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Wynton Marsalis Spends Time Teaching Local Musicians

Wynton Marsalis
Frank Stewart
(Courtesy Jazz at Lincoln Center)

Wynton Marsalis has been to St. Louis many times, but before Thursday night he had not played at Jazz at the Bistro.

“I’ve been coming here for many, many years. This is one of my favorite cities to come and play, in many contexts,” said Marsalis, a trumpeter, composer and educator. “I’d been to the Bistro, just sitting in and hanging with musicians … and it’s a famous place to play amongst the musicians. From a national standpoint, when you talk about St. Louis, you’re always talking about the Bistro.”

The Bistro closed in May and, after a $10 million renovation project, reopened Thursday as the Harold and Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz, which includes the Ferring Jazz Bistro, formerly Jazz at the Bistro. Marsalis got to play with his orchestra.

“I think it was beautiful,” he said. “The community was decked out in their finest. Everybody came together — people of all sectors, all beliefs and ages and races. It was a great community event. The room is beautiful. It was just the finest hospitality.”

Marsalis will perform at the Bistro again tonight, but he spent Friday morning with Normandy High School Students.

“We’re teaching kids,” he said of his time at the school. “It’s something that we’ve done for many years. Actually, the first class I ever gave for students was in East St. Louis.”

Marsalis said he’s often impressed by students.

“I had a little kid this morning ask the question about being nervous. He said ‘Do you all get nervous before you play?’ So we spoke about it, different members of our orchestra, and then he said ‘Yeah, even for me, myself, it made me nervous just to come up here and ask this question to you all.’ And that type of identification of the micro level in the macro is unusual,” Marsalis said. “He had a concept of all of us being nervous, and then ‘Hey, you all are playing music in front of people and I was nervous just to come up here and talk.’ He showed a certain type of humanity just in his understanding of the question he was asking, the global kind of perspective.”

Marsalis said he’s less concerned with teaching music skills than providing guidance.

“I try to mainly to give guidance for them in their lives more than in their music. Music is a part of your life. If you’re serious — if you have that kind of anointing and the blessing and you believe in it and you really want to pursue it, I like to direct you into doing it. But I’m much more about who you are as a person than trying to see how you can exploit your talent to become famous,” he said.

Related Event

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

  • When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 3, 2014
  • Where: Ferring Jazz Bistro. The event will be live-streamed in HEC-TV, jazzstl.org and jazz.org. It also will be live-streamed on the big-screen at the Public Media Commons, between St. Louis Public Radio and the Nine Network, on Olive Street in Grand Center. Hot beverages and fleece blankets will be available. In case of rain, the event will move to an indoor screening room at the Nine Network.
  • More information

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.

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