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Terence Blanchard

Jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Oliver Blanchard was born on March 13, 1962 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Wilhelmina and Joseph Oliver Blanchard. Blanchard began playing piano at the age of five, but switched to trumpet three years later. While in high school, he took extracurricular classes at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. From 1980 to 1982, Blanchard studied at Rutgers University in New Jersey and toured with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra.

In 1982, Blanchard replaced trumpeter Wynton Marsalis in Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, where he served as musical director until 1986. He also co-led a quintet with saxophonist Donald Harrison in the 1980s, recording five albums between 1984 and 1988. In 1991, Blanchard recorded and released his self-titled debut album for Columbia Records, which reached third on the Billboard Jazz Charts. He also composed musical scores for Spike Lee’s films, beginning with 1991’s Jungle Fever, and has written the score for every Spike Lee film since including Malcolm X, Clockers, Summer of Sam, 25th Hour, Inside Man, and Miracle At St. Anna’s. In 2006, he composed the score for Lee's four-hour Hurricane Katrina documentary for HBO entitled When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. Blanchard also composed for other directors, including Leon Ichaso, Ron Shelton, Kasi Lemmons and George Lucas. In all, he has written over fifty film scores.

Blanchard has also recorded several award-winning albums for Columbia, Concord, Sony Classical and Blue Note Records, including Simply Stated (1992), The Malcolm X Jazz Suite (1993), In My Solitude: The Billie Holiday Songbook (1994), Romantic Defiance (1995), The Heart Speaks (1996), Wandering Moon (2000), Let's Get Lost (2001), Bounce (2003), Flow (2005), A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina) (2007), Choices (2009), and Magnetic (2013).

In the fall of 2000, Blanchard was named artistic director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at the University of Southern California. In 2011, he was appointed artistic director of the Henry Mancini Institute at the University of Miami. Blanchard also composed music for a number of Broadway plays, and, on June 15, 2013, he premiered his first opera, Champion, with the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Throughout his career, Blanchard received thirteen Grammy Award nominations and won five. His other honors include an Emmy nomination, a Golden Globe nomination, a Soul Train Music nomination, two Black Reel nominations, and the Miles Davis Award from the Montreal International Jazz Festival. He received honorary degrees from Xavier University and Skidmore College in 2012.

Terence Blanchard was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 8, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.248

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/8/2014

Last Name

Blanchard

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Oliver

Schools

Mary D. Coghill Elementary School

P. A. Capdau School

St. Augustine High School

John F. Kennedy High School

New Orleans Center for Creative Arts

Rutgers University

First Name

Terence

Birth City, State, Country

New Orleans

HM ID

BLA17

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

New Orleans, Louisiana

Favorite Quote

When You’re Creating Your Art Never Speak Above Nobody, Never Speak Beneath Them, Just Speak Straight To Them.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Louisiana

Birth Date

3/13/1962

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New Orleans

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Okra Gumbo

Short Description

Trumpet player and music composer Terence Blanchard (1962 - ) was a five-time Grammy Award-winning musician and a prolific film score composer. He released twenty jazz albums and wrote over fifty film scores for Spike Lee and other directors.

Employment

Henry Mancini Institute

Terence Blanchard

Herbie Hancock

Thelonious Monk Institute

Donald Harrison & Terence Blanchard

Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers

Lionel Hampton

Favorite Color

Blue

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Terence Blanchard's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Terence Blanchard lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Terence Blanchard describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Terence Blanchard remembers his father's musical talent

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Terence Blanchard describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Terence Blanchard talks about his French heritage

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Terence Blanchard describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Terence Blanchard describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Terence Blanchard describes his childhood homes

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Terence Blanchard remembers living with his maternal grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Terence Blanchard talks about his early interests and aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Terence Blanchard describes his relationship with his father

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Terence Blanchard talks about his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Terence Blanchard recalls his decision to attend the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Terence Blanchard describes his education at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Terence Blanchard recalls his friendship with Wynton Marsalis and Branford Marsalis

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Terence Blanchard recalls his decision to play the trumpet

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Terence Blanchard remembers meeting Alvin Alcorn

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Terence Blanchard recalls his decision to study music formally

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Terence Blanchard recalls his aspiration to become a musician

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Terence Blanchard recalls his early interest in jazz music

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Terence Blanchard recalls his decision to attend Rutgers University

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Terence Blanchard remembers the jazz venues in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Terence Blanchard remembers his teacher, Ellis Marsalis, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Terence Blanchard remembers William Fielder

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Terence Blanchard talks about the importance of breath for musicians, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Terence Blanchard talks about the importance of breath for musicians, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Terence Blanchard recalls his introduction to Buddhism

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Terence Blanchard remembers playing in Lionel Hampton's band

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Terence Blanchard remembers leaving Rutgers University to tour with Art Blakey

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Terence Blanchard remembers touring with Art Blakey

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Terence Blanchard remembers Miles Davis

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Terence Blanchard recalls signing a contract with Columbia Records

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Terence Blanchard describes his composition and recording process

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Terence Blanchard talks about the messages in his music

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Terence Blanchard remembers the birth of his son

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Terence Blanchard remembers meeting his half-sister

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Terence Blanchard recalls the start of his collaborations with Spike Lee

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Terence Blanchard remembers scoring 'Malcolm X'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Terence Blanchard describes his composition process for 'Malcolm X'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Terence Blanchard remembers the other contributors to 'Malcolm X'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Terence Blanchard describes his relationship with Spike Lee

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Terence Blanchard lists his film scores

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Terence Blanchard remembers scoring '4 Little Girls'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Terence Blanchard remembers Hurricane Katrina

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Terence Blanchard remembers the destruction of his mother's home in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Terence Blanchard remembers the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Terence Blanchard talks about the response to Hurricane Katrina

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Terence Blanchard remembers scoring Spike Lee's 'When the Levees Broke'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Terence Blanchard talks about teaching young musicians

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$2

DAStory

1$5

DATitle
Terence Blanchard remembers leaving Rutgers University to tour with Art Blakey
Terence Blanchard describes his education at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts
Transcript
So when did you graduate college?$$I never graduated college.$$Oh, okay.$$No.$$So what's--tell me more about Rutgers [Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey]?$$(Laughter).$$And what, how do we go from, where do we go from Lionel Hampton--$$Yeah.$$--Rutgers (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) (Unclear) right.$$--and--$$Well, I was at Rutgers in 1980 and I was playing with Lionel Hampton. I was the first one in my immediate family--my aunt [Alice Ray Douglas] went to college but my mom [Wilhelmina Ray Blanchard] and my dad [Joseph Blanchard] didn't so I was the first one to go to college. And they were--and I went to an Ivy League school [sic.]? Please, you know, they wanted me to be a classical musician remember so I'm going, I'm going to Rutgers, "My son is at Rutgers," you know, that was a big thing. Had to come back with all the paraphernalia for everybody. And I was playing with Lionel Hampton who they also knew. And that was like--he was--I remember Ebony magazine took a picture of Lionel Hampton at some place and I was a speck in the corner of the picture, I think, I bet you Ebony sales went up that month 'cause everybody was buy- in my family was buying the magazine. So they were cool with me doing that. That was about a year and a half. All of a sudden Wynton [Wynton Marsalis] calls me up and he goes, "Hey, man, I'm leaving Art Blakey's band and I want you to audition." I'm like, "Cool." I go up and audition, didn't tell my parents, I got the gig. And I'm like oh, killing. They say we're gone leave for Europe for ten weeks and I went, "Uh-oh." So I had to call my parents and I had to tell 'em, I said, like, "Guess what? I got this gig playing with Art Blakey." "Oh, well, that's nice, that's nice." And I said, "But I think I'm gone have to leave school." (Makes sound) It was like the piano thing but even worse (laughter). Yeah. My father told me, he said--I'll never forget it--he said, "You're not my son." Yeah, that hurt me. He said, "You're not my son," he said "'cause my son wouldn't do nothing that stupid." 'Cause he didn't know who Art Blakey was, you know. And it didn't make sense to him, I was playing with Lionel Hampton on the weekends, making money and still in school and I'm gonna leave that to go play with some dude they don't know? You know, oh, man, it was, it was really, it was--it was amazing. But the thing that was cool about it, you know, me and my dad had a great relationship because at that moment he didn't talk to me for a little bit but I'll never forget when I made my first record with Art Blakey, right? Art--they called the album, they used my song as the title track, 'Oh-By the Way,' which is something that I had written when I was in high school, right. I come back with the album and I give it to my dad, like, "Man, see this is what I've been doing, this is, I'm, I'm telling you, this is the guy," then they got a picture of us on the back, you know. Like, "This, this is what I've been doing." My dad was kind of like, "Yeah, all right, whatever." But you gotta remember my dad had some jazz friends, right. So (laughter) I don't know if it was like a month, or a little while later, I get a phone call from my dad, I'm back up here in New York [New York] and my dad goes, "Hey, I was talking to Clem." Clem Tervalon [Clement Tervalon] was a trombone player in New Orleans [Louisiana], great trombone player. He said, "Yeah, I was talking to Clem and Clem told me this Art Blakey is somebody," (laughter). I said, I said, "Well, I was trying to tell you that," (laughter) you know. And that's when things started to turn around for, for me and him. And I'll never forget it--boy, I don't know what, how we got in this conversation. My dad was talking to me one day and he goes, "I'm proud of you." And I'm like, "Well, thank you," and, and he goes, "No, you don't understand." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "If you would have listened to me," he said, 'cause he wanted me, he didn't want me to go away to school--he said, "if you would have listened to me you would have been in New Orleans, probably not doing what you wanna do, and you'd probably be bitter." He said, "And I'm proud of what you turned into." That was huge, that was really huge.$So I went to Kennedy [John F. Kennedy High School, New Orleans, Louisiana] in the morning and then at lunch time a bus would pick us up and bring us to NOCCA [New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, New Orleans, Louisiana] and my life changed overnight.$$How so?$$It was the first time in my life--and I'm not ashamed to say this--it was the first time in my life I wanted to go to school every day. I'll never forget, it hit me, you know, really hard because I was sick, I had like a flu and I was getting out of bed to get dressed and my mom [Wilhelmina Ray Blanchard] was like, "Boy, where are you going?" I'm like, "Ma, I gotta go to school," 'cause I know we were gonna be learning, I was learning something every day, you know, about music and I loved it, man, I, I loved it. I, I, I can't tell you how much, Dr. Bert Braud was my theory and analysis and composition instructor and he would challenge us, you know, to no end. And he would do things like, hey, man, you know, he knew I wanted to be a writer and he said, "Well, listen, man, you may be called upon in a session, you may have to write this horn line for five horns, all right, you got five minutes," (snaps fingers), "go do it." You know, and he would do things like that. And then he'd say, "Oh, listen, you may be in a session one place where you have to write out something so look I'm gonna give you thirty minutes to write out a whole tune, just give me the lead sheet." I'm like, "Thirty minutes?" He said, "Go" (snaps fingers). You know, and then we would, we would do things like serious analysis, you know, we'd sit down and break down, Liszt [Franz Liszt] 'Piano Concerto No. 2.' You know, and we'd sit down and have to go through the whole thing and break it down, what's the first theme, second theme, transitional phrases, and all of that stuff, what is this, what is the correct form of the piece, whether it's sonata-allegro form, all of those things. And I was doing that when I was fifteen, sixteen years old, you know. So I was like in a whirlwind. And the other thing I felt like was--see I only went to NOCCA for my junior and my senior year and most kids were going from sophomore so I felt like I was behind, so that's another reason why I didn't wanna miss 'cause I saw what it was doing for me, you know. And I'm, I'm always talking about NOCCA because they didn't sugarcoat things. They used to tell us. Well, the- they told us at orientation, they said, "Look around." They said, "After the first half of the year, half of y'all are not gonna be here." 'Cause they put you out if you didn't have, if your grades weren't up, you couldn't go. And they were right. My theory class had, when I first got there maybe it was, it was still relatively small, maybe it was about twenty, twenty-five people, at the end of that Christmas break, come back, it was only about ten or twelve of us.$$Wow.$$Yeah, no, they were no joke.