New York University President John Sexton today bestowed an honorary doctorate on distinguished musician and composer Wynton Marsalis at NYU’s 175th Commencement Exercises in Washington Square Park. Some 19,000 graduates, faculty, staff, and guests attended the morning ceremony.
The following citation was read in conferring the Doctor of Fine Arts degree, honoris causa, on Wynton Marsalis:
Wynton Marsalis-musician, composer, educator-premier jazz trumpeter of your generation-your prodigious and precocious talents earned you a performance with the New Orleans Philharmonic, admission to Juilliard, and a place in Art Blakey’s band among America’s jazz legends, all by the age of 19. Your debut classical recording at age 20 earned you the first of nine Grammy Awards. Composer of multiple major compositions, you are the first jazz musician ever to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Music, a distinction awarded for your epic oratorio, Blood on the Fields. Millions of parents and children enjoyed your award-winning PBS television series on jazz and classical music, even as Making the Music on National Public Radio was the first full exposition of jazz music in American broadcast history. Spellbinding preacher of the gospel of jazz, you have created, nurtured, and grown Jazz at Lincoln Center from its first season of three concerts to 400 annual events in 15 countries. Magnificent philanthropist and humanitarian, you emerged as a principal civic and national leader in helping your native New Orleans recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and you are recognized around the globe as an international ambassador of goodwill through your appointment as United Nations Messenger of Peace.
Wynton Marsalis-we hear in your music the sound of democracy shaped by intelligence and compassion and see in your life exemplary devotion in service to humanity. By virtue of the authority vested in me by New York University, I am pleased to confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa.