Ellis Marsalis’ biggest contribution to NOLA may have been as an educator

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NEW ORLEANS— Tributes from around the world are flowing in for the great Ellis Marsalis. And while he was undoubtedly one of the giants of jazz, his contribution in our city was even larger as an influencer and educator.

One of the most apt descriptions we’ve seen about Marsalis’ passing was from singer and guitarist Arsene Delay.

Delay said on Facebook that ‘a great tree has fallen indeed.’

Delay said to WGNO-TV, “We are because of him. He is responsible for so many of musicians here in New Orleans. He was a teacher to all of us.”

Of course that teaching started at home with his brood of sons that have gone on to conquer the music world as Marsalis told us a few years ago, “I wasn’t in favor of all of them playing the same instrument- that didn’t make sense to me. They played like a party for the kids at the elementary school and this kid Thedo was playing drums.

As incredible as his gifts were as a musician, he influenced generations of artists both near and far.

Clarinetist Dr. Michael White said, “He was very profound and a very dedicated and tireless teacher and he really believed in the power of music and the beauty of it.”

In addition to legacy, some of what we have left is the center bearing his name, and teaching music to young people in our city. It’s a place he fully endorsed and loved what it stood for.

Marsalis said simply, “The best way I can describe it, is I would like to see the center just keep on keepin’ on (yes indeed).”

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