Wynton Marsalis, renowned trumpet player, composer, bandleader, educator and a leading figure in the promotion of jazz music throughout the world, will visit UNCG next week. He will perform with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, in one of the biggest University Performing Arts Series events of the year.
“You are going to hear the most artistically complete large jazz ensemble in the world, led by the 21st century equivalent of Duke Ellington,” said Chad Eby, interim director of UNCG’s Miles Davis Jazz Studies Program.
The concert will be at Lawndale Baptist Church on April 20 at 8 p.m. Earlier in the day, Marsalis will appear in “Wynton Marsalis Speaks,” a public conversation with Eby, at 3 p.m. in Taylor Theatre.
Marsalis grew up in New Orleans, in one of the most recognizable families in recent American music history. His father, Ellis Marsalis, is a famed jazz piano player and piano teacher, who gave his sons excellent training in music and also passed on a deep appreciation for jazz and culture.
After playing in the New Orleans Philharmonic and other New Orleans ensembles, Wynton Marsalis attended Juilliard in New York City. In 1981, he began touring with his own band. In 1983, he became the first and only artist to win both classical and jazz Grammy awards in the same year. And he did it again the next year, in both categories, and also won Grammy awards in the three subsequent years, becoming the only five-year consecutive Grammy winner.
Marsalis is also the musical and artistic director of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, a distinguished American music institution. He founded the orchestra in 1987, and in 1995 it officially joined Lincoln Center, also home to the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera and New York City Ballet.
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra produces a variety of events worldwide, including children’s and educational programming. “We believe Jazz is a metaphor for Democracy,” says the mission statement, which also emphasizes global community, advocacy and personal freedom through an understanding of music history. UNCG music faculty member and trumpet player Brandon Lee was a member of the celebrated orchestra, and Eby has conducted clinics through its Essentially Ellington program.
In 1997, Marsalis became the first jazz musician to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music, for “Blood On The Fields.” In 2005, he received the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the U.S. government, and he was also named a U.N. Messenger of Peace in 2001 by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He has produced over 80 records, which include three Gold Records. He also produced major broadcast events such as PBS’ “Marsalis on Music,” an educational series on both classical and jazz music. Among other North Carolina connections, Marsalis is an alumnus of Greensboro’s Eastern Music Festival and a past special guest of the event.
Lee, who considers Marsalis one of his biggest mentors, is looking forward to the visit – particularly for his UNCG jazz students.
“I’m blown away every time I hear him,” he said. “He’s inspired so many young musicians throughout his entire career.”
To purchase tickets for the 8 p.m. performance, visit the online box office. “Wynton Marsalis Speaks,” a conversation at 3 p.m., is free and open to the public, though seating is limited.
To read more about UNCG Jazz Studies professor Brandon Lee’s connection to Wynton Marsalis, see last week’s Spotlight in Campus Weekly.
Story by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications