In May, internationally acclaimed musician, composer and bandleader Wynton Marsalis will address the Class of 2019 for the College’s 191st commencement. The selection of Marsalis was revealed at Senior Soiree on Saturday, Nov. 14.
Each year, a committee of faculty, staff and students provide the College with nominees for commencement speakers. President Sean Decatur then extends an invitation from the College to those people to deliver the address.
“Marsalis is an interesting case because he was actually nominated and recommended a couple of years ago and responded positively but said his touring schedule was booked at commencement time but that he really wanted to come to Kenyon,” Decatur said. “Turns out, this year, he could fit it in the touring schedule.”
A winner of nine Grammy Awards, Marsalis is the first jazz musician to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Throughout his long career, Marsalis has produced more than 80 records, which have sold over seven million copies worldwide.
While marsalis was born in New Orleans, La. his music quickly took him elsewhere. At 17, Marsalis became the youngest musician to be admitted to Tanglewood’s Berkshire Music Center in Massachusetts.
It was after Marsalis moved to New York City to attend the Juilliard School that he signed his first recording contract with Columbia Records. In 1981, Marsalis assembled his own band and started touring; he performed over 120 concerts every year for 15 consecutive years.
In 1983, Marsalis became the first and only artist to win both classical and jazz Grammys in the same year and repeated this accomplishment the following year. Five years later in 1987, he co-founded Jazz at Lincoln Center, an organization that promotes jazz through educational initiatives and performance. Marsalis is also an educator,a leading advocate of American culture and author of six books that explore the world of jazz music.
Marsalis has received many honorary degrees from more than 30 colleges and universities. He will also receive an honorary doctorate of music from Kenyon.
Commencement will be held on Saturday, May 18, 2019.