SUNY, Crane School of Music Recognize Jazz Legend Wynton Marsalis with Honorary Doctor of Music Degree


Jazz legend Wynton Marsalis will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music degree by SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher on behalf of SUNY Potsdam on Dec. 10 in New York City.

The State University of New York, through SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, is proud to announce that SUNY officials will award jazz legend Wynton Marsalis with an Honorary Doctor of Music degree in an upcoming New York City ceremony.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher, who oversees all 64 campuses in the nation’s largest comprehensive system of public higher education, will confer the honorary doctorate alongside SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman Carl T. Hayden on Dec. 10.

Professor of Music Bret Zvacek will join five Jazz Studies program students to perform along with Marsalis after SUNY Potsdam President Dr. John F. Schwaller and Crane School of Music Dean Dr. Michael Sitton honor the composer’s legacy of support for music education.

“It is a rare opportunity to grant an honorary degree to an individual as distinguished in his field as Wynton Marsalis,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “His contributions to music and his steadfast support of music education have affected so many in a positive way. That individual effort exemplifies some of the goals of our strategic plan—The Power of SUNY—to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers through a more vibrant community, especially in the arts. For this reason, I am pleased to present this honorary degree on behalf of SUNY.”

SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music nominated the artist for an honorary degree through SUNY to recognize Marsalis for his artistry and charitable work on behalf of music education. Marsalis has visited the College twice to perform in concert along with his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra through the Community Performance Series. During his time on campus, members of his orchestra conducted masterclasses with Crane students, and Marsalis opened the final rehearsal for the concerts to the public.

“SUNY Potsdam is so proud to honor Wynton Marsalis, who has brought the gift of jazz and poetry to millions across the globe. Not only is he an exceptional artist, author and visionary, Wynton is an inspiration as an educator who, in sharing his passion with students young and old, has helped to bring about a revival of American jazz,” said College President Schwaller.

Marsalis embodies the principles that guide the State University of New York in its mission “to learn, to search, to serve,” and especially in its efforts to revitalize SUNY’s connections to vibrant communities around the world. Additionally, his enthusiasm for music education mirrors that of the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, which has been educating generations of music teachers and performers since the School’s founding in 1886.

“It is an honor to represent the Crane School of Music as we celebrate the achievements of acclaimed jazz and classical trumpeter, composer, and arts advocate Wynton Marsalis,” said Dean Michael Sitton. “In 2011, The Crane School begins a celebration of its 125-year tradition of innovation, one which, I feel, perfectly echoes Mr. Marsalis’s eloquent voice in support of music as a critical element in our culture and in public education. We are privileged to honor his phenomenal excellence as a performer and musical creator. His legacy as a musician and as a spokesman for the power of music in our lives reflects values that have been critical to Crane’s success, and remain central to its mission today.”

SUNY will honor Marsalis at a celebration on Friday, Dec. 10 from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Yamaha Piano Salon at Yamaha Artist Services Inc. on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Honored guests, alumni and select faculty and staff will attend. The event will also feature live music from a group of five of the best jazz students at Crane directed by Jazz Studies Program Director Bret Zvacek.

“Wynton Marsalis has been responsible for huge advances in the field of jazz and music education, which makes his link to the Crane School of Music all the more appropriate. Through the Essentially Ellington and Jazz at Lincoln Center initiatives, quality jazz literature and carefully developed teaching techniques and philosophies have found their way into the mainstream of American music education,” said Zvacek. “The Crane School of Music’s position as one of the leading music education institutes in the nation ties in seamlessly with Wynton’s groundbreaking innovations.”

The ceremony will be recorded and streamed live over the web. Links for the livestream will be available on Dec. 10 at SUNY Potsdam students, faculty and staff will also view video of the event live in a screening on campus that day at the Crane School of Music. The public is invited to attend this free event.

SUNY Potsdam is grateful to the generous sponsors for this event, including The Yamaha Corporation of America, and Michael and Barbara Maresca.

About Wynton Marsalis:
Marsalis is an internationally acclaimed musician, composer, bandleader, educator and a leading advocate of American culture. He is the world’s first jazz artist to perform and compose across the full jazz spectrum from its New Orleans roots to bebop to modern jazz. By creating and performing an expansive range of brilliant new music for quartets to big bands, chamber music ensembles to symphony orchestras, tap dance to ballet, Marsalis has expanded the vocabulary for jazz and created a vital body of work that places him among the world’s finest musicians and composers.

In 1987, Marsalis co-founded a jazz program at Lincoln Center. In July 1996, due to its significant success, Jazz at Lincoln Center was installed as a new constituent of Lincoln Center, equal in stature with the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, and New York City Ballet—a historic moment for jazz as an art form and for Lincoln Center as a cultural institution. Jazz at Lincoln Center is a mecca for learning as well as a hub for performance. Their comprehensive educational programming includes a Band Director’s Academy, a hugely popular concert series for kids called Jazz for Young People, Jazz in the Schools, a Middle School Jazz Academy, WeBop! (for kids ages eight months to five years), an annual High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival that reaches over 2,000 bands in 50 states and Canada, and online learning tools.

Marsalis has devoted his life to uplifting populations worldwide with the egalitarian spirit of jazz. And while his body of work is enough to fill two lifetimes, Marsalis continues to work tirelessly to contribute even more to our world’s cultural landscape. It has been said that he is an artist for whom greatness is not just possible, but inevitable. It is Marsalis’s commitment to the improvement of life for all people that portrays the best of his character and humanity. Read more about the amazing career of this extraordinary individual at

About SUNY Potsdam:
Founded in 1816, and located on the outskirts of the beautiful Adirondack Park, the State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges. SUNY Potsdam currently enrolls approximately 4,350 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its handcrafted education, challenging liberal arts and sciences core, excellence in teacher training and leadership in the performing and visual arts. Find out more at

About the Crane School of Music:
Founded in 1886, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music has a long legacy of excellence in music education and performance. Life at Crane includes an incredible array of more than 300 recitals, lectures and concerts presented by faculty, students and guests each year. Learn more about the Crane School of Music at

About the State University of New York:
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive university system in the United States, educating nearly 465,000 students in 7,351 degree and certificate programs on 64 campuses. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit