Grammy-winner Terence Blanchard named first Kenny Burrell Chair in Jazz Studies

Terence Blanchard, a six-time Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter, composer and music educator who in 2019 received an Oscar nomination for best original score for Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” has been named the first Kenny Burrell Chair in Jazz Studies at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

The chair was established to honor Burrell, a legendary jazz guitarist and composer, for his 20 years (from 1996 to 2016) as founder and director of jazz studies at UCLA. The chair is a key component of the school’s new global jazz studies program, ensuring that the program will attract the highest caliber of jazz instruction at UCLA for generations to come.

“Terence’s accomplishments are impressive and astounding for their range,” said school of music Dean Judith Smith, who initiated the creation of the chair in 2016. “His commitment to educating the next generation of jazz artists and his devotion to illuminating social justice issues through his music embody our UCLA values and align with the mission of our global jazz studies program.”

Blanchard, a veteran of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, is a musical polymath who launched his solo career as a bandleader in the 1990s. Since then he has released 20 solo albums, composed more than 50 film scores, and received 10 major commissions. Among these works is “Champion: An Opera in Jazz,” which was commissioned by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and debuted in 2013, as well as work for Broadway revivals, plays, dance and for national orchestras, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

“It is truly an honor to be the first person chosen as the Kenny Burrell Chair in Jazz Studies at UCLA,” Blanchard said. “I’m looking forward to educating new generations of jazz artists, not only as performers, but as teachers, producers and jazz scholars who understand the power of music to transform the worlds in which they engage.”

In addition to Blanchard’s recent Oscar nod for the haunting main theme for “BlacKkKlansman,” “Blut Und Boden (Blood and Soil),” he also won his sixth Grammy for the score in the Best Instrumental category. He became a go-to composer for film beginning in the early 1990s, so much so that Entertainment Weekly called Blanchard “central to a general resurgence of jazz composition for film.” His credits include Lee classics “Do the Right Thing,” “Jungle Fever,” “Malcolm X,” “25th Hour” as well as Lee’s 2006 post-Katrina HBO documentary “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.” Blanchard has also composed for other directors, including George Lucas, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Ron Shelton and Kasi Lemmons.

His latest projects include his new album “Live,” featuring seven songs recorded live in concert with his current quintet, E-Collective. The album is a powerful musical statement concerning painful American tragedies from the past and present, and addresses critical issues, among them the staggering cyclical epidemic of U.S. gun violence. The album is also an impassioned continuation of the band’s Grammy-nominated 2015 studio recording, “Breathless,” which includes a title track written with the “Eric Garner ‘I can’t breathe’ NYPD chokehold in mind,” Blanchard said.

Following the success of the sold-out hit “Champion” for Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Blanchard was asked by the company to compose music for “ Fire Shut Up in My Bones ,” based on the memoir and coming-of age story of the same title by Charles Blow, an op-ed columnist for The New York Times. The work debuts June 15.

“Terence is internationally recognized and one of the leading jazz artists of our time,” said Steve Loza, chair of global jazz studies at UCLA. “He will have a dramatic impact on our global jazz studies program, and our students will be inspired by his presence and his instruction based on his world view of jazz and his commitment to creativity and education.”

An avid music educator, Blanchard served as artistic director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz (now named the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz) from 2000 to 2011. In this role, he presented masterclasses and worked with students in the areas of artistic development, arranging, composition and career counseling. Today, the institute partners with the school of music to offer the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz Performance at UCLA , a unique college-level program that allows masters of jazz to pass on their expertise to the next generation of jazz musicians.

In 2011, Blanchard was named artistic director of the Henry Mancini Institute at the University of Miami. In the fall of 2015, he was named a visiting scholar in jazz composition at Berklee College of Music. He holds honorary doctorates from the Manhattan School of Music (2017), Skidmore College (2012), and Xavier University (2012). He was awarded a prestigious USA Fellowship in 2018.


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