Marsalis to Head Jazz Studies

Wynton Marsalis

 (Photo by Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center)

Jazz eminence Wynton Marsalis (’81, trumpet) will become the director of Juilliard Jazz starting in July, President Joseph W. Polisi announced on October 28. His appointment marks a new direction for Juilliard’s jazz program, which was founded jointly by the School and Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2000 as the Juilliard Institute for Jazz Studies.


“We are especially pleased that such a pre-eminent artist is returning to his alma mater in a shared quest for educational excellence,” Polisi said. “I know that Wynton’s leadership will achieve a new level of exceptional artistic accomplishment in the Juilliard Jazz program.”

Marsalis, who will remain the managing and artist director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, takes over stewardship of the Juilliard program from Carl Allen, who has led it since 2008 and will remain its artistic director for the remainder of the school year. While Marsalis’s appointment doesn’t take effect until July, his involvement with the program will begin immediately, and he will actively oversee the current academic year’s audition and admissions cycles. 

Marsalis said that he embraced the opportunity to “carry forward the legacy of success of Juilliard Jazz.” He also noted that the partnership extends Jazz at Lincoln Center’s “educational mission of utilizing the innovations of jazz as a foundation for a new type of pedagogy.” He added, “We are excited about preparing students to develop a holistic understanding of the world we live in through the prism of jazz, as well as give them the tools to participate in shaping the world to come.” 

Marsalis, 52, will continue to be the artistic and managing director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, and one of the synergies of his appointment will be to ramp up Juilliard’s relationship with its fellow Lincoln Center constituent. This relationship will mirror two other Lincoln Center-Juilliard affiliations led by alums: the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program’s music director is James Levine (Diploma ’63, orchestral conducting), and Alan Gilbert (Pre-College ’85, M.M. ’94, orchestral conducting) is both the music director of the New York Philharmonic and Juilliard’s director of conducting and orchestral studies. “Juilliard always is open to new initiatives and programs that benefit our students and strengthen our relationships with the professional community that surrounds us,” Polisi said.

A Pulitzer Prize-winning composer as well as an educator and multiple Grammy-winning performer, Marsalis began his relationship with Juilliard in 1979, when he arrived to study with longtime faculty member William Vecchiano (’35, trumpet). Marsalis returned to Juilliard in 1992 to teach, remaining on the faculty until 1999, and he was the original artistic advisor of the Jazz Studies program, whose first students matriculated in the fall of 2001. Marsalis received an honorary degree in 2006 and was the commencement speaker that year.

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