First Black Composer at NYC Metropolitan Opera Coming to Dallas

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NBC 5 is celebrating Black History Month with seven-time Grammy Award winning composer and trumpeter, Terence Blanchard. His most recent win came at the 2023 Grammy Awards for Best Opera Recording for Fire Shut Up In My Bones.

Blanchard, who has also been a two-time Oscar nominee, became the first Black composer to have their work staged at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in the company’s 138-year history in the 2021-2022 season. That opera, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, made its first premiere in 2019 in St. Louis.

“I may be the first, but I can’t be the last,” Blanchard said in an interview with NBC 5 ahead of his appearance at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. “This has to be a turnkey and not a token to open up the doors for others.”

Even before his history-making composition, Blanchard had been celebrated for his work with the likes of Mariah Carey, Viola Davis’ “The Woman King”, the recent remake of “Father of the Bride”, and a hand full of Spike Lee movies in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

Blanchard credited much of his success to what happened for him when he was young.

"It makes me feel like I have been blessed to have great teachers. There have been a lot of people of color in my life who have shepherded me who deserves a lot of credit because they are the one that have opened my eyes and making me believe I can do these things. I always tell people. The art world and the social work that comes with it can be a thankless job because you don't have people always saying thank you for doing it, but they need to know those programs mean a lot to a lot of people. If it weren't for those programs, I wouldn't be here. It’s just that simple," Blanchard said.

That’s much of the reason Blanchard said he is excited about his visit to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra as part of their upcoming speaker series. He said their continued work in communities of color, which dates back 30 years, proves investing in youth music programs is an investment in the future.

Someone who has continued that legacy is the DSO’s CEO Kim Noltemy.

"It’s more than we are offering lessons,” Noltemy said. “We are offering a life changing experience that we believe matters and it seems like al the families involved feel that way when they get involved."

She has dedicated much of her work to that effort. Not just with the Young Strings Program, but also one named in her honor by her colleagues. The Kim Noltemy Young Musicians Program is in place to actively enrich underrepresented communities through an orchestral afterschool program, all free of charge.  

 "The kids get to perform in this hall a couple times a year which is pretty amazing in that there’s not that many kids that get to perform on the stage of the Meyerson," Noltemy said.

For Noltemy, diversity, equity and inclusion is more than a title, but rather making DEI at the symphony part of their DNA. Something Blanchard said is an investment worth making.

“Here’s the thing, when I got to those programs, I ran into people like me. I ran into people of color who wanted to do something different than what was happening in their neighborhood. Those programs made me not feel alone," Blanchard said.

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra, as part of their Fermata Speaker Series, is hosting a fireside chat with Terence Blanchard on February 9 from 5:30-6:30p at the Meyerson Symphony Center located at 2301 Flora Street in Dallas. The conversation will be moderated by NBC 5’s Laura Harris. The event is free to the public with RSVP.

He will also be in concert with his band at the Meyerson after the fireside chat. Tickets are available now.

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