Wynton Marsalis stands with his trumpet.
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The Spark with Tift Merritt: Wynton Marsalis and Carlos Henriquez

Virtual Event
November 19, 2020
7:30 PM

Registration for this event closes at 12 PM EDT on November 19, 2020.

Join us for the third episode of The Spark with Tift Merritt, featuring Wynton Marsalis and Carlos Henriquez. In this livestreamed series, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter and UNC alumna Tift Merritt returns to Carolina Performing Arts to take us behind the scenes in artist-to-artist video interviews that delve deep into the creative process.

On November 19, Tift will sit down with Wynton Marsalis, internationally acclaimed musician, composer, and managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Carlos Henriquez, bassist for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) and lecturer at the Northwestern University School of Music.

Marsalis and the JLCO are no strangers to Chapel Hill. In the 06/07 season—CPA’s second season ever—they began a long tradition of performing on our stage. In this interview, Merritt will take us “backstage” with Marsalis and Henriquez for a candid conversation about their work, their lives, and turning points in their work as artists, with Jazz at Lincoln Center and beyond.

How do you light a spark? How do you make something true? How does art happen? What is mumbled on the way in the studio and how can we hear it? 

Welcome to The Spark.

Tift Merritt

Marsalis’s transformational work at Jazz at Lincoln Center began in 1987, when he co-founded a jazz program at Lincoln Center, which grew into  the acclaimed institution that today serves as an international destination for jazz and education. Henriquez’s history with JLCO is nearly as long: during his time as a student in the LaGuardia High School of Music & Arts and Performing Arts’ Concert Jazz Ensemble, they won first place in the 1996 Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival. Just two years later, Henriquez joined the Wynton Marsalis Septet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

The Spark with Tift Merritt logo

Based on the series Merritt produced for the acclaimed Marfa, Texas Public Radio, The Spark peels back the polished performance to reveal the elbow grease, risk, fire, and courage behind the art—and artists—we think we know. Each month, Tift will welcome a new artist for a 45-minute livestreamed conversation that gets to the heart of their work, followed by a 15-minute audience Q&A. 

Free and open to the public; registration required. Registration for this event closes at 12 PM EDT on November 19, 2020. If you have questions or concerns related to accessibility, please contact us.

Musician Wynton Marsalis plays the trumpet in front of a colorful mural.

About Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis’s core beliefs are based on the principals of jazz: promoting individual creativity (improvisation); collective cooperation (swing); gratitude and good manners (sophistication); and facing adversity with persistent optimism (the blues). 

Marsalis has performed with jazz legends including Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, John Lewis, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, and countless others. He is a prolific composer, creating music across genres, with pieces including:  “Blood on the Fields,” “All Rise,” and “Concerto in D,” written for Nicola Benedetti and debuted by the London Symphony Orchestra.  


A nine-time Grammy Award-winner, National Medal of the Arts recipient, and the first-ever jazz musician to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize, Marsalis still speaks of his music as one piece of jazz’s storied history: “Duke Ellington laid the groundwork for us… It’s important for all the musicians that come after to realize it’s a continuum. It doesn’t live and die with anyone personally.”

About Carlos Henriquez

Carlos Henriquez was born in 1979 in the Bronx, New York. He studied music at a young age, played guitar through junior high school and took up the bass while enrolled in The Juilliard School’s Music Advancement Program. Since then, he has performed with artists including Chucho Valdes, the Marsalis Family, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Lenny Kravitz, and many others.


Henriquez joined the Wynton Marsalis Septet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in 1998, and has toured the world and been featured on more than 25 albums.

In 2015, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Blue Engine Records released The Bronx Pyramid, Henriquez’s first album as a leader. He has been a member of the music faculty at Northwestern University School of Music since 2008, and was music director of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s cultural exchange with the Cuban Institute of Music with Chucho Valdes in 2010.

Artist Tift Merritt looks to the side with a slight smile.

About Tift Merritt

Called “a diamond in a coal mine” by Emmylou Harris, Tift Merritt has been compared to Joni Mitchell and James Taylor in a proud tradition that reaches back to Dusty Springfield and Bobbie Gentry. A Raleigh native, Merritt played local haunts like Cats Cradle and The Cave before her debut album Bramble Rose soared to the Times and New Yorker top ten lists.


Since then, Merritt has toured world-wide, opening for Joan Baez and appearing on Austin City Limits, the Grand Ole Opry, and NPR. She returned home to make her Carolina Performing Arts debut in the 17/18 season with a sold-out performance. She began hosting The Spark in over a decade ago for Marfa Texas Public Radio, where it garnered instant acclaim from artists and audiences alike.


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