50th Berklee High School Jazz Festival to Honor Ellis Marsalis, Students on February 10

Tori Donahue
January 25, 2018
Press release
Jazz icon and educator Ellis Marsalis will receive an honorary Berklee Doctor of Music degree at the 50th Berklee High School Jazz Festival.
A high school jazz ensemble competes at a past Berklee High School Jazz Festival.
The festival awards more than $175,000 in scholarships to various Berklee summer programs.
Thousands of high school students fill the Hynes Convention Center for the Berklee High School Jazz Festival each year.
Image courtesy of the artist
Image by Dave Green

Berklee will present the 50th annual Berklee High School Jazz Festival, the country’s largest high school jazz competition, on Saturday, February 10 at Hynes Convention Center. More than 3,000 high school students who comprise more than 215 bands and vocal ensembles will compete for $175,000 in scholarships to various Berklee summer programs. The free event, which is open to the public, will feature performances or workshops by National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters Ellis Marsalis and Delfeayo Marsalis B.M. '89 in addition to workshops by jazz groups 7th Degree and House of Waters, a performance by the Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra, and an awards presentation honoring high school ensembles, singers, composers, musicians, and educators. The event will run from 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

As part of the festival’s 50th anniversary celebration, Ellis Marsalis will receive an honorary Doctorate of Music degree from Berklee at the awards ceremony. Marsalis is regarded by jazz lovers and critics alike as among the world’s premier modern jazz pianists and bandleaders, and has more than 20 albums to his name. He is also one of the foremost jazz educators of all time, having taught lauded musicians and composers such as Terence Blanchard, Harry Connick Jr., and Donald Harrison Jr., among many others, including four of his highly accomplished sons who are also well-known musicians, composers, and educators: trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, saxophonist and Berklee alumnus Branford Marsalis '80 '06H, trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis (also a Berklee alumnus), and drummer and vibraphonist Jason Marsalis. In 2011, the Marsalis family became the first-ever group recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters award.

“It's amazing to see that Berklee has been leading jazz education with our annual High School Jazz Festival for five decades,” said Darla Hanley, dean of professional education at Berklee. “In addition to celebrating 50 years of the festival, we are also very pleased to honor Ellis Marsalis, one of America's fathers of New Orleans jazz, with a Berklee honorary doctoral degree after a day of watching the future of jazz in our high school ensembles.”

The festival—the most high-profile competition of its kind—will include high school ensembles from New England to California and Puerto Rico to Washington, D.C. Throughout the day, all ensembles will be adjudicated by a panel of Berklee’s top faculty and will receive a written evaluation of their performances. Top-ranked ensembles will be awarded partial scholarships to Berklee’s Five-Week Summer Performance Program, and individual students are invited to audition for tuition scholarships towards the summer program or the full Berklee undergraduate program.

More information on the Berklee High School Jazz Festival is available at berkleejazz.org.