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Wed, 10.18.1961

Wynton Marsalis, Musician, Teacher, and Cultural Ambassador born

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis was born on this date in 1961. He is Black jazz and classical musician, composer, and educator.

From New Orleans, LA, Marsalis is one of four sons of Ellis Marsalis Jr. and Delores Marsalis.   He began his classical training on trumpets at age 12. He gained experience as a young musician in local marching bands, jazz and funk bands, and classical youth orchestras. He entered The Juilliard School in 1979 when he was 17 years old and soon became recognized as the most impressive trumpeter at the conservatory. That year he also joined Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, where generations of emerging jazz artists honed their craft.

Marsalis made his recording debut as a leader in 1982. He has since produced a unique catalog of nearly 40 jazz and classical recordings for Columbia Jazz and Sony Classical, earning nine Grammy Awards. In 1983, he became the first and only artist to win both classical and jazz Grammy Awards in one year, and he repeated this feat the following year.

In 1999, he released eight new recordings in his unprecedented “Swinging into the 21st” series, which included a seven-CD boxed set of live performances from the Village Vanguard. Marsalis is the Music Director of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (LCJO), which spends over half the year on tour. He also composes new works, many of which are commissioned and premiered by JALC.

Marsalis’s work includes "Them Twos," from the second collaboration between JALC and the New York City Ballet in 1999; "Big Train," commissioned and premiered in 1998 by JALC; "Sweet Release," a score for ballet written in 1996 for the LCJO and choreographed by Judith Jamison for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; "At the Octoroon Balls," a 1995 piece performed by the Orion String Quartet with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; "Jazz: Six Syncopated Movements," from the 1993 JALC collaboration with the New York City Ballet; "Jump Start," a score written for the noted dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp; "Citi Movement/Griot New York," a three-movement composition scored for jazz septet created in collaboration with choreographer Garth Fagan; and "In This House, On This Morning," an extended piece based on the form of a traditional gospel service, commissioned and premiered by JALC in 1992.

In 2002 on Sony Classical, he released All Rise," a twelve-part composition commissioned. He premiered in December 1999 by the New York Philharmonic with the LCJO and the Morgan State University Choir. His latest work, "The Magic Hour," is his first album on Blue Note.

Marsalis is valued globally as a teacher and spokesman for music education. He has received honorary doctorates from more than a dozen universities and colleges. Through JALC education programs, he regularly conducts master classes, lectures, and concerts for students of all ages, including the famous JALC Jazz for Young People concerts.

He has also been featured in the TV production of Marsalis on Music for the Public Broadcasting System and the series Making the Music for National Public Radio, which won a Peabody Award in 1996. Marsalis also wrote a companion book for the PBS series "Sweet Swing Blues on the Road" in collaboration with JALC photographer Frank Stewart.

Marsalis was named one of “America’s 25 Most Influential People” by Time magazine and one of “The 50 Most Influential Boomers” by Life magazine in recognition of his critical role in stimulating an increased awareness of jazz in the consciousness of an entire generation of jazz fans and artists. In 2001, Marsalis was awarded the United Nations designation of “Messenger of Peace” by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and in 2002, he received the Congressional “Horizon Award.”

He has received honorary degrees from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami (1994), Kenyon College (2019), New York University, Columbia, Connecticut College, Harvard, Howard, Northwestern, Princeton, Vermont, and the State University of New York.

To Become a Musician or Singer

To Become a Conductor or Composer



African Americans/Voices of Triumph
by Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Copyright 1993, TimeLife Inc.

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