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Wynton Learson Marsalis

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“No jazz, no America!” This was jazz legend Art Blakey’s famous quote and it meant a lot to Wynton Learson Marsalis who went to Art Blakey’s school. He was awarded Tanglewood’s Berkshire Music Center’s prestigious Harvey Shapiro Award for outstanding brass student. He was even described by another famous trumpeter called Maurice André as “potentially the greatest trumpeter of all time.”

I was born on October 18, 1961 to his mother, Dolores Ferdinand and his father, Ellis Marsalis, Jr. in New Orleans, Louisiana. About when he was eight he was playing traditional New Orleans music in the Fairview Baptist Church band led by legendary banjoist, Danny Barker. At fourteen he got invited to play with the New Orleans Philharmonic. At seventeen he became the youngest player admitted to Tanglewood Berkshire Music Center. In 1983 he was the only person to win Grammy awards in jazz and classical music.

In 1987 he co-founded a jazz program at Lincoln Center. The first season consisted of three concerts. Under his leadership the program has developed an international agenda with up to 400 events annually in 15 countries. Activities include an annual High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival that reaches over 2000 bands in 50 states and Canada, a Band Director’s Academy, and a hugely popular concert series for kids called “Jazz for Young People.” In 1997, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his oratorio: Blood in the Fields. He was the first jazz musician ever to be so honored. When Hurricane Katrina devastated his native city in 2005, he swung into action. He started organizing benefit concerts in both New York and New Orleans to raise money for relief and reconstruction efforts.

People call me a fighter for many reasons. First, they say I strive to be not only a good musician, but a good composer too, and I have written many works. I have been featured in hundreds of things all because of his hard work and determination.

Many people would agree that I’m one of the greatest people in the world. I want to be the best. Whether I’m playing in concerts to aid hurricane victims, recording 9 Grammy Award-winning albums, or teaching thousands of students each year, I am constantly drawing back to my roots in New Orleans and my belief that music can do so much more than entertain.





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