the Marsalis family, New Orleans' venerable first family of jazz. 
  15. ^ Burger, David (February 7, 2011). "Wynton Marsalis in Utah tonight". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved September 6, 2017. 
  16. ^ Berger, Kevin (February 6, 2011). "Wynton Marsalis swings for the fences". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 6, 2017. 
  17. ^ "President Obama to Award 2015 National Humanities Medals". 
  18. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Wynton Marsalis Biography". allmusic. Retrieved 2007-05-20. 
  19. ^ Byrnes, Sholto. "Stanley Clarke: The Bass Line Heard Around The World". Jazz Forum: the magazine of the International Jazz Federation, Poland. Archived from the original on May 30, 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-07. 

External linksEdit