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MSU and Detroit Symphony commission Wynton Marsalis piece

Monday, August 25, 2008

Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis to perform in East Lansing, Detroit

East Lansing, Mich. -- Nine-time Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Wynton Marsalis has been commissioned by the Michigan State University College of Music, MSU’s Wharton Center for Performing Arts and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to create a new piece of music that celebrates Michigan.

The world premiere of the piece will be performed by Marsalis with the MSU Symphony Orchestra and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 24 in the Cobb Great Hall at the Wharton Center. The commission also will premiere in Detroit’s Orchestra Hall at 8:30 p.m. Sept. 27.

“This is such an exciting opportunity to not only premiere a new piece of jazz at Wharton Center, but also share the stage with the talented students of the MSU Symphony Orchestra and three days later with the world-renowned Detroit Symphony,” Marsalis said. “It’s guaranteed to be an inspiring evening not only for audience members, but also for the musicians on stage.”

Hoping to add some remarkable repertoire to the symphony orchestra/jazz orchestra fusion genre, Rodney Whitaker, director of jazz studies at MSU’s College of Music, began the process in 2005 to commission Marsalis, his longtime friend and mentor. The Wharton Center for Performing Arts and the DSO then joined the College of Music as commissioning partners for the project.

“He’s one of the leading musicians of our time,” Whitaker said. “He’s an icon even to classical players.”

In addition to performances, Marsalis will be on the MSU campus as an artist-in-residence from Sept. 22 to Sept. 25 to work with music students who make up the 110-member MSU Symphony Orchestra, to share his vision of the commission and to pass on some of his knowledge and opinions about music, culture and the arts.

“The residency will begin the moment he steps onto the campus,” Whitaker said. “Having him on campus will add to the opportunities our students have to work with world-renowned, professional musicians. He has such a connection with students. They will have the opportunity to work with one of the top musicians in the country, who is well versed in classical and jazz. This collaboration and premiere performance provides a unique and powerful learning experience for members of the MSU Symphony Orchestra and for students in our jazz studies program.”

On Sept. 22, jazz students from MSU and from the Interlochen Center for the Arts will have the chance to attend a master class led by Marsalis. The residency continues with a World View Lecture with Marsalis as guest speaker at 7:30 p.m. at the Wharton Center, followed by a sold-out benefit concert for the MSU College of Music Sept. 23, and concludes with the commission premiere Sept. 24.

Whitaker tells the story of how he first met Marsalis. “I was just 16 when I met Wynton in Detroit,” he said. “He was in his early 20s at that time, and he was at my high school debating the validity of Prince’s music with students. He’s always been engaged with students. He had already had some hit recordings, but there he was discussing music with kids.”

A talented and versatile musician, arts advocate, educator and cultural leader, Marsalis is committed to improving people’s lives through music. He is internationally respected as a teacher and spokesman for music education, having received honorary degrees from 29 of the nation’s leading academic institutions, including Columbia, Brown, Princeton and Yale universities.

Marsalis events

Master class - MSU and Interlochen jazz students
Sept. 22, morning, Pasant Theatre, Wharton Center

World View Lecture - Wynton Marsalis
Sept. 22, 7:30 p.m., Cobb Great Hall, Wharton Center Tickets: $20

Benefit concert for the MSU College of Music, “Wynton Marsalis and Rodney Whitaker: Up Close and Personal” – Sold out
Sept. 23, 7:30 p.m., University Club of MSU

Concert - Wynton Marsalis with MSU Symphony Orchestra and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
Sept. 24, 7:30 p.m., Cobb Great Hall, Wharton Center Tickets: $45, $35, $25

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