Skip to page content

Wynton Marsalis

About this Artist

WYNTON MARSALIS, Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1961. He began his classical training on trumpet at age 12 and soon began playing in local bands of diverse genres. He entered the Juilliard School at age 17 and joined Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Marsalis has recorded more than 30 jazz and classical recordings, which have won him nine Grammy awards. In 1983, he became the first and only artist to win both classical and jazz Grammy awards in the same year and repeated this feat in 1984. Marsalis’ rich body of compositions includes Sweet Release, Jazz: Six Syncopated Movements, Jump Start, Citi Movement/Griot New York, At the Octoroon Balls, and In This House, On This Morning and Big Train. In 1997, Marsalis became the first jazz artist to be awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in music, for his oratorio Blood on the Fields, which was commissioned by Jazz at Lincoln Center. He’s also recorded many albums, his most recent being Wynton Marsalis: Live at The House Of Tribes. Following Hurricane Katrina, Marsalis co-wrote a composition called Congo Square with Ghanaian drummer Yacub Addy and dedicated the piece to New Orleans. The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, in collaboration with Yacub Addy’s group Odadaa!, premiered Congo Square on April 23, 2006 in New Orleans, then performed the piece on tour from Florida to New York. Marsalis is also an internationally respected teacher and spokesman for music education, and has received honorary doctorates from dozens of universities and colleges throughout the U.S. He conducts educational programs for students of all ages and hosts the popular Jazz for Young People® concerts produced by Jazz at Lincoln Center. He has also written four books, most recently Jazz ABZ, in collaboration with Phil Schapp, and illustrated by poster artist Paul Rogers. In 2001, Marsalis was appointed Messenger of Peace by Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and he has also been designated cultural ambassador to the United States of America by the U.S. State Department through their CultureConnect program. Marsalis serves on Lieutenant Governor Landrieu’s National Advisory Board for Culture, Recreation and Tourism, a national advisory board created to rebuild Louisiana’s tourism and cultural economies. He has also been named to the Bring New Orleans Back Commission, New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin’s initiative to help rebuild New Orleans culturally, socially, economically, and uniquely for every citizen. He helped lead the effort to construct Jazz at Lincoln Center’s new home – Frederick P. Rose Hall – the first education, performance, and broadcast facility devoted to jazz, which opened in October 2004.