Skip to main content

Renowned musicians mentor Cornell and high school students, thanks to two alumni

Media Contact

Joe Schwartz

When world-class musicians Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra came to campus to perform in Bailey Hall Sept. 30, they didn't just play music -- they raised more than $30,000 that will be donated to mental health initiatives at Cornell. Four of the musicians also mentored Cornell and Ithaca High School musicians, thanks to the generosity of Cornell Presidential Councillors Robert Appel '53 and Helen Appel '55.

On Sept. 30, two musicians from the orchestra critiqued Cornell musicians in Appel Commons, and two musicians gave feedback to students performing for them at Ithaca High. The next day, after their evening Cornell concert, Marsalis and the full orchestra performed for at Ithaca High School's Kulp Auditorium.

The 22-year-old Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra comprises 15 jazz soloists and ensemble players. The group produces a year-round schedule of performance, education and broadcast events for audiences of all ages. Bob Appel is a member of the orchestra's board and was instrumental in securing the group's visit to Cornell.

Marsalis is the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. He entered the Juilliard School at age 17 and joined Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Marsalis made his recording debut in 1982, and has since recorded more than 70 jazz and classical albums that have garnered him nine Grammy Awards. In 1983 he became the only artist to win classical and jazz Grammys in the same year, and Marsalis repeated this feat in 1984.

Long active at Cornell, the Appels made a lead gift to the Residential Initiative, which was recognized with the naming Appel Commons on North Campus. Their other gifts to Cornell's Ithaca campus include the student Robinson-Appel Humanitarian Awards; Appel Fellowships for Humanists and Social Scientists in Arts and Sciences to honor promising young faculty members; and numerous scholarships that bear their name. The couple also created the Appel Jazz Combo in the Department of Music and supported the university's Lincoln Hall Renaissance campaign.