Wynton Marsalis is an internationally acclaimed musician, composer, bandleader, educator and a leading advocate of American culture. He is the world’s first jazz artist to perform and compose across the full jazz spectrum from its New Orleans roots to bebop to modern jazz. By creating and performing an expansive range of brilliant new music for quartets to big bands, chamber music ensembles to symphony orchestras, tap dance to ballet, Wynton has expanded the vocabulary for jazz and created a vital body of work that places him among the world’s finest musicians and composers.
Wynton Marsalis has won nine Grammy Awards® in grand style. In 1983 he became the only artist ever to win Grammy Awards® for both jazz and classical records; and he repeated the distinction by winning jazz and classical Grammys® again in 1984. Today Wynton is the only artist ever to win Grammy Awards® in five consecutive years (1983-1987). Honorary degrees have been conferred upon Wynton by over 25 of America’s leading academic institutions including Columbia, Harvard, Howard, Princeton and Yale (see Exhibit A). Elsewhere Wynton was honoured 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 Wynton with the Frederick Douglass Medallion for distinguished leadership and the American Arts Council presented him with the Arts Education Award. Time magazine selected Wynton as one of America’s most promising leaders under age 40 in 1995, and in 1996 Time celebrated Marsalis again as one of America’s 25 most influential people. In November 2005 Wynton Marsalis received The National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the United States Government. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan proclaimed Wynton Marsalis an international ambassador of goodwill for the Unites States by appointing him a UN Messenger of Peace (2001). In 1987 Wynton Marsalis co-founded a jazz program at Lincoln Center. In July 1996, due to its significant success, Jazz at Lincoln Center was installed as new constituent of Lincoln Center, equal in stature with the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, and New York City Ballet – a historic moment for jazz as an art form and for Lincoln Center as a cultural institution. In October 2004, with the assistance of a dedicated Board and staff, Marsalis opened Frederick P. Rose Hall, the world’s first institution for jazz. The complex contains three state-of-the-art performance spaces (including the first concert hall designed specifically for jazz) along with recording, broadcast, rehearsal and educational facilities. Jazz at Lincoln Center has become a preferred venue for New York jazz fans and a destination for travellers from throughout the world. Wynton presently serves as Managing and Artistic Director for Jazz at Lincoln Center. Under Wynton’s leadership, Jazz at Lincoln Center has developed an international agenda presenting rich and diverse programming that includes concerts, debates, film forums, dances, television and radio broadcasts, and educational activities.
Jazz at Lincoln Center is a mecca for learning as well as a hub for performance. Their comprehensive educational programming includes a Band Director’s Academy, a hugely popular concert series for kids called Jazz for Young People, Jazz in the Schools, a Middle School Jazz Academy, WeBop! (for kids ages 8 months to 5 years), an annual High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival that reaches over 2000 bands in 50 states and Canada. In 2010 the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra established its first residency in Cuba with a rich cultural exchange of performances with Cuban musicians including Chucho Valdes and Omara Portuondo and education programs for kids.
Wynton Marsalis, in the book How Jazz Can Change Your Life, was quoted as stating, “On the jazz bandstand, swing is the single objective, the core that makes us all want to work together. Jazz – the music – is the collective aspirations of a group of musicians, shaped, given logic, and organised under the extreme pressure of time. When we all work together, the music swings, and when we don’t, it doesn’t.”
Marsalis has described his Swing Symphony, as a “symphonic meditation” on the evolution of swing and a celebration of jazz history, with the symphony orchestra and jazz orchestra performing as equal partners. Listen carefully to the sigh at the end of the piece, which Marsalis described in an interview, “It can either be like an ‘aaaaaah, that was good!’ or a ‘wheeew, damn, I’m glad that’s over… Sometimes they’re one and the same… I believe in the way that opposites work together… it’s because of cold that we have hot: you can’t take one away from the other.”
Alixandra Porembski, English Language Annotator