Sullivan Fortner Jr. is a native of New Orleans. He began playing the piano at the age of 7. By age 9, he was playing for various church choirs around New Orleans. The local Cox Cable Company recognized Fortner as one of the recipients of the Amazing Kids award at age 11. He was accepted into the prestigious New Orleans Center for Creative Arts at age 13 and graduated in 2003. While there, he received scholarships to the Skidmore Jazz Studies Summer Camp and the Vail Jazz Institute. In 2004, he was his class valedictorian.
He received a jazz studies performance degree at the conservatory, where he was a student of Daniel Wall. He also studied classical music with Sanford Margolis. Fortner has performed in many jazz venues in the Cleveland, Detroit, and New York areas, and has received numerous awards including the Pi Kappa Lambda Award for Outstanding Musicianship and the Louis Sudler Prize in the Arts.
He has been privileged to study, perform, and record with Wynton Marsalis, Slide Hampton, Jimmy Heath, Theodore Croker '07, Bill Lee, Marcus Belgrave, Ellis Marsalis, Peter Martin, Victor Goines, Albert “Tootie” Heath, and Benny Powell. Since moving to New York, he has performed with the Roy Hargrove Quintet, and Stefon Harris and Blackout. He is currently pursuing a master's degree at the Manhattan School of Music studying with pianist Jason Moran.