University of Texas at Dallas: Trumpet Legend Highlights ATEC Multimedia Show

Five-time Grammy-winning trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard is collaborating with visual artists from The University of Texas at Dallas to stage an on-campus multimedia performance that will honor two artistic legends.

“Presence of Absence – Gordon Parks: An Empathic Lens,” which will be performed Saturday, April 9, at UT Dallas, features artwork from students from the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC) who are part of the 3D Studio Lightsquad. Under the direction of Andrew F. Scott, associate professor of arts, technology, and emerging communication, Lightsquad members are using illuminated sculptural objects and digital images to enhance Blanchard’s jazz performance.

“The purpose of the visuals is to expand our understanding and draw us deeper into the jazz improvisational music performance,” Scott said.

The concert includes music from Blanchard’s latest album, “Absence,” which is a tribute to jazz saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter. The performance also honors Gordon Parks, a prominent photographer, poet, musician, storyteller and activist.

“Gordon Parks is one of my primary influences, not only because of his work but also because of the love for humanity and the expressions of truth and beauty that you can see in his work,” Scott said. “You’ll see that same love and passion running through the work of Wayne Shorter.”

Blanchard has composed more than 40 film scores and performed on more than 50. A frequent collaborator with director Spike Lee, he has been nominated twice for an Academy Award for best score — for Lee’s films “BlacKkKlansman” and “Da 5 Bloods.” He has won five Grammys from 16 nominations.

The Metropolitan Opera in New York staged Blanchard’s opera “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” during its 2021-2022 season. It is the first opera by a Black composer in the organization’s history.

“He’s one of our greatest living American composers,” Scott said. “We’re very fortunate to have him on our campus.”

Blanchard and Scott first met in Brooklyn, New York, during the 1980s. Scott said they have been friends for many years and were trying to find ways to collaborate.

Scott worked with Blanchard to create the cover art for the musician’s 2015 album “Breathless.” Since then, the two have collaborated on two additional album covers and, in 2017, on a live stage performance with visual projections at UT Dallas. Other cooperative performances followed, including “Caravan: A Revolution on the Road” at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s 2019 Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Family SOLUNA International Music & Arts Festival.

Besides the partnership of two longtime friends, the concert is a collaboration between ATEC, the School of Arts and Humanities, and Kansas State University, which will host the same concert before it comes to UT Dallas. Scott will spend three days at Kansas State to lead students in the creation of stage projections for the performance.

Koby Wheeler, an ATEC senior and a member of the Lightsquad, said it has been a thrill to work with all the groups preparing the visual display that can be appreciated by people throughout the Dallas area.

“That’s the beautiful thing about ATEC – we have all of these laboratories where you’re applying what you’ve learned in class to real-world experience,” Wheeler said. “It’s great to be part of something bigger.”

Scott said experiences such as the Blanchard concert are critical to ATEC training and to providing unique artistic programs for the University community.

“This is truly an all-hands-on-deck effort,” he said.

“It’s an opportunity for us to share with those on campus and those who live in the Dallas area a cultural event that very few people get to experience,” Scott said. “What begins at UT Dallas ATEC goes out into the world.”

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