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Jazz musician wraps up 'Year of the Arts'

By Lauren Kiggins
On April 24, 2012

Wynton Marsalis, internationally acclaimed trumpeter, composer and educator, will deliver his acclaimed "Ballad of American Arts" speech Tuesday as the Year of the Arts keynote address.

The 2011-12 academic year was designated by President David Hodge as the Year of the Arts to honor Miami University's artistic mission and spotlight over 200 annual performances, exhibitions and special events.

"The university is committed to making sure the message of arts, in culture and education, is essential not only for all students but for all people," James Lentini, dean of the School of Fine Arts, said. "Bringing a spokesman of this stature to deliver this message certainly puts an exclamation point on this message."

Marsalis is both a classical and jazz musician, for which he has been awarded nine Grammys.

"He is one of the only ones I know of, ever, at his level to be able to play at the very top echelon of jazz musicians and also be able to play classical trumpet concerto at the same level," Lentini said.

As a composer, Marsalis received the Pulitzer Prize of Music for his oratorio, Blood on the Fields.

"Marsalis changed the landscape of the Pulitzer Prize; never before had a jazz comzposer won," Lentini said. "A Pulitzer Prize on top of jazz and Grammys is an amazing background that makes for a very unique individual."

His contributions to the arts and education have earned him more than 25 honorary degrees from institutions including Brown University, Columbia University, Harvard University, New York University, Princeton University and Yale University. Other distinctions include The National Medal of Arts, The New York Urban League's Frederick Douglass Medallion for distinguished leadership and the American Arts Council's Arts Education Award.

It is his life experiences and accomplishments that have helped shape "The Ballad of American Arts," which Marsalis has delivered before dignitaries such as the United States Congress.

"Marsalis is American icon when it comes to the art of music, as a performer but also as a spokesperson for the arts," Judith Delzell, chair of the department of music, said.

According to Lentini, Marsalis' speech will not solely resonate with musicians, for it encompasses American culture and how society can connect to it through arts and music.

"It's valuable for students to understand how Marsalis describes the value of arts in the human existence because sometimes students innately have a passion for arts, but may have trouble expressing it verbally," Delzell said. "This presents the opportunity for a world-class musician to speak to that issue: the essence of the arts."

Marsalis first visited Oxford in 2010 for a performance with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, organized by 2008 Miami alumnus and trumpeter Jono Gasparro. Since, Gasparro has become the project manager of Marsalis and is to thank for Marsalis' return.

While on campus, Marsalis is scheduled to work with the Miami trumpet studio and meet with university administration and donors.

"The Year of the Arts has been spectacular," Delzell said. "It has generated important attention to the role of the arts in the lives of students and the university community overall."

"The Ballad of American Arts" will be 4 p.m. Tuesday in Gates-Abegglen Theatre in the Center for Performing Arts. Tickets are free and available at the Shriver Center Box Office. It will also be viewable via livestream at

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