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Patrice Rushen Hosts Shaping The Sound Of Television: The Black Music Directors

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In celebration of June being Black Music Month, The Next Twenty, the California African American Museum (CAAM), the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP, the California Legislative Black Caucus, and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO (AFTRA), recently presented at CAAM Shaping The Sound Of Television: The Black Music Directors, a panel discussion moderated by Grammy Award-winning R&B and jazz vocalist, composer, musical director and pianist Patrice Rushen.

The panel included six extraordinary talents who hold significant roles as music directors across the broad spectrum of broadcast and cable television: Michael Bearden (“Lopez Tonight”), Ray Chew (“American Idol”), Rickey Minor (“The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”), Greg Phillinganes (“ Grammy Awards”) Harold Wheeler (“Dancing with the Stars”), and James “Big Jim” Wright (“The Mo’Nique Show”).

The discussion illuminated their amazing journeys and explored the role of music directors as orchestrators of high-rated TV programs.

“Dr. Patrice Rushen, historically significant in her own right, captured music history with the leading music directors in television,” said program visionary Jeanie Weems, Owner of The Next Twenty. “This one-of-akind event captured the essence of my vision and took it well beyond my imagination.”

“These very visible musical directors are important to our community, because they give our children motivation and inspiration that they, too, can succeed in these creative fields,” said State Senator Curren D. Price, Jr. (D-Los Angeles). As CLBC Chair and Chair of the Joint Committee on the Arts, Senator Price is a champion of arts education and authored successful legislation last year that now allows taxpayers to make voluntary contributions to the California Arts Council on their state personal income tax returns.

“African Americans have gradually disappeared from leading prime time acting and news broadcasting roles on television, but in this context our contributions continue to be quite significant,” said California African American Museum (CAAM) Executive Director Charmaine Jefferson.

“ Tonight’s program not only brought to life CAAM’s mission to preserve and promote the art, history and culture of African Americans, but it allowed more than 400 attendees, including budding high school musicians, to come together to be a part of history, gain insight into the television music industry and enthusiastically celebrate the current contributions of seven fabulously talented music artists of African descent. It was a great night!”

AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth said: “This celebration of Black Music Month showcased the talent and creative diversity of these African American music directors, whose influences on incredible AFTRA-covered television programs are undeniable. We are proud to have partnered with the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP, CAAM, the California Legislative Black Caucus and Jeanie Weems in this historic event, that celebrated and highlighted these amazing artists and their contributions to the television industry, and whose well deserved recognition is long overdue.”

“This was a true collaboration that was able to bring these extraordinary musical legends together in this historic event,” said Willis Edwards of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP. “Thanks to the creativity of Jeanie Weems, Owner of The Next Twenty, the joint efforts of AFTRA and the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP, the organization and beautiful environment provided by CAAM, and the support of the California Legislative Black Caucus, we were able to create a truly memorable event. The Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP was proud to participate in an event that brought to the forefront an important segment of the entertainment industry, the multitalents of a select group of exceptional African American musicians who were raised in their local communities, developed themselves through music direction, and have risen to the heights where they now serve as role models for the next generation of musicians.”

An accomplished musical director, keyboardist, arranger and composer, Michael Bearden has worked with music greats such as Madonna, Sting, Carlos Santana, Nancy Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Rod Stewart, to name a few. He’s written for notable jazz artists Rachelle Ferrell, Herbie Mann, Everette Harp and Will Downing, in addition to composing and arranging for several feature film scores and documentaries.

Bearden also served as music director for Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” tour, and co-producer and music director on the documentary-style film of the same name.

Emmy Award-nominated music producer and composer, Rickey Minor has built a resume of well-known projects and artist collaborations, including Christina Aguilera, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, Beyonce, Quincy Jones and Jamie Foxx. He’s served as music director for the “Super Bowl,” “The Grammy Awards,” and six seasons of “American Idol.” He’s a three-time Emmy nominee for outstanding music direction, most recently drawing recognition for the “51st Annual Grammy Awards” show and “Genius: A Night For Ray Charles,” the television special that brought together such diverse figures as Elton John, Kenney Chesney and Norah Jones.

Orchestrator, composer, conductor, arranger and record producer, Harold Wheeler’s body of work includes four decades of composing and arranging musicals such as A Chorus Line, Dreamgirls, Coco and Scandal; Melvin Van Peeble’s Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death and Don’t Play Us Cheap. Wheeler’s been nominated for six Tony Awards for his work on musicals Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Hairspray, The Full Monty, Swing!, Little Me and The Life. He’s secured several motion pictures credits, composed jingles for major corporate brands, and served as arranger and/or music director for special events. Wheeler was also music conductor for the 76th and 79th Academy Awards productions, only the second African American to serve in that role.

Grammy -winning composer, lyricist, music producer, and singer, James “Big Jim” Wright is the Musical Director of the “Mo’Nique Show” and the “Penthouse Playas.” Has worked intimately as a songwriter and producer with many musical greats, including Janet Jackson, Elton John, Mariah Carey, The Isley Brothers, Anthony Hamilton, Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight. Wright has won several awards, including a Grammy for Best Gospel Song for Yolanda Adams’ “Be Blessed” and as Producer – Best R&B Album for Chaka Khan’s 2007 album “Funk This.” He is also known as one of the lead singers of the original group Sounds of Blackness. Greg Phillinganes has amassed a long list of credits as a musician, musical conductor and producer.

As the 2011 Grammy Awards Music Director, he served in the same role in 2008. Just recently he was the Music Director for “Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular.” Having also served as Musical Director for Michael Jackson’s “Bad” and “Dangerous” tours, Phillinganes has been recruited to serve as Musical Director for Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour” Las Vegas stage show. He has worked with artists from every musical genre from Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, and Lionel Richie to Eric Clapton, Anita Baker, and Paulinho Da Costa.

Veteran composer and bandleader Ray Chew is the music director for Fox’s “American Idol.” He has served as musical director for various television series programs including NBC’s “It’s Showtime At The Apollo,” “Showtime at Apollo,” “The Singing Bee,” and “Sunday Best” on BET. Chew’s recording career spans from legendary artists such as Diana Ross and Donny Hathaway through Alicia Key’s three Grammy award-winning albums and many more.

Laurence Fishburne to Leave Hit Series 'CSI'

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(Reuters) - Laurence Fishburne is leaving his starring role on TV forensic investigation drama "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" after a little more than two seasons, Hollywood publications reported on Wednesday.

Fishburne, 49, who plays former pathologist Dr. Raymond Langston on the worldwide hit, has opted not to renew his contract when the show returns in September for its 12th season, said Deadline Hollywood and The Hollywood Reporter.

The Emmy- and Tony award-winning actor joined the cast in the middle of the 2008-09 season as a replacement for original headliner William Peterson.

Once the biggest show on television, "CSI" ranked No. 10 last season with 13 million viewers in the United States, down from 17.6 million for the first episode since Petersen's departure. Its producers gave Fishburne's character a wardrobe make-over in 2009, dropping his glasses and suits look for more casual clothing that they hoped would appeal more to viewers.

CBS, which broadcasts the show in the United States, has yet to announce who will take Fishburne's place.

Deadline Hollywood said Fishburne is expected to resume his movie career full time. The "Matrix" actor returns to theaters in October with the thriller "Contagion."

The "CSI" franchise, rounded out by spinoffs "CSI: Miami" and "CSI: New York," is one of the best-selling American television exports, licensed in more than 200 countries. In 2010, "CSI" won the international television drama series award in Monte Carlo for the third time.

First Lady Michelle Obama to Appear on 'iCarly'

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(Reuters) - First Lady Michelle Obama will appear on children's TV show "iCarly," -- a favorite program of her daughters -- to promote her initiative to support military families, the network behind the show said on Wednesday.

Michelle Obama chose "iCarly" because the lead character, Carly Shay who is played by Miranda Cosgrove, is the daughter of an Air Force colonel, according to the cable network Nickelodeon.

In the episode that will feature the first lady, Carly's father is not able to make it home for his birthday as planned. Michelle Obama will talk to Carly about how she is serving her country by being in a military family, the network said.

The episode will be shot on Monday and is scheduled to air in early 2012.

In the show "iCarly," which was created in 2007, Carly and her friends are constantly busy making a webcast for and about kids their age. The episode with Obama also revolves around a webcast.

Michelle Obama has said that she watches "iCarly" with her daughters, Malia, 12, and Sasha, 9. The first lady, and vice-president Joe Biden's wife Jill, recently launched an initiative called Joining Forces to encourage all Americans to help soldiers and their families.

Scotty McCreery Crowned Season 10's American Idol

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By Lea Michelle Cash –

It took America, two days and 122 million votes to crown the North Carolina native, country western crooner, Scotty McCreery, 17 the next American Idol. The excitement mounted and the hoopla soared, as America wondered who would be their winner—Scotty or 16-year-old Lauren Alaina from Georgia. I was there the nights that my favorites won Idol: Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Jordin Sparks, David Cook and now Scotty. I saw them each, minutes after their crowning achievement. I have brought into the excitement and for me ten years later—it never gets old. This year’s top 13 are amazing talented individuals.

My sister said from day one the winner was going to Scotty. Her prediction came true on May 25, 2011 as Scotty’s dream came true.

This year’s finale held at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles was a spectacular show.

From Beyonce to Kirk Franklin, from Tim McGraw to Steven Tyler the idol stage rocked with musicians in all their glory. Even the legends Gladys Knight, Tom Jones, Tom Bennett and Bono stepped out to share their recognizable voices. The results of these combinations produced unforgettable performances.

What struck me as wonderful this year were the families that gathered. There were children and tweens everywhere throughout the Staple Center areas. Hundreds of dads holding the hand of their daughters decked out in tiaras and princess gear holding their creative signs drawn featuring their favorite Idol. American Idol judges, Steve Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson along with Jimmy Levine had guided the Idol’s all season. A humbled Scotty throughout the competition listened to their wisdom and improved as time flew by.

It is interesting to note, one day after winning the American Idol title, Scotty’s debut single, “I Love You This Big” was the #1 song on iTunes.

America got it right. “They always do,” says Ryan Seacrest, the show’s loved host and tween heartthrob.

If you think that, you have what it takes to be America’s next idol. Season 11 2012 tryouts will be held on July 8, 2011 in San Diego.

The location and time is to be announced so check out the idol website.

Superstar Stevie Wonder Challenges Students to be Great

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Music legend makes a surprise visit to Norco College

By Chris Levister –

When one is called upon to define musical genius, few would have any difficulty associating Stevie Wonders' creativity with the term. Wednesday, May 25 more than 200 Norco College students and community members got a taste of the music icon’s genius during a riveting event billed as “A Conversation with Stevie Wonder: Overcoming Challenges to Achieve the Dream.”

A grateful and cheering audience sat captivated at the 168-seat Norco College Little Theater as the multiple Grammy Award-winner, Academy Award-winner and official United Nation’s Messenger of Peace passionately yet effortlessly delivered a powerful message of inspiration and hope, flavored by his signature street humor on overcoming hardship.

“Sometimes, I feel I am really blessed to be blind because I probably would not last a minute if I were able to see things.”

Sitting on stage in an overstuffed chair flanked by students from the Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) initiative and Norco College President Dr. Brenda Davis, Wonder opened the event with a touching harmonica rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

“To break the ice, we’ve got a few questions for you Mr. Wonder,” said Davis.

“Don’t call me Mr. Wonder, Dr. Davis, call me Stevie.” Wonder responded, flashing his signature grin. The crowd cheered wildly.

“I wanted to come here after hearing a few of you are struggling to overcome challenges to achieve your dreams,” said Wonder who was joined by his two sons.

“I was told in junior high I would never become anything good said,” student David Casillas. I was never told to go to college to get a good education. The norm was to become a mechanic. I had a stroke and had to stop working,” said Casillas. “I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and do something about my challenge – I enrolled here at Norco College – I’m proud to say I beat the statistics. I have one more semester before I complete my degree.”

“I was told a similar thing,” Wonder said. “As a kid I was told I had three strikes against me. I was Black, I was blind and poor.”

“Being a smart ass, I said, I’ve got four strikes, I’m bowlegged, too.” The audience burst into laughter.

Other students shared stories of mental and physical struggle, unexpected pregnancy and feelings of parental abandonment.

EOPS was launched in California more than 40 years ago during the Civil Rights era to give a lift to students facing economic and academic challenges.

Wonder who began his singing career with Motown Records at the age of 11 spoke candidly about his late mother, growing up poor and blind in Detroit and his sense of duty to inspire others.

He lightheartedly told the story of his days in the alley “when we hung out using bad words and ‘cracking’ on each other’s mama.”

“Thanks to some tough lessons from my mother, I don’t use bad words anymore but I haven’t lost my sense of humor,” he said in a baritone voice.

“Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love,” he added, “Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes, doesn't mean he lacks vision.”

“Whatever you have dealt with, whatever you have overcome, use your story, tell your story to inspire the next generation….Even those who are older than you,” Wonder told the students.”

“……Because if they have negativity in their hearts, they are not taking advantage of the blessings of life.”

Wonder plays 10 instruments, he’s recorded more than thirty U.S. Top 10 #1 hits on the pop charts as well as 20 R&B #1 hits. He has won 22 Grammy Awards (most by a solo artist) as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award. He is a member of the Rock and Roll and Songwriters halls of fame.

He is lauded for his work as an activist for political causes, including his 1980 campaign to make Martin Luther Jr.’s birthday a holiday in the U.S. and his 2008 campaign to help elect the nation’s first African American President, Barack Obama.

He told the audience he would donate Braille reading equipment to the college noting “Ya gots to work with what you gots to work with.” He was presented with plaque in Braille commemorating the 20-year Norco campus’ history.

With Davis at his side Wonder sifted the event into high gear with a rousing mini concert playing keyboards and singing several of his hits including “Signed Sealed and Delivered I’m Yours”, and “My Cherie Amour”.

The crowd jumped to their feet clapping and singing along. “This is a stellar moment for Norco College,” said Davis.

“His ability to "see" the world's ugliness as well as the world's beautifulness and then transcribing what he has "seen" is nothing short of genius. His message, his grace, his humanity is seared in our collective memories. This was incredible.”

Dr. Davis was joined by Riverside Community College District Chancellor Dr. Gregory Gray and a host of community dignitaries.

“Perhaps one of the greatest joys said Gray, is seeing this all play out during Dr. Davis’ reign. Stevie Wonder is a national treasure. This is a proud moment for Norco College and our entire community.”

Last week, Dr. Davis announced her retirement after 33 years of service to the District and Norco College.


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