Wynton Marsalis Named United Nations Messenger of Peace


Wynton Marsalis and Secretary General Kofi Annan
Wynton Marsalis and Secretary General Kofi Annan
Photo courtesy of the UN Photo Library

At a ceremony at United Nations (UN) headquarters on March 20, 2001, Jazz at Lincoln Center Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis was designated a UN Messenger of Peace by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Having toured with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (LCJO) to 250 cities in 30 countries on 5 continents over the last 10 years, Mr. Marsalis has brought the message of jazz and good will to audiences worldwide. With this new designation, he will add the UN aims of peace and human rights to this message.

Mr. Marsalis has devoted a major part of his professional career to teaching and advocating music education. He regularly conducts master classes, lectures and concerts for students of all ages and disciplines as well as in hospitals and prisons. He has also donated musical instruments and assisted with scholarships to young musicians from underprivileged backgrounds. He has participated in and organized charitable events nationally and internationally. On his recent European tour, Mr. Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra helped raise funds for the Gujarat Earthquake Appeal.

“The Messengers of Peace are a small number of people, distinguished in their fields, who share the goals of the United Nations: peace, justice, and equality. Wynton is certainly such a person,” commented Assistant Secretary General Gillian Sorenson. “The Secretary General loves jazz, and he loves [Marsalis’s] ability to talk about music as well as to play.” He is also impressed by Mr. Marsalis’s commitment to education, according to Ms. Sorenson. “Music is the universal language, after all,” she elaborated. “To have Wynton identified as sharing the cause is very special.”

Mr. Marsalis sees jazz as central to his new role as a Messenger of Peace: “It is a great honor to be designated by Kofi Annan as a United Nations Messenger of Peace because this music [jazz] is precisely about love and respect for the dignity of all mankind. As the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and I travel around the world, we do all that we can through our performances and educational events to bring people of many cultures together.”

The Secretary-General presented Mr. Marsalis with a formal framed citation and a lapel pin in the form of a dove exclusively designed by artist Leni Fuhrman for the Messengers of Peace. The citation says, in part “…through your contributions to music and charity the message of peace will resound throughout the nations”.

Messengers of Peace are individuals possess widely recognized talents in the field of arts, literature, music and sports, and have agreed to help focus worldwide attention on the work of the United Nations. “Different people take on different assignments,” Ms. Sorenson explained. “There is no blueprint. Some speak, some perform, some write, some make reference to [the United Nations] in interviews and elsewhere.”

Since 1997, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appointed eight prominent persons to serve the United Nations as Messengers of Peace: Muhammad Ali, Vijay Amritraj, Anna Cataldi, Michael Douglas, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Enrico Macias, Luciano Pavarotti and Elie Wiesel. Messengers retain the designation for the length of the Secretary General’s term.