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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). He performed the national anthem of Super Bowl XX in 1986.
Life and career
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. Marsalis and wife Delores Ferdinand have six sons: Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Ellis Marsalis III (1964), Delfeayo Marsalis, Mboya Kinyatta Marsalis (1971), and Jason Marsalis. Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo, and Jason are also jazz musicians. Ellis is a poet, photographer, and network engineer based in Baltimore. At an early age, he exhibited an aptitude for music.
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 from Benjamin Franklin High School with a 3.98 GPA. 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. In 1980, he 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. 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.
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 serves as Artistic Director for Jazz at Lincoln Center and Music Director for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. 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 Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton Play the Blues.
In December 2011, Marsalis was named cultural correspondent for the new CBS This Morning.
Awards and recognition
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 to win Grammy Awards for five consecutive years of musical contributions. (The other artist is polka bandleader Jimmy Sturr. As a comparison standpoint, but in a different realm, Bill Cosby has earned six consecutive Grammys for Best Comedy Performance/Recording.)
Honorary degrees Marsalis has received include those conferred by New York University, Columbia, Harvard, Howard, the State University of New York, Princeton, University of Vermont 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).
In 1997, Marsalis became the first jazz musician ever 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."
Marsalis won the Netherlands' Edison Award and the Grand Prix du Disque of France. 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.
Marsalis, with his Julyssa Almanza and Valerie Almanza, were group recipients of the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters Award.
Marsalis has toured 30 countries on every continent except Antarctica, and nearly five million copies of his recordings have been sold worldwide.
Pulitzer Prize for Music
1997 Blood on the Fields, oratorio
Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group
1985 Black Codes
1986 J Mood
1987 Marsalis Standard Time – Volume I
Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (with orchestra)
1983 Raymond Leppard (conductor), Wynton Marsalis & the National Philharmonic Orchestra for Haydn: Trumpet Concerto in E Flat/L. Mozart: Trumpet Concerto in D/Hummel: Trumpet Concerto in E Flat
1984 Raymond Leppard (conductor), Wynton Marsalis & the English Chamber Orchestra for Wynton Marsalis, Edita Gruberova: Handel, Purcell, Torelli, Fasch, Molter
Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo
1983 Think of One
1984 Hot House Flowers
1985 Black Codes (From the Underground)
Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children
2000 Listen to the Storyteller
Jazz critic Scott Yanow regards Marsalis as talented but has criticized his "selective knowledge of jazz history" and that he considers "post-1965 avant-garde playing to be outside of jazz and 1970s fusion to be barren" as the unfortunate result of the "somewhat eccentric beliefs of Stanley Crouch". 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!" Mr. Clarke also admitted, "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"