Wynton Marsalis Awards and Accolades
Wynton Marsalis has won nine Grammy Awards in grand style.
In 1983 he became the only artist ever to win Grammy Awards® for both jazz and classical records; and he repeated the distinction by winning jazz and classical Grammys® again in 1984.
Today Wynton is the only artist ever to win Grammy Awards in five consecutive years (1983-1987). Honorary degrees have been conferred upon Wynton by over 25 of America’s leading academic institutions including Columbia, Harvard, Howard, Princeton and Yale (see Exhibit A). Elsewhere Wynton was honored with the Louis Armstrong Memorial Medal and the Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts.
He was inducted into the American Academy of Achievement and was dubbed an Honorary Dreamer by the “I Have a Dream Foundation.” The New York Urban League awarded Wynton with the Frederick Douglass Medallion for distinguished leadership and the American Arts Council presented him with the Arts Education Award. Time magazine selected Wynton as one of America’s most promising leaders under age 40 in 1995, and in 1996 Time celebrated Marsalis again as one of America’s 25 most influential people. In November 2005 Wynton Marsalis received The National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the United States Government. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan proclaimed Wynton Marsalis an international ambassador of goodwill for the Unites States by appointing him a UN Messenger of Peace (2001).
In 1997 Wynton Marsalis became the first jazz musician ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his epic oratorio Blood On The Fields. During the five preceding decades the Pulitzer Prize jury refused to recognize jazz musicians and their improvisational music, reserving this distinction for classical composers. In the years following Marsalis’ award, the Pulitzer Prize for Music has been awarded posthumously to Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. In a personal note to Wynton, Zarin Mehta wrote, “I was not surprised at your winning the Pulitzer Prize for Blood On The Fields. It is a broad, beautifully painted canvas that impresses and inspires. It speaks to us all … I’m sure that, somewhere in the firmament, Buddy Bolden, Louis Armstrong and legions of others are smiling down on you.”
Wynton’s creativity has been celebrated throughout the world. He won the Netherlands’ Edison Award and the Grand Prix Du Disque of France. The Mayor of Vitoria, Spain, awarded Wynton with the city’s Gold Medal – its most coveted distinction. Britain’s senior conservatoire, the Royal Academy of Music, granted Mr. Marsalis Honorary Membership, the Academy’s highest decoration for a non-British citizen (1996). The city of Marciac, France, erected a bronze statue in his honor. The French Ministry of Culture appointed Wynton the rank of Knight in the Order of Arts and Literature and in the fall of 2009 Wynton received France’s highest distinction, the insignia Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, an honor that was first awarded by Napoleon Bonaparte. French Ambassador, His Excellency Pierre Vimont, captured the evening best with his introduction:
“We are gathered here tonight to express the French government’s recognition of one of the most influential figures in American music, an outstanding artist, in one word: a visionary…
I want to stress how important your work has been for both the American and the French. I want to put the emphasis on the main values and concerns that we all share: the importance of education and transmission of culture from one generation to the other, and a true commitment to the profoundly democratic idea that lies in jazz music.
I strongly believe that, for you, jazz is more than just a musical form. It is tradition, it is part of American history and culture and life. To you, jazz is the sound of democracy. And from this democratic nature of jazz derives openness, generosity, and universality.”