Black Music Month Celebration at California African American Museum

An enthusiastic audience was on hand Wednesday evening June 8, 2011 at the California African American Museum to celebrate Black Music Month and to honor and mark the historical significance of six African American musical artists who now lead bands on some very popular and widely watched television shows. The event, titled “Shaping the Sound of Television: The Black Music Directors” honored 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”).

These talented and accomplished musicians, composers and arrangers who have risen to the top of their game as musical directors also participated in a panel discussion to discuss their successes, their work ethic and skills needed to succeed, and the ins and outs of the music business. They were inspirational in their solidarity as musicians and support for each other. The audience was comprised of young artists, patrons of the arts, educators, and individuals interested equal opportunity in the music and television industry and those dedicated to expanding music appreciation in schools. They were indeed inspired by the insights of these legends of the music industry. Adding to the significance of this event, the program was moderated by GRAMMY Award-winning R&B and jazz vocalist, composer, musical director and pianist Patrice Rushen.

The Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP served as co-host of this spectacular event. NAACP participation was led by Ron Hasson, President; Willis Edwards, First Vice President; and Yvette Butler and Yvonne Butler, co-chairs of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP Entertainment Partnership with AFTRA. According to Willis Edwards, who also serves on the National Board of the NAACP, “This event was a true collaboration that was able to bring these musical legends together. The idea for the panel was conceived by Jeannie Weems, owner of Next Twenty, a wonderful boutique event management firm. She brought the concept to AFTRA where the idea was further developed by the unique Entertainment Partnership between AFTRA and the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP. We then decided what better place to have a Black Music Month Celebration than at the California African American Museum led by the incomparable Charmaine Jefferson; and this great partnership was further leveraged by support from the California Legislative Black Caucus, chaired by State Senator Curren Price, for an unprecedented, one-of-a-kind collaboration. It turned out to be a truly magnificent night.”

This Black Music Month celebration honoring the exceptional achievements of African American musical directors overlaps perfectly with the focus of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP which is to provide equal opportunity and civil rights to African Americans in the entertainment industry and to provide a positive representation of the African American community. The branch is called the “keeper of The Image” for its efforts to salute and support the positive image of African Americans in the entertainment industry. Once again, the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch of the NAACP helped to bring to the forefront an important segment of the entertainment industry, the multi-talents of a select group of exceptional African American musicians who were raised in their local communities, developed themselves through music education, and have risen to heights where they now serve as role models for the next generation of musicians.


Patrice Rushen (Center) is holding 100 Year History of the NAACP - each honoree received this book as a present. Rest of those pictured from Left to right: Willis Edwards, "Big Jim" Wright (The Mo'Nique Show), Rickey Minor (Tonight Show with Jay Leno); Ray Chew (American Idol), Harold Wheeler (Dancing with the Stars); Greg Phillinganes (Grammy Awards); James Westbrooke (representing Sen. Curren Price); and Ron Hasson, President of Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP.

Left to right: James Westbrooke (for Sen. Price); Ray Bradford of AFTRA; Willis Edwards, "Big Jim" Wirght; Rickey Minor; Ray Chew, Patrice Rushen; Harold Wheeler; Greg Phillinganes, Charmaine Jefferson (CA African American Museum); and Ron Hasson.