Fri, 01/13/2017 - 2:13 pm

Beginning in 2018, Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia will be home to the Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition. The new triennial event was announced by Marshall President Jerome Gilbert Jan. 6 at The Jazz Education Network Conference in New Orleans.

In addition to the international competition every three years, Marshall’s College of Arts and Media and jazz studies program will host the Ellis Marsalis Summer Jazz Festival annually following the Jazz-MU-Tazz Summer Jazz Camp. In 2018, the 20th annual Jazz-MU-Tazz camp and succeeding festival will be followed by the inaugural Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition.

Marsalis, who in 2011 was named a National Education in the Arts Jazz Master, said the legacy of jazz music has had many people deserving of namesake recognitions.

“I am honored to have this competition named after me because with it we are able to highlight a different part of the musical history that is important to jazz, from the music of Harold Battiste and James Black, to the other musicians who had to play a myriad of forms just to survive daily as musicians in New Orleans. This is not just about me but them as well. It’s important to all musicians, far and wide,” Marsalis said.

A longtime jazz fan, Gilbert said he thinks the competition and festival will attract talent and attention to Marshall.

“By being blessed with this name of Ellis Marsalis, I think it will bring some of the best performers to Marshall,” Gilbert said. “I saw such excitement from jazz musicians and students at the JEN conference, and I think that level of excitement will continue in Huntington with this festival and competition.”

Dr. Martin Saunders, director of jazz studies and professor of trumpet at Marshall, said Marsalis’ work in education and his seal of approval is incomparable.

“Ellis Marsalis has been such a huge icon in jazz music and as the patriarch of the Marsalis family, but even bigger is his work in jazz education for many, many years,” Saunders said. “Having an endorsement of his trust for this program is a great honor for me.”

“From their capabilities to assemble performance programs from other National Education in the Arts Jazz Masters like Tony Bennett, and to dedicate facilities that allow students to truly interact and be engaged as complete musicians—Marshall is just a good fit,” Marsalis said.

For more information about this announcement, contact Saunders at or at 304-696-4316. To learn more about the jazz studies program at Marshall, visit