Five-time Grammy-winning trumpeter/composer Terence Blanchard was honored as an SCL Ambassador at the annual New York Holiday Party on December 11, 2018. In attendance was his long-time collaborator, director Spike Lee.
Terence Blanchard began playing piano at age 5, and later trumpet beginning in summer camps alongside his childhood friend Wynton Marsalis. While studying jazz at Rutgers University, Blanchard was invited to play with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra in 1982 before Marsalis recommended him as his replacement in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Following a string of collaborative recordings, he released his first self-titled solo album on Columbia Records in 1991, leading to a string of acclaimed conceptual works and over forty film scores. He has also performed trumpet on over fifty motion picture scores.
Over his lengthy film composing career, Blanchard has had notable collaborations with directors Spike Lee (When the Levees Broke, Inside Man, Malcolm X, 25th Hour, BlackKklansman), Kasi Lemons (Talk to Me, Eve’s Bayou), Mike Binder (Black or White), George Lucas (Red Tails) and Tim Story (Barbershop).
Regarding his consistent attachment to artistic works of conscience, Blanchard confesses, “You get to a certain age when you ask, ‘Who’s going to stand up and speak out for us?’ Then you look around and realize that the James Baldwins, Muhammad Alis and Dr. Kings are no longer here…and begin to understand that it falls on you. I’m not trying to say I’m here to try to correct the whole thing, I’m just trying to speak the truth.”
On working with Spike Lee: “I know what it is that Spike likes. I remember when we first started working together, we had a conversation where he said, “Look, I don’t like underscoring. I don’t like when music changes when the door’s shut, or a scene changes. I like very strong melodic content.” I go, “Okay, fine.”
Blanchard continues to be a powerful artistic force, providing musical commentary on painful American tragedies, both past and present.