Tributes to Ellis Marsalis, Jr.

April 1, 2020

New Orleans, LA

Statement of Branford Marsalis:

It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of my father, Ellis Marsalis Jr., as a result of complications from the Coronavirus.  He was admitted to the hospital on Saturday and died peacefully this evening. My dad was a giant of a musician and teacher, but an even greater father.  He poured everything he had into making us the best of what we could be. And to quote my friend and Harvard Law Professor David Wilkins who just sent me the following text: “We can all marvel at the sheer audacity of a man who believed he could teach his black boys to be excellent in a world that denied that very possibility, and then watch them go on to redefine what excellence means for all time.”

Statement of Harry Connick, Jr.:

among the countless lessons ellis taught me, the most important was the process of discovery. he already knew everything i was trying to learn; but he always made me figure things out for myself. he was a grand master educator, an inimitable pianist, a caring mentor and a dear friend. i wouldn't be who i am without him. i'll miss him with all my heart.

Statement of EMCM Leadership:

Our hearts are broken as we mourn the passing of a true legend, Ellis Marsalis, Jr.  A gifted master educator, Ellis enriched the lives of thousands, including in his tireless work as the artistic director of the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, established in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Ellis was a deeply kind person of great character who was passionate about education and music. We at EMCM are dedicated to upholding and fulfilling the vision of this great  American and New Orleans treasure. And while the pandemic that took Ellis from us will delay our celebration of his life, we will have a celebration befitting Ellis's legacy. Stay tuned.

Statement of Michele Brierre, Executive Director:

A true legend has passed but not without enriching  the lives of so many of us whom he touched. Ellis Marsalis was a master educator with a unique ability to share his gifts and wisdom.  As important, Ellis defined character. In how he lived his life, he set a worthy example for us all. It has been my life's great fortune and pleasure to work under Ellis's guidance for the past decade as the Executive Director of the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music.  The Center lives on to fulfill the passion and to uphold the legacy of this great  American treasure.