Wayne Shorter was born in Newark on Aug. 25, 1933. At the age of 12, he won a citywide art contest, which led to his attending Newark Arts High School, the first public high school in the country specializing in the visual and performing arts. His teachers helped him cultivate his interest in music theory and composition. At the same time, he became fascinated with bebop and the works of Charlie Parker and Bud Powell. Shorter switched from clarinet to the tenor saxophone. He joined a local bebop group led by a singer named Jackie Bland.
He acquired the nickname, the Newark Flash, around the jazz scene of the 1950s, while earning a degree in music education at New York University. After serving two years in the Army, he re-entered the scene, making a strong impression as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.