Wayne Shorter 1933-2023

Wayne Shorter was a member of the Institute family for over 30 years, serving as a member of the Board of Trustees, Competition Judge, and teacher and mentor to our college students and other young artists in our programs. Wayne participated each year in International Jazz Day and was deeply committed to its mission of uniting people around the world through the power of jazz.  He was a giant in the music and we are forever grateful for his friendship and the generous sharing of his vast knowledge and wisdom with all of us. 

Visionary composer, saxophonist, visual artist, devout Buddhist, devoted husband, father and grandfather Wayne Shorter has embarked on a new journey as part of his extraordinary life – departing the earth as we know it in search of an abundance of new challenges and creative possibilities.  Always inquisitive and constantly exploring – ever the fearless and passionate innovator – Shorter was 89 years young and had just won his 13th Grammy Award in February.  A gentle spirit, sci-fi and cartoon enthusiast, his long realized Opera “…Iphigenia,” that he created with collaborator esperanza spalding (and featuring sets by Frank Gehry) played to widespread critical acclaim across the country in 2021.  Shorter was surrounded by his loving family at the time of his transition and is survived by his devoted wife Carolina, daughters Miyako and Mariana, and newly-born grandson, Max.  Most recently Wayne had been contemplating his next project, a Jazz ballet.   

“Generally acknowledged to be jazz’s greatest living composer” (The New York Times), Wayne Shorter has left an indelible mark on the development of music for the last half-century. He first rose to prominence in the late 1950s as the primary composer for Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Shorter next joined the Miles Davis Quintet, becoming what that bandleader referred to as the ensemble’s “intellectual musical catalyst” before co-founding the pioneering group Weather Report. Since 2001, he has led his own highly acclaimed quartet.

Said Herbie Hancock, Shorter’s closest friend for more than six decades, “Wayne Shorter, my best friend, left us with courage in his heart, love and compassion for all, and a seeking spirit for the eternal future. He was ready for his rebirth. As it is with every human being, he is irreplaceable and was able to reach the pinnacle of excellence as a saxophonist, composer, orchestrator, and recently, composer of the masterful opera ‘…Iphigenia’. I miss being around him and his special Wayne-isms but I carry his spirit within my heart always.” 

Shorter’s works have been performed by the Chicago Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Lyon Symphony, National Polish Radio Symphonic Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Prague Philharmonic, and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Acclaimed artists and ensembles including Renée Fleming and the Imani Winds have also performed his works. He has received commissions from the National, St. Louis, and Nashville symphony orchestras, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the La Jolla Music Society. In all, Shorter has realized over 200 compositions, and dozens of these works have become modern standards.  His many accolades include 13 Grammy Awards and a 2018 Kennedy Center Honor.