Marcus Roberts grew up in Jacksonville, Florida where his mother's gospel singing and the music of the local church left a lasting impact on his own musical style. After losing his sight at age five, he began teaching himself to play piano a few years later. He had his first formal lessons at age twelve and ultimately went on to study classical piano at Florida State University with Leonidus Lipovetsky. While at FSU, Roberts won the first of many competitions and awards, the young artist's competition at the 1982 National Association of Jazz Educators annual conference. His many other awards include first prize at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 1987, a National Academy of Achievement award in 1995 and the Helen Keller Award for Personal Achievement in 1998.
At age 21, Roberts began touring with Wynton Marsalis and stayed with the group for over six years. He signed his first recording contract with BMG/Novus in 1988 and completed six recordings for them before signing with Columbia Records early in 1994. All of his recordings have been critically acclaimed, and several have reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard's traditional jazz chart. Roberts’ recording legacy reflects his tremendous versatility as an artist and includes solo piano, duets, and trio arrangements of jazz standards, original suites of music, large ensemble works, and symphony orchestra recordings.
New York Beat
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Glowing is the proper response to Roberts' music
—Josef Woodard, The Independent
Mr. Roberts... plays almost completely free of cliches, and while the intellectual construct within which he works is old - the application of the modern on a foundation of tradition—his ability in all his idioms seemed startlingly thorough.
—Peter Watrous, New York Times
That the huge crowd at Orchestra Hall on Friday night responded...with an instantaneous standing ovation said a great deal about Roberts' ability to keep an audience in his spell.
—Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune
The sheer power and beauty of Roberts' creations...warrant further investigation.
—Larry Blumenfeld, Jazziz
[Roberts'] writing is often brilliant in its juxtaposition of distant musical eras, ...its believable evocation of mood, ...and the way solos are made to emerge organically from the ensembles.
—Thomas Conrad, Downbeat
Although classically trained, Roberts is primarily a jazz pianist and composer
Willing to teach
On the faculty at Florida State University School of Music
Does clinics and workshops in a wide range of settings. Is Director of Educational programs for Savannah Music Festival