Who was Terence Blanchard, and what did he contribute to music?

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Terence Blanchard is an African American composer and musician (trumpet) whose prodigious career has included composing numerous original works of jazz and scoring many films, most notably the films of director Spike Lee.  Getting his start with the highly regarded jazz orchestras of Lionel Hampton and Art Blakey, Blanchard was soon able to branch out on his own.  His prolific collaboration with Lee includes the scores for “Mo’ Better Blues,” “Malcolm X,” “Miracle at St. Anna’s,” and “Clockers,” among others.  He also wrote and performed on the score for Lee’s documentary about Hurrican Katrina and its devastation of the City of New Orleans “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” (2006), in addition to composing a jazz-themed tribute to the victims of that tragedy that he recorded in 2007 titled “A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina).” 

In addition to composing the scores for Spike Lee’s films and a number of others, including “The Tempest,” one of Blanchard’s most underappreciated compositions and performances was for the 1993 film “Sugar Hill,” about a successful drug dealer trying to retire from the business against the wishes of his partner/brother.

Blanchard is a highly respected jazz musician and has served as Artistic Director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at the University of Southern California and currently as Artistic Director of the Henry Mancini Institute at the University of Miami Frost School of Music. His enthusiasm for educating future generations of musicians and composers is less-well known than with his contemporary Wynton Marsalis, but Blanchard deserves recognition for his contributions to the world of music.

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