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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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Who is Terence Blanchard and what has he contributed to music?

A leading jazz artist, Terence Blanchard is a composer, arranger, bandleader, and trumpeter. His contributions to jazz, specifically, have been tremendous: He has composed scores for more films than any other jazz musician; he has been an important part of the resurgence of interest in jazz; he is wonderful innovator, having been called a "straight-ahead" artist in the hard-bop tradition--syncopation that is complex, altered and substituted chords, and advanced harmonies; also, his own unique African fusion has been another innovative contribution.

As well as composition for films, Blanchard has also composed for other directors. He has won 5 Grammys and been nominated 13 times. But, his true love is in performing before audiences, especially smaller ones, such as are found in jazz clubs. And, Blanchard has never forgotten his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana as he is working to relocate the Institute of Jazz to New Orleans from California where he has been director. Terence Blanchard says,

"I grew up in this city and learned about jazz here at Loyola with other young jazz musicians like Wynton and Branford Marsalis and I know that the Institute will have a great impact on jazz and in our communities."

Certainly, Terence Blanchard serves as a great example of how a rather ordinary musician can rise to his level of creativity and be successful.

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