Arts & Culture

Marsalis to conclude lecture-performance series

4 min read

Will explore the birth of jazz in New Orleans

Wynton Marsalis will conclude his six-lecture series at Sanders Theatre on Jan. 30 with a lecture performance focusing on New Orleans and the birth of jazz. Currently the managing and artistic director of jazz at Lincoln Center, Marsalis is an acclaimed musician, composer, bandleader, educator, and advocate for the arts.

Marsalis’ lecture, “New Orleans: The Birth of Jazz,” will cover a significant portion of the wide cross-section of musical styles that constitute the roots of jazz. Marsalis will illuminate the music’s identity by examining its repertoire, functions, venues, and most significant musical figures, chief among them, Buddy Bolden, the legendary “First Man of Jazz.” Joining Marsalis are Lucien Barbarin (trombone), Jonathan Batiste (piano), Troy Davis (drums), Vince Giordano (tuba/bass), Victor Goines (reeds), Ricky Gordon (percussion), Marcus Printup (cornet), Don Vappie (banjo/guitar), and Michael White (clarinet).

The lecture will begin at 7 p.m. and will be live-streamed at

“New Orleans between 1885 and 1910 was a place like no other,” Marsalis said. “Here, amid a diversity of people, philosophies, and possibilities, jazz was born. Conceived in a city that still has a statue of the losing Confederate general as its central landmark, jazz has proven to be the most definitive artistic symbol of American democracy. “

Marsalis’ lecture series, “Hidden in Plain View: Meanings in American Music,” is sponsored by the Office of the President and the Office of the Provost. The series launched in April 2011 before a capacity crowd with “Music as Metaphor,” a two-hour journey through the history of American music, punctuated with performances by bluegrass and jazz musicians. Marsalis returned to campus in September 2011 with a team of dancers for his second lecture, “The Double Crossing of a Pair of Heels: The Dynamics of Social Dance and American Popular Musics,” which traced the evolution of American social dance from the Charleston to the fox trot and the tango to the twist.

His third lecture, “Meet Me at the Crossroad,” in February 2012, examined the roots of American music, while his fourth lecture, in April 2013, “At the Speed of Instinct: Choosing Together to Play and Stay Together,” examined the art of improvisation. He returned to campus in September 2013 for “Setting the Communal Table: The Evolution of the Jazz Orchestra,” a lecture on the history of orchestral jazz featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

“Wynton Marsalis is an inspiring and powerful educator,” Harvard President Drew Faust said. “Through his series of lecture-performances, he has illuminated the past and illustrated the many ways in which music connects us to one another across time and space. Each of his appearances has been a gift to our community, and I am thrilled to welcome him back to Harvard.”

In addition to his lectures, Marsalis has engaged in dialogue with students throughout the University and community, taught master classes at a local high school, engaged in a panel discussion about education and the arts at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and spoken at the Harvard Innovation Lab about the artist as an entrepreneur.

A native of New Orleans, Marsalis is one of the nation’s most highly decorated cultural figures. In addition to winning nine Grammy Awards, he was the first jazz musician to receive the Pulitzer Prize for music for his oratorio “Blood on the Fields.”

His international accolades include honorary membership in Britain’s Royal Academy of Music, the highest decoration for someone not a British citizen, and the insignia of the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest distinction. He has more than 70 albums to his credit, which have sold more than 7 million copies, including three gold records.

Marsalis is the first major jazz artist to perform and compose across the full spectrum of jazz, from its New Orleans roots to bebop and modern jazz. He has expanded the vocabulary of jazz by creating an expansive range of music for everything from quartets to big bands and symphony orchestras, and tap dance to ballet and modern dance. He was recently named a CBS News cultural correspondent. Harvard awarded him an honorary doctorate in music in 2009.

Tickets for Marsalis’ lecture at Sanders are free. They will become available for the Harvard community on Jan. 28 and for the public on Jan. 29. For information on obtaining tickets, visit the Harvard Box Office website. To learn more about Marsalis, visit his website.