Ellis MarsalisMay 19, 2015
Ellis Marsalis is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. Marsalis is regarded by many as the premier modern jazz pianist in New Orleans. Born in New Orleans on November 14, 1934, his formal music studies began at age eleven at the Xavier University junior school of music. After high school, Marsalis enrolled in Dillard University (New Orleans, LA) as a clarinet major. He graduated in 1955 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education. Marsalis spent the next year working as an assistant manager in his fathers motel business. The following year, Marsalis joined the U.S. Marine Corps. While stationed in southern California he honed his pianist skills as a member of the Corps Four, a Marines jazz quartet that performed on television (“Dress Blues,” named for the formal Marine Corps uniform and broadcast on CBS) and radio shows (“Leatherneck Songbook”). Both shows were used to boost recruiting efforts. After completing his Marine Corps duty, Marsalis returned to New Orleans and married Dolores Ferdinand, a New Orleanian, who bore him six sons; Branford, Wynton, Ellis III, Delfeayo, Mboya and Jason. In 1964 Marsalis, his wife Dolores and, at the time, four sons, moved to the small rural town of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, where he spent two years as a school band and choral director at Carver high school. Returning to New Orleans in 1966, he began freelancing on the local music scene. Between 1966 and 1974 Marsalis would perform at the Playboy Club (New Orleans), Al Hirt nightclub, Lu and Charlie’s nightclub, Storyville nightclub Crazy Shirley’s as well as again enter the teaching profession, in 1967, as an adjunct professor of African American Music at Xavier University (New Orleans, LA). As the family continued to grow, Marsalis continued his educational pursuits, attending Loyola University’s (New Orleans, LA) Masters Degree program in the early summer session of 1974. He would also successfully interview for a teaching position at a new Magnet high school for the arts, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), and be hired as an instructor for the Fall semester (1974). Marsalis would spend the next twelve years at NOCCA as an instrumental music teacher with a Jazz studies emphasis. As a leading educator at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, the University of New Orleans, and Xavier University of Louisiana, Ellis has influenced the careers of countless musicians, including Terence Blanchard, Harry Connick, Jr., Nicholas Payton; as well as his four musician sons: Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason. In May, 2007, Marsalis received an honorary doctorate from Tulane University for his contributions to jazz and musical education. On December 7, 2008, Ellis Marsalis was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. He can be seen regularly on Friday nights playing at the Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro in New Orleans.