Jazz artist and film composer Terence Blanchard was presented with the BMI Icon award at Wednesday night’s Film, TV and Visual Media Awards of performing-rights society Broadcast Music Inc. in Beverly Hills.
Blanchard, composer for many of Spike Lee’s films (including “Malcolm X,” “Inside Man” and the recently Oscar-nominated “BlacKkKlansman”), was honored for his “unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers,” said BMI president-CEO Mike O’Neill (pictured above, right). “His music makes powerful statements about American tragedies that must not be forgotten, while also encouraging all of us to heal.”
Said Blanchard, “We just want to express ourselves in an artistic way. We have a burning desire to say something that’s in us, and sometimes we don’t even know what it is that we’re trying to say. These projects give us room to do that.
“You are my heroes,” he told the black-tie crowd of film and TV composers. “Everything that I’ve written for the screen, you’ve inspired, whether you know it or not.”
Blanchard told Variety earlier in the evening that he had just returned from rehearsals for his opera, “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” opening June 15 in St. Louis and based on a memoir by New York Times journalist Charles M. Blow.
Its libretto was written by Kasi Lemmons, the director with whom Blanchard has collaborated on films including “Eve’s Bayou” and who is now working on a film about abolitionist Harriet Tubman that Blanchard will score later this year. Lemmons appeared in film clips congratulating Blanchard, as did directors Lee and Ron Shelton and jazz great Herbie Hancock.
Also honored was William Ross, with BMI’s Classic Contribution Award “for his outstanding work as an arranger, orchestrator, conductor, music director, composer and mentor to emerging talent.”
“Few musicians working in Hollywood know as much about the orchestra as Bill Ross,” said BMI vice president, creative, fllm, TV and visual media Doreen Ringer-Ross (above, left). “Bill has been a go-to arranger and conductor for artists in many fields,” she added, citing a who’s-who of top singers including Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Josh Groban and Michael Bublé, along with such composers as John Williams and David Foster.
Alan Silvestri, for whom Ross orchestrated dozens of films including “Forrest Gump” and “Polar Express,” called him “a consummate musician and a consummate storyteller, one of the hardest-working human beings you will ever meet.” Williams, for whom Ross adapted and conducted “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” appeared in a video, calling him “a great contributor to the music of our contemporary world.”
Earlier in the evening, Mike Steinberg, executive VP of creative & licensing, said that BMI distributed more than $1 billion in royalties to its members last year.
Much of the ceremony was devoted to presenting awards to other composers for their contributions to top-rated TV, cable and streaming programs and top-grossing movies. Atli Örvarsson received four crystal statuettes for his work on TV series “Chicago P.D.,” “Chicago Med,” “Chicago Fire” and “FBI.”
Other multiple winners included Tyler Bates (“The Punisher,” “Deadpool 2”), Brian Tyler (“Crazy Rich Asians,” “Hawaii Five-0,” “Magnum, P.I.”), Ludwig Göransson (“Black Panther,” “Creed 2,” “Venom”), Nathan Barr (“Sneaky Pete,” “The House With a Clock in Its Walls”), Harry Gregson-Williams (“The Equalizer 2,” “The Meg”), Rob Simonsen (“The Upside,” “Blue Bloods”) and Mark Mothersbaugh (“Lego Movie 2,” “Hotel Transylvania 3”).
Standing ovations went to legendary “Mission: Impossible” composer Lalo Schifrin, who recently received an honorary Academy Award for his entire career, and Silvestri, whose “Avengers: Endgame” has already made over $1 billion worldwide.
O’Neill made oblique reference to the BMI/ASCAP dinner conflict with the line “I was across town at another party and it wasn’t as good as this one,” which drew knowing laughter from the crowd.