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Release: Sept. 23, 2002


The Marcus Roberts Trio, in the midst of a three-week Arts Across the Curriculum Residency at the University of Iowa, will perform “New Orleans Meets Harlem” at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1 in Hancher Auditorium. Roberts’ trio includes bassist Roland Guerin and drummer Jason Marsalis.

The “New Orleans Meets Harlem” concert will feature music by Scott Joplin, Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington and James P. Johnson.

The Arts Across the Curriculum residency, Sept. 16 through Oct. 4, will include workshops and community events at schools in Iowa City, West Branch, Columbus Junction, Cedar Rapids, Kalona/Wellman and Mt. Vernon. The residency of the Marcus Roberts Trio is part of an ambitious three-year Hancher Auditorium project.

In addition to the workshops in the eastern Iowa schools, the trio will link to additional classrooms throughout the state on the Iowa Communication Network during an Oct. 1 matinee event on the Hancher stage. Roberts and his trio will present an educational event on Hancher’s Stage Door series for area school groups on Oct. 4.

At the conclusion of the residency, Roberts will also be the special guest on UI radio station KSUI’s “Know the Score” program, broadcast live from the UI Museum of Art at 5 p.m.. Friday, Oct. 4. Attendance at the live event is free, and the broadcast can be heard at 91.7 FM.

Roberts began his professional career performing with jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. As a solo artist he enjoyed the distinction of being the first jazz musician to have his first three recordings reach number one on Billboard’s traditional jazz chart. He has recorded a wealth of original solo and band material, with a continuing commitment to exploring the American solo piano tradition with his versions of classics by Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Jelly Roll Morton, James P. Johnson, Scott Joplin and others.

Influential critic Stanley Crouch wrote, “the exceptional scope of touch, and the sensibility that ranges from gorgeously contemplative to the driving industrial lyricism that so defines American momentum, make the art of Marcus Roberts both singular and indelible.”

Blind since the age of five, Roberts was first exposed to music in the local church, where his mother was a gospel singer. His parents bought a piano when he was eight, and he began nine years of formal training at age 12.

While a music major at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Roberts studied with Leonidus Lipovetsky, who, along with Van Cliburn, was a student of the noted Russian piano teacher Rosina Lhevinne. Roberts also cites such diverse pianists as Art Tatum, Vladimir Ashkenazy, James P. Johnson and Mary Lou Williams as early influences.

Aspiring to a career in jazz, Roberts won several state-wide competitions and even earned plaudits from Florida’s governor. In 1982 he won the competition at the annual convention of the National Association of Jazz Educators in Chicago, where he met pianist Ellis Marsalis, patriarch of the noted jazz dynasty. Wynton Marsalis heard Roberts play at the convention, and the trumpeter asked his father to have Roberts contact him.

Marsalis went on to have a profound influence on Roberts’ artistic development, as he took the young pianist under his wing. By 1985 their relationship had evolved to the point where Marsalis invited Roberts to take over the piano chair in his quartet vacated by Kenny Kirkland.

Roberts was surprised by the opportunity, but so was Marsalis, because by the time the pianist had joined the ensemble, he had learned its entire repertoire from tapes the trumpeter had sent him. Roberts maintained a busy touring schedule with Marsalis from 1985 to 1991 and appeared on virtually all the trumpeter's jazz recordings made during that period. He continued to garner awards, including the $10,000 first prize at the first Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 1987.

In addition, Roberts has been active on behalf of the Jazz at Lincoln Center program. One of the highlights of the summer 1993 Classical Jazz Series at Lincoln Center was the debut of Roberts' ambitious, 70-minute “Romance, Swing and the Blues,” described by the New York Post as “. . . a rich, life-filled and quite absorbing extended work.”

Roberts’ extended residency in Iowa schools is indicative of his commitment to education, and he conducts seminars and clinics throughout the United States. Roberts also has a special interest in working with the blind and has recently contributed his time to projects with the Lighthouse and the American Foundation for the Blind, two nationally recognized organizations for people with impaired vision.

“I’m interested in making this music naturally available in mainstream society,” Roberts says. “It should be heard at parties, parades, zoos, museums; it should be naturally integrated into the marrow of society. We have to get away from the elite terminology that scares the public. We have to stress the excitement and fun of this music. Jazz represents sophistication, tradition and quality. It offers everyone the possibility of being an aristocrat.”

Marcus Roberts Trio tickets are $30, $28 and $25. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, and tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price. Ticket-buyers can take advantage of volume discounts on most events in the season. A simultaneous purchase of three to five events qualifies for a 15-percent discount, and a simultaneous purchase of six or more events qualifies for a 20-percent discount.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher’s website:< >.

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail: <>.

Drs. Lisa and Amir Arbisser, Eye Surgeons Associates, PC, are the sponsors of the Marcus Roberts Trio concert, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Arts Across the Curriculum is supported by the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, the Alliant Energy Foundation and Hills Bank and Trust Company.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit <>. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>. For additional information about the Arts Across the Curriculum project, contact Emily Hansen at 319-335-0009.

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Monday, September 16 -- Hoover Elementary -- 8:25-11:30 am

Tuesday, September 17 -- West Branch Middle School -- 9:10-12:10 pm

Wednesday, September 18 -- Roundy Elementary -- 8:30-10:30 am

Thursday, September 19 -- Columbus Junction Middle School -- 8:30-11:00 am

Monday, September 23 -- McKinley Middle School -- 11:40-2:50 pm

Monday, September 23 -- Community Event-McKinley & Johnson -- 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, September 24 -- Wellman Elementary -- 12:30 pm

Wednesday, September 25 -- Mid-Prairie Middle School -- 8:45-11:45 am

Thursday, September 26 -- Johnson Elementary School -- 1:45-3:30 p.m.

Friday, September 27 -- Roosevelt Elementary -- 8:45-11:15 am

Friday, September 27 -- Community Event-Roosevelt -- 6:30 p.m.

Monday, September 30 -- Horace Mann Elementary -- 8:45-11:45 am

Monday, September 30 -- Community Event-Horace Mann -- 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, October 1 -- ICN event -- 1 p.m.; Hancher concert -- 8 p.m.

Wednesday, October 2 -- Washington Elementary -- 8:35-11:45 am

Thursday, October 3 -- Mt. Vernon Middle School -- 8:30-11:35 am

Friday, October 4 -- “Stage Door” Performance in Hancher -- 10 a.m.

Friday, October 4 -- “Know the Score Live” Radio Show -- 5-7 p.m. Museum of Art