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Friday, March 25, 2005

Marsalis speaks to aspiring musicians - The Jambar - ae

Marsalis speaks to aspiring musicians - The Jambar - ae

The Jambar - ae
Issue: 3/24/05

Marsalis speaks to aspiring musicians

How does a Grammy Award winner and world famous musician define success?

"I got my first job playing music when I was 15-years-old," Branford Marsalis told students from the Dana School of Music Wednesday.

"I made 75 cents. I was just so excited that I was being paid to play music. I took the bus home and it cost me 75 cents."

World-renowned jazz musician and saxophonist Marsalis performed with his quartet at Stambaugh Auditorium in Youngstown Wednesday evening. Marsalis' performance was the fourth annual Leonardi Legacy Concert. The Skeggs Lecture Series sponsored the performance.

In addition to the concert, Marsalis and his quartet were in Bliss Hall Wednesday afternoon to give a special lecture to aspiring professional musicians and music education majors from the Dana School of Music.

Marsalis is a three-time Grammy Award winner who has dabbled in jazz, classical and pop music. He was born in New Orleans, the oldest son of legendary jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis. Since his career began, Marsalis has released 14 jazz albums, two classical albums and two pop albums with Buckshot LeFonque; a project he created that blended sounds of jazz, rhythm and blues, hip hop and rock.

Marsalis has shared the stage with his brother's jazz band, Sting, Bruce Hornsby and the Grateful Dead. From 1992 to 1995, Marsalis was the musical director of the "Tonight Show" band. He has also worked as a producer for Columbia Records. In 2002, Marsalis created his own independent record label "Marsalis Music" as a haven for "committed creative musicians" when major record labels were forced to drop many jazz acts.

Marsalis' newest recording, "Eternal" was released in 2004. It is a collection of ballads. The album's title track was written in honor of Marsalis' wife.

Kent Engelhardt, coordinator of jazz studies at YSU was excited about Marsalis' appearance in Youngstown. The visit was being planned for some time, he said.

"If there were a list of the greatest living saxophone players, Branford would be right near the top if not at the very top. We're very fortunate to have him come here," Engelhardt said.

Engelhardt also said he hopes music students are able to take away a lot from Marsalis' lecture.

"He has a lot of experience not only in making music, but also in surviving the music business," Engelhardt said.

Marsalis also has his hand in music education. He has worked as a part-time faculty member and as a visiting scholar. In addition to his recent YSU visit, he has talked with students from such universities as Michigan State and Stanford.

Marsalis' lecture to YSU students yesterday covered a spread of topics including art, how to improve musically and how to teach music. He stressed that one of the best ways to be a better musician is to listen to a lot of music. He said musical education programs should have required listening lists for students.

"I'm amazed at the number of people who play a piece without hearing it first. That may have made sense in 1875, but not today," Marsalis said.

He said students interested in learning jazz should listen to the music that evolved into jazz, not just the greats like John Coltrane.

"Good music doesn't happen in a vacuum," Marsalis said.

He gave music education students some insight into the difficulties of teaching music to high school students, saying it would be hard to get students and their parents to take music education seriously.

"Most people don't respect music, they think it's just entertainment. How do you get parents to believe that music is more than just background noise?" Marsalis asked.

He still urged future educators to try to foster an appreciation of music in their students.

"If 5 percent of your students learn to appreciate music, that's 5 percent more than we have today," Marsalis said.

He also talked about his attitude toward being a professional musician.

"I'm not motivated by money," Marsalis said. "That's why I'm able to walk away from lucrative high-profile jobs."

He said a good professional musician can't be motivated by money and fame.

"Do you expect your record to sell? It's not going to. Are you OK with that? Then let's go play," Marsalis said.

Marsalis' performance at Stambaugh was sponsored by the Skeggs Lecture Series. The lecture series was established in 1966 in memory of Leonard T. Skeggs Sr., an educational secretary and general secretary of the YMCA in Youngstown in the early 1900s.

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