Person of the Week: Wynton Marsalis

Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, one of the most recognizable artists of the late 20th century and a major influence in American jazz, is also the driving force behind New York City's world-renowned Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

This week, the orchestra moved into its new home, Jazz at Lincoln Center, a $128 million complex with three different venues, two music theaters and a nightclub -- all dedicated to jazz.

"My goal for this new home, and the goal of jazz music, is to raise the consciousness of our nation and ultimately bring people together," he said. "There have never been halls like the ones we've designed here. These are halls in which the acoustic principles are designed specifically for jazz to accommodate the high pitch of the cymbal ringing with the bass."

Moving the orchestra's home was something of a risk; jazz is struggling commercially. It is more widely popular in Europe than in America, where it was born.

Early Days of Jazz

Jazz grew out of the Southern black experience and -- even as it spread to places like Chicago, Kansas City and New York -- it was often played and appreciated in humbler, more intimate settings.

Jazz at Lincoln Center's new home at Frederick P. Rose Hall is not humble at all. It is surrounded by a five-star hotel and a midtown shopping mall in the recently constructed Time Warner Center, which Marsalis thinks may be an advantage.

"We all congregate here because of the energy of the city and the diversity of the people," he said. "It's the perfect place for jazz music."

Marsalis, now the biggest star in the world of jazz, grew up in New Orleans, where jazz was born.

"The greatest influence on me growing up was my father," said Marsalis. "He's a jazz musician."

Marsalis joined the great Art Blakey's band, the Jazz Messengers, when he was still a teenager.

In 1983, he was the first recording artist ever to win Grammys for jazz and classical music in the same year. In 1997, Marsalis won the Pulitzer Prize for music.

Marsalis, a committed educator, along with Jazz at Lincoln Center have played and preached the gospel of great music all over the world.

"Jazz, above all else, is a music of communication, of listening and of speaking, because both are required for communication," he said. "You have to be a master listener and a master speaker."

Marsalis never seems to stop working. He is a dynamic inspiration to his art.

"This is the time for us to become a part of the best of what America actually is," he said, "and deal with the ascendance of our culture through the spirit of jazz."

Peter Jennings filed this report for World News Tonight.

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