The Kennedy Center

Wynton Marsalis


Wynton Marsalis has compiled a remarkable track record as a classical and jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer, making him one of the most-recognized artists in the world today. Marsalis serves as Artistic Director for the internationally-recognized Jazz at Lincoln Center, and is a renowned as a jazz statesman--a role officially recognized in 2001 when United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan proclaimed him an international ambassador of goodwill and appointed him a UN Messenger of Peace.

Born October 18, 1961 in New Orleans, the second of six sons of Dolores and Ellis Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis began studying trumpet seriously at age 12. During high school, he performed in local marching bands, jam bands, funk bands, and classical orchestras, and at age 18 he moved to New York to attend the Juilliard School. In the summer of 1980, he became a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, and that same year was signed to his first record deal by music industry veteran Bruce Lundvall. After a 20-year association with Columbia Records, Marsalis has joined the roster of Blue Note Records. He has won nine Grammy Awards®, and was the first jazz musician to be honored with the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his 1997 recording Blood on the Fields --an epic oratorio on slavery named one of the top ten music highlights of the year by Time Magazine.

The Magic Hour (Blue Note, 2004) was Marsalis' first jazz ensemble studio recording since 1999's Marciac Suite (Sony). His last album was All Rise (2002, Sony), an extended composition for big band, gospel choir, and symphony orchestra. Marsalis has also composed for dance. His "Jazz/Six Syncopated Movements" and "Jump Start," were written for ballets by Peter Martins and Twyla Tharp, respectively. The ballet Sweet Release marked his first collaboration with Judith Jamison of the Alvin Alley American Dance Theater. "Sweet Release" premiered in six performances during the Lincoln Center Festival '96 at the New York State Theater. Marsalis also collaborated with Garth Fagan to create a three-movement symphony for seven pieces, "Citi Movement/Griot New York," his first music for dance as well as his first extended work.

One of the most successful aspects of Jazz at Lincoln Center has been Marsalis' Saturday "Jazz for Young People" series. While on the road with his bands and with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Marsalis regularly conducts master classes in local schools, and spends hours tutoring the students who reach out to him. He won a Peabody Award in 1996 for his informative 26-part National Public Radio series, Making the Music and his four part PBS TV series Marsalis on Music . Marsalis has received the Grand Prix du Disque of France, the Edison Award of the Netherlands, and was elected an Honorary Member of England's Royal Academy of Music. In recognition of the many hours he has contributed to music education, community organizations, and charities, he has been given keys to cities across the country, all types of community service awards, and a Congressional citation. He has received honorary doctorate degrees from Rutgers University, Amherst College, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Johns Hopkins University, Brandeis, Manhattan School of Music, and the University of Miami.
Wynton Marsalis Photo


  • At the Octoroon Balls for string quartet
  • Concerto in D for Violin and Orchestra