Wynton Marsalis


Wynton Marsalis is a world-renowned trumpeter, bandleader, composer, and a leading advocate of American culture. Raised in a musical family in New Orleans, Louisiana, he began performing jazz and classical trumpet music from an early age. In 1980, just after moving to New York to attend The Juilliard School, he toured with the legendary Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. In the four decades since, he has rekindled widespread international interest in jazz through performances, educational initiatives, books, curricula, and public advocacy. Between his 1982 debut and the present, he has released 127 jazz, classical and alternative recordings, composing hundreds of original pieces. He has performed in 858 cities and 65 countries across the globe to date. He is the recipient of 41 honorary degrees and has been appointed UN Messenger of Peace (2001) and Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur (2009). He is a recipient of both The National Medal of Arts (2005) and The National Humanities Medal (2016). He presently serves as Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Musical Director of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Director of Jazz Studies at The Juilliard School, and President of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation.


Multi-talented musician, Wynton Marsalis is globally recognized as an outstanding trumpet player, an award-winning composer, and a leading light for music education. Passionate about music in all forms, he is possibly best known for his commitment to jazz and his recognition of it as America’s greatest original art form, on par with classical western music.
Marsalis was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, a city at the heart of the American jazz tradition. There, he grew up in a talented musical family. His father Ellis was a jazz pianist and director of the jazz program at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA). His older brother Branford is a celebrated saxophonist; his two younger brothers Delfeayo and Jason are well-known trombonists and drummers, respectively. Marsalis attended NOCCA while at high school and studied jazz and classical music, performing regularly with numerous jazz bands in New Orleans, as well as with classical music orchestras and ensembles.
A talented trumpet player, Marsalis entered the Tanglewood Music Center at the age of 17 (one of the youngest musicians accepted at the time), winning the prestigious Harry Shapiro Award. In 1979 he moved to New York to study classical music at The Juilliard School. Although still a student, he was soon performing in the many jazz clubs of New York and was invited to join Art Blakey’s legendary Jazz Messengers for their tour in 1980. The tour and Art Blakey’s inspirational leadership made a lasting impression and led to Marsalis’ primary focus becoming jazz.
Marsalis signed his first recording contract in 1980 and in 1981 assembled his own quintet, marking the beginning of his independent musical career. Subsequently, he has created an enormous body of jazz and classical work that demonstrates technical mastery and improvisational ability while simultaneously showing a deep understanding of each genre’s traditions.
He has also excelled as a composer, writing jazz and classical works that have established him as a musician of exceptional range. The compositions Think of One and Haydn, Hummel, L. Mozart: Trumpet Concertos won him the 1983 Grammy Awards for Jazz and Classical Music – making him the first musician to receive the awards in both categories in the same year. His 1997 Pulitzer Prize winning composition, Blood on the Fields is a masterpiece of jazz oratorio that tells the story of slavery, reflecting Marsalis’s understanding of the link between music and the human experience that it represents.
Along with a team of passionate advocates, Marsalis established Jazz at Lincoln Center as a constituent part of the Lincoln Center in 1996 – equal in stature to the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet, and the Metropolitan Opera. Now the Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Director of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Director of Jazz Studies at The Juilliard School and President of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, Marsalis remains a powerful advocate for the importance of music, particularly jazz. He maintains that music education and engagement via performance are key pillars to this endeavor.


  1961 Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
  1967 Received first trumpet at age six from Al Hirt
  1975 Performed with the New Orleans Philharmonic
  1979 Entered The Juilliard School
  1980 Joined Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers with Branford Marsalis
  1981 First visit to Japan as a member of the Herbie Hancock Quartet
Assembled his own band, the Wynton Marsalis Quintet
  1982 First album, Wynton Marsalis
  1983 First artist to win both jazz and classical Grammy Awards in the same year for Haydn, Hummel, L. Mozart: Trumpet Concertos and Think of One
  1987 Co-founded the first jazz program at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
  1991 Jazz at Lincoln Center became an official department of Lincoln Center
  1992 Recorded his first dance score, Citi Movement
  1996 Jazz at Lincoln Center became an official constituent organization of Lincoln Center
  1997 The Pulitzer Prize for Blood on the Fields (first jazz musician to win)
  2001 Messenger of Peace, United Nations
  2004 The “House of Swing” – Frederick P. Rose Hall— opened at Jazz at Lincoln Center; the first full-scale facility dedicated to jazz performance, education and broadcasting.
  2005 The National Medal of Arts, USA
  2009 Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur, France
Honorary Doctor of Music from Harvard University
  2011 The Marsalis Family won the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Award, USA
  2014 Director of Jazz Studies, The Juilliard School
  2015 The National Humanities Medal, USA
  2015-22 A.D. White Professor at Large at Cornell University
  2020 Released the epic jazz parable The Ever Fonky Lowdown featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Wendell Pierce, Camille Thurman and others
  2021 The Democracy! Suite, featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet
World Premiere of Concerto for Tubist and Orchestra with Carol Jantsch and The Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin
  2022 SFJAZZ Lifetime Achievement Award
  2023 Black Codes (From the Underground) was added to the National Recording Registry in the US Library of Congress
Concert tour, Wynton Marsalis Septet in Japan (Tokyo and Osaka)
World Premiere of Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra with Michael Sachs and The Cleveland Orchestra, conducted by Franz Welser-Möst