All Lively Arts performances are held in the Science Center at the MCCC Central Campus, 1313 Morris Road, Whitpain. For tickets, call (215) 641-6518 or go to www.mc3.edu/arts/lively-arts.
•The Gershwin Big Band presents “American Rhapsody: Gershwin Songbook” at 8 p.m. Feb. 23.
•Musician, human rights activist and Cambodian genocide survivor Arn Chorn-Proud speaks at 5:30 p.m. March 4 in Science Center 213. Admission is free.
•Justin Roberts and the Not So Ready for Naptime Players perform a family-oriented set at 11 a.m. March 10.
•Ballet X performs a dance concert at 8 p.m. March 24.
•Scientific illustrator, naturalist and museum director Scott Rawlins gives a talk on “The Real Indiana Jones” at 12:30 p.m. April 13. Admission is free.
•The Spring MCCC Dance Ensemble Concert starts at 7 p.m. April 21 in Science Center Theater 213. Admission is free.
•The Spring Performing Arts Showcase is featured at 7 p.m. April 25-26 and 12:30 p.m. April 27 in Science Center Theater 213. Admission is free.
Montgomery County Community College’s Lively Arts Series recently hosted five-time Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger and band leader Terence Blanchard.
On Feb. 9 — the day before he was to play a concert in the Science Center Theater with his band, The E-Collective — Blanchard talked about his craft and the music business in a workshop/master class, with MCCC staff and students in the college’s sound recording and music technology program sitting right up on the Science Center Theater stage with him.
Besides recording several award-winning albums for Columbia, Sony Classical and Blue Note Records, touring with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, and being recommended by Wynton Marsalis to take his place in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the 1980s, Blanchard has also scored many of Spike Lee’s films, beginning with 1991’s “Jungle Fever.”
Almost all of Blanchard’s 2017 album, “Music for Film,” recorded with the Brussels Philharmonic, is themes he composed for Spike Lee. “You know he’s not going to do anything silly or stupid. He’s also trying to shine a light on things,” Blanchard said, adding a story of how the filmmaker once stopped him from answering a question from a reporter during a joint interview because Lee sensed that the response, and subsequent quote, would jeopardize Blanchard’s professional relationships in Los Angeles.
“The first reaction is total fear because people are depending on you. A lot of film composers I know say when you first start a film, you think: ‘I can’t do this’,” he said, while answering a question during the workshop. Blanchard has also composed for other film directors, including Leon Ichaso, Ron Shelton and Kasi Lemmons, plus the 2012 George Lucas/Anthony Hemingway feature “Red Tails.”
A resident of New Orleans, Blanchard has been called upon once again by Lee to score his upcoming movie, “Black Klansman.” “It’s about a cop in Colorado Springs — a black cop — that joins the Klan over the phone in the ‘70s,” he said.
Jazz icon Miles Davis was a fan of Blanchard’s playing. Once, when the two trumpeters were both in Italy, Davis endorsed Blanchard in a TV interview. Davis’ remarks led to Blanchard being surprised outside a hotel the next day by three reporters seeking comment.
When asked about the operas he’s composed, Blanchard shared that his father was a talented baritone singer and frequently played records of opera and church music, or would have R&B tuned in on the radio. “When you have a passion for being creative, sometimes the passion outruns logic. I’ve never been the type of person that stays in one place. I have a fear of complacency, and I have a fear of inflated ego — both of them kill creativity,” he told those gathered for the workshop.
Confessing that he’s “a gear geek without gear geek money,” and that he’s yearning for an 18-core iMac for his home studio, Blanchard cautioned the students not to get so caught up in the arsenal of available recording technology that they don’t take time to experiment and “learn to craft what it is you’re gonna do.”
“I’m not gonna lie to you, some stuff takes me all day to figure out. The creativity is still here,” he said, pointing to his head. “Jazz was invented because someone messed up — think about that.”
To prepare future generations of music professionals, the college officially added a sound recording and music technology program in the fall of 2015. Blanchard accepted an invitation to tour MCCC’s $2 million Center for Music Technology in the Advanced Technology Center, which is in the process of adding a new mixing and mastering suite, with a recording room, an overdub room, an observation lounge and the latest music and audio production technology. The mixing suite is slated to open this year, and the gear geek in Blanchard appreciated what he saw.
Lower Gwynedd resident and Grammy-nominated and multi-platinum engineer/producer David Ivory is the director of the MCCC sound recording and music technology program. He said the Center for Music Technology facilities will open to the public after construction of the mixing suite is completed. The hourly rate is still in the works. “It will be extremely reasonable because what we’re trying to do is foster relationships between the college and the musicians of Montgomery County,” Ivory said. “Acoustically, it’s a pretty damn close to perfect room.”
Blanchard, who also teaches jazz composition at Berklee College of Music in a visiting scholar role, said that MCCC reminded him of Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio. “It doesn’t feel like a community college,” he said. “The only thing about community college is you hope (the students) realize what they’re getting (honest instruction from professors with real-world experience).”
“I feel sorry for them. It’s a different day now. You can’t just be an artist. You gotta be a producer, an artist, a marketer ...,” he said of the younger and emerging generations of professional musicians. “What’s cool about it is they have a handle on it.”