Ellis Marsalis, a jazz pianist, the patriarch of jazz’s royal family, and a former professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and the University of New Orleans, died on April 1 from complications of the COVID-19 virus. He was 85 years old.
Marsalis graduated from Dillard University in New Orleans with a bachelor’s degree in music education. He then taught at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, a public arts high school. He served as Commonwealth Professor of Music at Virginia Commonwealth from 1986 to 1989. He would spend two of those three years as coordinator of jazz studies before returning to his hometown of New Orleans to become the first Coca-Cola Endowed Chair of Jazz Studies at the University of New Orleans.
Professor Marsalis recorded 15 solo albums and collaborated with his sons Wynton and Branford on many others. He was a member of the International Association for Jazz Education Curriculum Committee that collaboratied on a book entitled Teaching Jazz: A Course of Study (R&L Education, 1996).