Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center and a world-renowned trumpeter, bandleader and composer
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1961, Wynton Marsalis began his classical training on trumpet at age 12, entered The Juilliard School at age 17, and soon after joined Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.
He made his recording debut as a leader in 1982, and has since recorded more than 80 jazz and classical recordings, which have won him 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).
Marsalis is an internationally respected educator, a leading advocate of American culture, and a recipient of honorary doctorates from over 25 of America's top academic institutions including Yale, Columbia, Harvard, Howard, and Princeton. He has authored six booksincluding: Jazz ABZ: An A to Z Collection of Jazz Portraits(Candlewick, 2005), illustrated by poster artist Paul Rogers; Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life(Random House, 2008), with Geoffrey C. Ward; and most recently, Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!(Candlewick, 2012), also illustrated by Paul Rogers. In 1997, Wynton 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.
His creativity has been celebrated the world over. In 2001, he was appointed Messenger of Peace by Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and he has also been named a Cultural Ambassador for Jazz by the U.S. State Department through their Culture Connect program. In 2005 Wynton received The National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the United States government. Britain's senior conservatoire, the Royal Academy of Music, granted him Honorary Membership, the Academy's highest decoration for a non-British citizen. The French Ministry of Culture appointed Wynton the rank of Knight in the Order of Arts and Literature and in the fall of 2009 he received France's highest distinction, the insignia Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. In 2016, he was awarded The National Medal of Humanities.
Marsalis was instrumental in the Higher Ground Hurricane Relief concert, produced by Jazz at Lincoln Center. The event raised more than $3 million for the Higher Ground Relief Fund to benefit the musicians, music industry related enterprises, and other individuals and entities from the areas in Greater New Orleans who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. He helped lead 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.
In July 2014 Wynton Marsalis became Director of Jazz Studies at The Juilliard School. It is his commitment to the improvement of life for all people that portrays the best of his character and humanity.
Photo credit: Joe Martinez for Jazz at Lincoln Center