AIF Blog

Through the Years: Jon Batiste at Aspen Ideas

Oct 07, 2018
CATEGORY: Arts, Health, U.S.A.

Musician Jon Batiste energizes the crowd during the Afternoon of Conversation at Aspen Ideas 2014.

Jon Batiste, musical director for "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," released his latest album last month. Hollywood Africans dives deep into his own personal and cultural heritage, according to Batiste's website. Over the years, Batiste has spoken and performed at the Aspen Ideas Festival, touching on topics like music history, how youth can get jazzed about jazz, and how music heals. Below are a few highlights from Batiste's appearances on the Festival stage.


The Roots of Afro-American Music

Jon Batiste joined internationally acclaimed musician Wynton Marsalis on stage at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2015. Marsalis described how the roots of American music are derived from anglo-Celtic music. The two musicians play together “St. James Infirmary” and “Motherless Child.”


How Jazz Can Hook Millennials

To get millennials interested in jazz, Jon Batiste says “It has to be an experience.” They’re living in a time when funding for arts is being cut and the iPhone is a constant companion. Millennials may only know of jazz from hearing it in an elevator. He thinks it’s the perfect time to bring this music to young people. “It’s completely brand new to them…[even though] it’s old. You feel [music]. It’s not like you sit there and watch it.”


Creativity Emerges from Meditation and Spirituality

Batiste begins his days with prayer and meditation. He calls it calibration. “You gotta calibrate yourself for what’s ahead because a lot of things try to knock that off-balance,” he says. A sense of balance in life allows him to create, give, and love better. And, he says, it helps in times of chaos. ”Whatever comes next, it’s going to be alright.”


Music, Dance Led to Working for Stephen Colbert

At Aspen Ideas in 2014, Batiste was approached by a producer for "The Colbert Report" who invited him to appear as a guest on the show. One year later, Batiste tells Walter Isaacson about the appearance. He took the studio audience into the street for singing and dancing. Stephen Colbert took a tumble, remembers Batiste. "He was dancing in a suit and started doing a 'bug jump' and fell all the way back!" Despite the fall, Colbert later invited Batiste to be the show's bandleader.

Written by Marci Krivonen, Associate Editor/Producer, Aspen Ideas Festival