1963 Born in Jacksonville, Florida on August 7.
1968 Loses eyesight & has unsuccessful eye surgery. First tries to play piano at local church
1969 Attends Fishweir Elementary where he starts to learn literary Braille.
1971 Parents purchased his first piano, a Henry F. Miller upright.
1972 Plays piano at Silas Missionary Baptist Church under his mother’s direction.
1973 Attends Florida School for the Deaf & Blind in St. Augustine, FL (where he studies for 8 years).
1975 First formal classical piano & music theory instruction. Starts studying alto and tenor saxophones. Learns all three types of Braille music notation: bar over bar, bar by bar, and paragraph style.
1976 First hears jazz (Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Mary Lou Williams, and Earl Hines) on Stereo 90’s “Swingtime” program in Jacksonville.
1978 Has a second unsuccessful eye surgery, removing cataract from left eye.
1981 Plays in “All-State Jazz Band” in Daytona Beach, FL. Wins his first jazz piano competition and meets judge, Marian McPartland, for the first time. Travels to Europe as part of “Jazz Abroad” and hears Wynton Marsalis play for first time. Enters Florida State University in fall & begins studying classical piano with Leonidus Lipovetsky.
1982 Wins “Young Artist’s Award”, National Association of Jazz Educators
1983 Wins first “Great American Jazz Piano Competition”, Jacksonville Jazz Festival
1985 Joins Wynton Marsalis Quartet & records his first professional CD, J Mood, with Wynton Marsalis.
1986 Plays at Super Bowl. Records Standard Time, Vol. 1 and Live at Blues Alley with Wynton Marsalis.
1987 Plays on “Saturday Night Live”. Records Standard Time, Vol. 2 and Thick in the South with Wynton Marsalis. Wins first prize at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition
1988 Signs with BMG/Novus & records first album in his own name: The Truth is Spoken Here
1989 Composes and records his second album Deep in the Shed. Also records The Majesty of the Blues and Levy Low Moan with Wynton Marsalis Sextet.
1990 Leaves Wynton Marsalis Septet to lead his own band.
1991 Receives critical acclaim for his solo recording, Alone with Three Giants.
1992 First performance with symphony orchestra—James P. Johnson’s “Yamekraw”, Marin Alsop conducting the Concordia Orchestra at Avery fisher Hall. Tours extensively with Ellis Marsalis playing duo piano.
1993 Premieres original suite, “Romance, Swing, and the Blues”, at Alice Tulley Hall (nonet), featuring Nicholas Peyton and future members of LCJO, Walter Blanding, Victor Goines, Ronald Westray, and Marcus Printup. Plays for Bill and Hilary Clinton at White House. Bought his first computer (despite very limited accessibility for blind users).
1994 Serves as Musical Director, leading a 30-city tour with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Signs with Columbia Records and Sony Classical. Releases Gershwin for Lovers, his first trio recording (with Herlin Riley & Reginal Veal) for Columbia. Selects Jason Marsalis as drummer for the new Marcus Roberts Trio. Works with sound engineer, Les Stephenson, for the first time—Les will become a fixture in all future recordings.
1995 Selects Roland Guerin as bassist to complete the new Marcus Roberts Trio. Serves as Musical Director for a nationwide tour celebrating Louis Armstrong’s music with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Records Portraits in Blue, featuring new approach to integrating jazz and classical music. Recording includes new Marcus Roberts Trio members plus several young musicians Roberts has mentored, including Ted Nash, Walter Blanding, Victor Goines, Ron Westray, Marcus Printup, and Scotty Barnhart. Roberts receives “National Academy of Achievement Award”. Composes first music on computer using Voyetra and Cakewalk, version 2. Purchases first speech interface (JAWS- Job Access with Speech) for blind computer users.
1996 Releases Portraits in Blue and Time and Circumstance. Performs “Rhapsody in Blue” with Maestro Seiji Ozawa for first time at Tanglewood. Does a 17-city tour with jazz band and orchestra performing “Rhapsody in Blue”. Plays at a fundraiser for Bill Clinton at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.
1997 Releases his big band recording, Blues for the New Millennium, exploring use of blues in non-traditional ways. Performs for Penumbra Theatre’s Gala 20th Birthday Celebration with August Wilson. Does a gala benefit concert for Young Audiences in New York. Performs at gala benefit for Tanglewood Summer Music School. Plays at Saito Kinen Festival with Seiji Ozawa for the first time. Purchases first Braille notetaker (a small portable Braille pda) after being introduced to it by a blind violinist in Japan.
1998 Records Cole after Midnight (trio) and releases The Joy of Joplin (solo piano) on Sony Classical. Receives “Helen Keller Personal Achievement Award” from the American Federation for the Blind.
1999 Releases In Honor of Duke (Columbia), an original suite of trio music dedicated to Duke Ellington for the Ellington centennial year.
2000 Performs and records a six-part educational television series, The Musical Encyclopedia, with Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Charles Dutoit conducting
2001 Solo piano recital at Avery Fisher Hall in NYC. Serves as Musical Director for Louis Armstrong Centennial Celebration at Versailles. Commissioned by Chamber Music America (sponsored by Doris Duke Foundation) to compose “From Rags to Rhythm”, which is premiered that year at Zellerbach Auditorium in Philadelphia. Columbia Records releases Cole After Midnight.
2002 Serves as Artist-in-Residence for 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Performs at Tanglewood Gala, “Farewell to Seiji” (Final concert with Seiji Ozawa & Boston Symphony Orchestra).
2003 Premiers his ground-breaking arrangement of George Gershwin’s “Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra”, New Japan Philharmonic, Seiji Ozawa conducting. European premiere with the Berlin Philharmonic (Ozawa conducting). DVD recording of A Gershwin Night with Berlin Philharmonic.
2003 Inducted into Jacksonville Jazz Hall of Fame. Named a Housewright Scholar in School of Music at Florida State University. Performs for Robert Redford at his private Christmas Sundance Cantata.
2004 Joins faculty of the School of Music at FSU (Asst Professor of Music). Completes six-city tour of South Korea as a part of Eagon Concert Series.
2005 Awarded an ASCAP Commissioning Award for “The Sound of the Band”, which premiers at Rose Theater in NYC. Records “Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra” for Decca Records with Saito Kinen Festival Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa conducting. Performs with Maestro Ozawa for his 70th birthday concert in Matsumoto, Japan. Does benefit concert for Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra. Performs at Sundance Film Festival.
2007 Debut performance at London Proms, performing “Rhapsody in Blue” with Glasgow Symphony Orchestra, Robert Spano conducting. Features Wynton Marsalis with his trio on a recording Tallahassee, FL.
2008 Named Associate Artistic Director of Jazz Education, Savannah Music Festival. Begins directing “Swing Central” at SMF, a nationwide high school jazz band competition and education program. Plays at grand opening of Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Encore Park, Alpharetta, GA, with Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
2009 Joined by vocalist Dianne Reeves for a special “Seven Days of Opening Nights” concert at Leigh Hall, FAMU, Tallahassee, FL. Starts record label, J-Master Records & puts out first recording, New Orleans Meets Harlem, Volume 1. Composes new septet arrangement of “Deep in the Shed: A Blues Suite” which premiers at Orchestra Hall, Chicago Symphony Center. Bassist Rodney Jordan, joins Marcus Roberts Trio & performs with them for first time at prestigious Wigmore Hall in London at London Jazz Festival.
2010 Live recording of Deep in the Shed: A Blues Suite (nonet) at Seven Days of Opening Nights festival in Tallahassee. Joins world-renowned Spanish guitarist, Paco de Lucia, at Vitoria Jazz Festival and later in the year does a recording with the U.S. Army Field Band with his trio.
2011 Is joined by Bela Fleck at Savannah Music Festival, planting the seeds for a collaborative recording. Performs with his trio with Count Basie Orchestra at Orchestra Hall, Chicago Symphony Center. Unveils new arrangements of music of Earl Hines and Bud Powell music in special concert at Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York. Records and releases new holiday album, Celebrating Christmas, on J-Master Records. This marks the first recording for which Roberts did the multitrack editing (using Sonar with special scripts created by David Pinto and produced and marketed for blind users by Bill McCann through his company, Dancing Dots).
2012 Releases Across the Imaginary Divide (Marcus Roberts Trio with Bela Fleck). Tours extensively with Marcus Roberts Trio and Bela Fleck. Premiers new Jelly Roll Morton arrangements with big band at Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center. Premiers “Romance, Swing, and the Blues” at Rose Theater. Releases Deep in the Shed: A Blues Suite. Performs with Chick Corea at Blue Note for Chick’s 70th birthday celebration. Curates four-concert series, King’s Place, London Jazz Festival
2013 Performs “Rhapsody in Blue” shows with Peter Nero and Philly Pops. World premiere of Roberts’ piano concerto–“Spirit of the Blues: Piano Concerto in C Minor” (Atlanta Symphony, Robert Spano, conducting). Presents concert of all-new arrangements of Ahmad Jamal repertoire in NY. Is featured soloist (performing Canadiana Suite) for Oscar Peterson gala at York University, Toronto. Completes successful Kickstarter campaign to support new band recording (Modern Jazz Generation, recording Romance, Swing and the Blues. Releases three new CDs: From Rags to Rhythm (trio), and two with Wynton Marsalis–Together Again: In the Studio and Together Again: Live in Concert.
2014 Featured on 60 Minutes documentary—“The Virtuoso”. Presents the music of Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, Chick Corea, and Jelly Roll Morton with the Modern Jazz Generation. Directs Catskill Jazz Factory summer residency program. Releases Romance, Swing, and the Blues on J-Master Records. Performs at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s annual benefit gala. Does a week-long residency program at the Flynn Center / University of Vermont with The Modern Jazz Generation.