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Women's Lifestyle Magazine

'Symphony with Soul' Tops Off Black History Month on Feb. 29

Feb 28, 2020 12:00PM ● By WLMagazine
Quiana Lynell, winner of the 2017 International Sarah Vaughan Vocal Jazz Competition

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard, a six-time Grammy Award winner and longtime collaborator with film director Spike Lee, will be the special guest artist for the Grand Rapids Symphony’s 19th annual Symphony with Soul at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in DeVos Performance Hall.

Dubbed “one of his generation’s most artistically mature and innovative artists and a committed supporter of jazz education,” Terence Blanchard joins the Grand Rapids Symphony for the 19th annual concert celebrating diversity, equity and inclusion in West Michigan.

Blanchard and his band, The E-Collective, will be joined by vocalist Quiana Lynell, winner of the 2017 International Sarah Vaughan Vocal Jazz Competition. The Concert Sponsor is Bank of America, and the Guest Artist Sponsor is Ferris State University.

Associate Conductor John Varineau will lead the Grand Rapids Symphony in the evening of gospel, spirituals, jazz, blues, and R&B featuring community musicians joining together with nationally renowned artists to perform for the wider community. 

Musical selections from Blanchard’s scores for such Spike Lee films as Malcolm X, Jungle Fever, and BlacKkKlansman, will be part of the one-night only concert. Symphony with Soul also features the Grand Rapids Symphony Community Chorus, a vocal ensemble that sings in the gospel tradition, led by Duane Shields Davis.

Last year’s special guests for Symphony with Soul was Black Violin. Past guest artists also include singers Lalah Hathaway and Dee Dee Bridgewater, pianist Marcus Roberts, the Regina Carter Quintet, and Take 6.

Artistic director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz from 2000 to 2011, Blanchard has served as Jazz Creative Chair of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, as artistic director of the Henry Mancini Institute at the University of Miami, and as a visiting scholar in jazz composition at Berklee College of Music. In June, he was named the first Kenny Burrell Chair in Jazz Studies at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music.

Recommended by Wynton Marsalis as his replacement in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1982, Blanchard went on to become the band’s music director before launching a solo career in 1990 with a self-titled debut album for Columbia Records that reached No. 3 on the Billboard Jazz chart. 

After performing on Spike Lee’s films, Do the Right Thing and Mo’ Better Blues, the film director invited Blanchard to compose music for films including Malcom X in 1992 and Inside Man in 2006. Blanchard also has composed music for other directors for films such as Primal Fear starring Richard Gere in 1996, Random Hearts starring Harrison Ford in 1999, People I Know starring Al Pacino in 2002.

Blanchard’s past appearance in Grand Rapids include at St. Cecilia Music Center in March 2016 with Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour alongside an all-star ensemble of including Ravi Coltrane on tenor and soprano saxophones, Gerald Clayton on piano, Joe Sanders on bass; Justin Brown on drums, and Grammy Award-winning vocalist Patti Austin.

Performers for Symphony with Soul include young musicians from the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Mosaic Scholarship Program, sponsored by Karl and Patricia Betz, the Thompson Family Charitable Foundation, and Kate Pew Wolters. The program for talented African-American and Latinx students provides teenage students with one-on-one lessons with a Grand Rapids Symphony musician plus the use of a musical instrument, music, supplies, and tickets to Grand Rapids Symphony concerts at no cost to the student.

Opening the program is the anthem “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” First performed in 1900 by a group of 500 school children for President Lincoln’s birthday celebration, the cherished song of the Civil Rights Movement is the traditional opener for the community celebration in DeVos Hall.

Each year, Symphony with Soul is preceded by Celebration of Soul, a gala dinner, sponsored by Meijer, Inc., honoring the accomplishments of individuals and organizations in the community that emphasize and celebrate the importance of cultural awareness and inclusion in West Michigan. 

This year’s recipients of the Dr. MaLinda P. Sapp Legacy Awards, sponsored by Steelcase, Inc., are Jon McDonald, artist and professor of illustration at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University; Teresa Weatherall Neal, retired Superintendent of the Grand Rapids Public School; and Kate Pew Wolters, philanthropist and president of the KRW Foundation and chair of the Steelcase Foundation.


Tickets for Symphony with Soul start at $18 and are available at the Grand Rapids Symphony box office, weekdays 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100, (located across the street from Calder Plaza). Call (616) 454-9451 x 4 to order by phone. (Phone orders will be charged a $3 per ticket service fee, with an $18 maximum).

Tickets are available at the DeVos Place ticket office, weekdays 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., or on the day of the concert beginning two hours before the performance. Tickets may be purchased online at

Full-time students of any age are able to purchase tickets for only $5 on the day of the concert by enrolling in the GRS Student Ticket program.