Internationally Acclaimed Musician, Composer and Bandleader, Educator and Leading Advocate of American Culture
Friday, January 8th, 2021
Wynton Marsalis is a world-renowned trumpeter, bandleader and composer, and a leading advocate of American culture. He presently serves as Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center and Director of Jazz Studies at The Juilliard School. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1961, Marsalis began his classical training on trumpet at age 12, entered The Juilliard School at age 17, and soon thereafter joined Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.
He made his recording debut in 1982 and has since recorded more than 80 jazz and classical recordings, which have won nine GRAMMY® awards and sold over 7 million copies worldwide. In 1983, he became the first and only artist to win both classical and jazz GRAMMYs® in the same year, repeating the distinction the following year. Today, Wynton is the only artist ever to win Grammy Awards® in five consecutive years (1983-1987). In 1997, Wynton became the first jazz artist to be awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in Music for his oratorio Blood on the Fields. Marsalis has received honorary doctorates from over 25 of America’s top academic institutions including Columbia, Harvard, Howard, Princeton and Yale.
Wynton assembled his own band in 1981 and hit the road, performing over 120 concerts every year for 15 consecutive years. With the power of his superior musicianship, the infectious sound of his swinging bands and a far-reaching series of performances and music workshops, Marsalis rekindled widespread interest in jazz throughout the world and inspired a renaissance that attracted a new generation of fine young talent to jazz.
Marsalis is a prolific and inventive composer. He is the world’s first jazz artist to perform and compose across the full jazz spectrum from its New Orleans roots to bebop to modern jazz. By creating and performing an expansive range of brilliant new music from quartets to big bands, chamber music ensembles to symphony orchestras (including a violin concerto and four symphonies), tap dance to ballet, Wynton has expanded the vocabulary for jazz and classical music and has created a vital body of work that places him among the world’s finest musicians and composers.
His creativity has been celebrated at home and abroad. In 2001, he was appointed Messenger of Peace by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In 2005 Wynton received The National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the United States government, and in September 2016, he was awarded The National Medal of Humanities. Britain’s senior conservatoire, the Royal Academy of Music, granted Marsalis Honorary Membership, the Academy’s highest decoration for a non-British citizen. In the fall of 2009 he received France’s highest distinction, the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
Marsalis’ vision and passionate leadership was essential to the effort to construct Jazz at Lincoln Center’s home— Frederick P. Rose Hall—the first education, performance, and broadcast facility devoted to jazz, which opened its doors in October 2004.
Wynton Marsalis’ core beliefs and foundation for living are based on the principals of jazz. He promotes individual creativity (improvisation), collective cooperation (swing), gratitude and good manners (sophistication), and faces adversity with persistent optimism (the blues). With his evolved humanity and through his selfless work, Marsalis has elevated the quality of human engagement for individuals, social networks and cultural institutions throughout the world. When you hear Marsalis play, you’re hearing life being played out through music.