NEW YORK — Terri Lyne Carrington is just 11 years old and hanging backstage at a concert hall with her friend “Ella” — that’s Ella Fitzgerald to us mere mortals — and the jazz legend wants to introduce her to jazz virtuoso Oscar Peterson, who had just finished performing.

“Ella Fitzgerald says, ‘You need to hear her,’” Carrington, now 55, recalls. “She was just somebody who would encourage me and hang out with me. She was shy, and I was disarming because I was a kid. She took a liking to me.”

So Peterson invites the young drummer to perform alongside him before the audience escapes. They jam onstage, impressing the crowd. One attendee — the then-President of Berklee College of Music — was so wowed he offered Carrington a scholarship to the exceptional music school.

“It was really because Oscar let me play but (also) because Ella introduced me to him and told him, basically, he should hear me,” she said.

Anointed by jazz legends, literally, Carrington was destined for greatness. Four decades later, she’s proven she is not only great, but groundbreaking.

She’s earning the highest honor bestowed on jazz artists, the prestigious NEA Jazz Masters Award. The three-time Grammy winner is nominated for best instrumental jazz album – an award she won in 2014 and is the only
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