New UCF jazz professor honors late father’s love of music

Jason Marsalis grew up in a musical family, wants to pass that down to students

ORLANDO, Fla. – From jingles to Grammys, one of the biggest families in jazz is taking their talents from the recording studio to the Central Florida classroom.

Jason Marsalis has a love for music. He’s part of a legendary family of musicians who is hoping to make his late father proud as he starts as a jazz drum set visiting instructor at the University of Central Florida this fall.

He told News 6 his late father, Ellis Masalis, a pianist and educator, taught him so much.

“I talked with him a lot, not only music, but how it relates to life and people,” Jason Marsalis said. “I’d like to take from his example. He would deal with teaching students whatever it is they (needed) to learn. It wasn’t even about music but just whatever they needed to learn to make their life better.”

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Several of his siblings also have a passion for music and ear for harmony, including his older brother, Wynton Marsalis, a jazz legend known by many for his trumpet recording for the opening of the CBS morning show.

“Sound can be used to heal, to inspire, give joy,” Jason Marsalis said. “Music can have a positive impact on people so I want the students to know all about it.”

Professor Jeff Rupert is a jazz saxophonist and oversees the jazz studies program at UCF. He said not only will his students get to learn from him, they’ll also get the chance to perform with him.

“The students play (instruments) with the faculty to get graded,” Rupert said. “Imagine you’re in chemistry and you say, ‘You’ll get to do a chemistry experiment with the professor to get your grade.’ Well, that’s who we roll here at UCF.”

Jason Marsalis said he’s done some teaching and workshops in the past at different places, including Florida State University.

Rupert told News 6 he’s also happy that Marsalis knows quite a lot about early jazz and New Orleans music and feels he’ll be great asset to UCF.

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About the Author:

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.