Eligibility Criteria for the Ellis Marsalis/John LaPorta Educator of the Year Nominee
Nomination Deadline: October 31, 5:00 p.m. (EST)
This prestigious award is named after legendary jazz educator Ellis Marsalis, Jr., a New Orleans jazz pianist whose focus was on bebop and modern jazz. In the 1960s, he played with several notable modernist musicians, including saxophonist Harold Battiste and drummer Ed Blackwell, as well as with the Adderley brothers when they came through town. He employed his trad chops, accompanying trumpeter Al Hirt in the ’60s and ’70s and gigging regularly at his New Orleans club.
Marsalis earned his master’s degree in music education from Loyola University in 1974, and that same year became the first jazz teacher at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. It was then that his reputation began to spread more widely. Connick, Blanchard, and his own sons were among his students; countless others came through his classroom, now known as the Ellis Marsalis Jr. Jazz Studio.
In 1986, as his sons and other students became jazz phenomena, Marsalis quit New Orleans for a job at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. In 1989, he returned to New Orleans to found the jazz studies program at the University of New Orleans, where he remained until his retirement in 2001. You could also find him at a Friday night gig at the Frenchmen Street jazz club Snug Harbor—which became a 30-year residency that ended in December 2019.
The award originated in memory of the jazz education pioneer John LaPorta, who spent more than 30 years at Berklee, becoming one of the college’s most respected and influential educators. Passionate, opinionated, garrulous, witty, uncompromising as an artist, and an inspiring teacher, LaPorta revolutionized jazz education.
His influence at Berklee played a pivotal role in the earliest stage of formalized American jazz education—shaping the unique Berklee curriculum and influencing the artistic lives of thousands of students. As Richard Vacca wrote in the Troy Street Observers honoring John LaPorta, he commented, “At Berklee, LaPorta created and directed the Instrumental Performance Department, which was Berklee’s ‘reach your potential’ program. Said another faculty member of LaPorta’s achievement: ‘John knew how to take a bunch of kids who had music in them and go forward with that. That was a breakthrough for the school. John was magnificent with lower-level kids. He could get music out of three stones and a corn cob.’”
LaPorta composed, arranged, performed, and recorded with such jazz greats as Kenny Clarke, Miles Davis, Dizzie Gillespie, Woody Herman, Charles Mingus, Charlie Parker, Herb Pomeroy, Lester Young, and many others. He also performed with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Leonard Bernstein.
2020-Paul Pitts, Boston, MA
2019 – Thomas “TL” Lizotte, Cape Elizabeth, ME
2018 – Diane Downs, Louisville, KY
2017 – Dr. Robert Klevan, Pacific Grove, CA
2016 – José Antonio Diaz, Diaz Music Institute, Houston, TX
2015 – Janis Stockhouse, Blooming High School North, Bloomington, IN
2014 – Daniel Gregerman, Niles North High School, Skokie, IL (JAN 2014 JAZZed: page 31)
2013 – Davey Yarborough, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Washington D.C. (JAN 2013 JAZZed: page 18)
2012 – Bart Marantz, Booker T. Washington High School, Dallas, TX (JAN 2012 JAZZed: page 16)
2011 – Caleb Chapman, Crescent Super Band, Salt Lake City, UT (SEPT 2011 JAZZed: page 40)
Award Recipients prior to JEN
2008 – Don Cantwell, Retired from Whitesboro High School, Barneveld, NY
2007 – Bob Sinicrope, Milton Academy, Milton, MA (SEPT 2008 JAZZed: page 28)