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Photo by: Farren Clark
February 15, 2017
Ellis Marsalis, a New Orleans born musician who released almost 20 studio albums throughout his career, played to a full house in the Mary and Al Danos theater on February 9.
The premier modern jazz pianist performed at Nicholls State University in honor of African American history month.
James Rodrigue, junior vocal music education major from Houma, attended the concert.
“I think it was incredible that we got to see Ellis Marsalis perform live at Nicholls,” said Rodrigue. “That man is a world renowned jazz legend and we were fortunate enough to hear him perform for free in Thibodaux.”
Marsalis was awarded with the president’s coin of excellence from Nicholls State President Bruce Murphy at the end of his performance. He also received gifts from the men of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia.
“It was extra special to me because he’s also a brother of Phi Mu Alpha, so we had the opportunity to sing some of our fraternity’s staple songs with him,” said Rodrigue.
The concert began with the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson, a songwriter and civil rights activist. Throughout Marsalis’ performance, he played a rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” by Harold Arlin and “Tell Me a Bedtime Story” by Herbie Hancock amongst many others. He also played a composition from one of his former colleagues, Harold Batiste, whom passed away.
Marsalis earned his BA in music education from Dillard University in 1955 and later received his masters degree from Loyola University. He was the director of jazz studies at the New Orleans’s Center for Creative Arts High school where he mentored contemporary artists like Harry Connick Jr., Reginald Veal, and Terrance Blanchard. Later, Marsalis headed the jazz studies department at New Orleans University.
Marsalis was inducted to the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2008. In 2011, his whole family received the NEA jazz masters, the highest honor in jazz. This award is given to a select number of living legends who have made exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz.
The concert was sponsored by Synergy Bank, Nicholls Student Government Association and Student Programming Association.