Jazz Educator of the Year Awards

We are pleased to welcome nominations for two prestigious awards.

Recognizing a Elementary, Middle, or High School Jazz Educator
John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year Award
Presented by Jazz Education Network and Berklee College of Music
Recognizing a Collegiate-level Jazz Educator
Ellis Marsalis, Jr. Jazz Educator of the Year Award
Presented by Jazz Education Network

These awards recognize outstanding jazz educators
who represent the highest standards of teaching and whose results in the classroom have brought distinction to a school or institution.

Nomination Deadline: September 30, 11:59 p.m. (EST)

John LaPorta

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.


Ellis Marsalis, Jr.

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.

Jazz Educator of the Year Awards

Eligibility Criteria for the Educator of the Year Nominees

  • A practicing music educator — currently advancing the artistic lives of students in the classroom
  • Minimum of 5 years teaching experience (jazz context)
  • John LaPorta Award – Minimum of 5 years teaching experience (jazz context; elementary, middle, or high school setting)
  • Ellis Marsalis, Jr. Award – Minimum of 5 years teaching experience (jazz context; collegiate-level setting)
  • Demonstration of student-centered engagement
  • Nominee represents the highest standards of jazz teaching, and results in the classroom have brought distinction to nominee’s institution and students

Nomination Deadline: September 30, 11:59 p.m. (EST)

John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year Award Past Recipients

Past Recipients

2021 — Gary Washburn, Honoka’a, Big Island, HI
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)

Ellis Marsalis, Jr., Jazz Educator of the Year Award Past Recipients