“Shaping the Sound of Television: the Black Music Directors” June 8th in Los Angeles


A panel discussion with television’s 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.”

LOS ANGELES (June 1, 2011) – On Wednesday June 8, 2011, beginning at 5:30 p.m., 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), will collaboratively present at CAAM SHAPING THE SOUND OF TELEVISION: The Black Music Directors. This program will be moderated by GRAMMY Award-winning R&B and jazz vocalist, composer, musical director and pianist Patrice Rushen. Never in the history of television have African Americans held such significant and powerful musical roles across the broad spectrum of broadcast and cable television. In celebration of June being Black Music Month, the evening will inspire music students and professionals, and explore the prominent roles that African Americans are playing as music directors on high-rated TV programs, through the experiences of 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 will highlight their amazing journeys; provide insight on the skills and determination required to succeed in the music industry; explore opportunities across various platforms; and, review the future for music directors. “By bringing together these musical legends, we hope to influence the conversation and expand the definition of a successful music career,” said program visionary Jeanie Weems, Owner of The Next Twenty. “We must continue to support music and the arts, particularly in our schools curriculum, extending the legacy of Black music and creating new music legends.”

“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.

“Quality art education is vital to the development and enhancement of the talent and promise of student performers in California,” he said. “Those students who are fortunate enough to take part in such programs learn the art of creative endeavors while enhancing their confidence and self-esteem.”

“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 CAAM Executive Director Charmaine Jefferson. “This is the place where we should hear from and recognize these extraordinary artists so that we can learn more about their creative process and phenomenal success.”

AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth said: “We are extremely proud to be a partner in celebrating the contributions of some of our industry’s finest and most creative musicians. Featuring recording artists, producers and musical directors, this evening not only reflects the range of talent within our African American community, but represents the diverse American scene within quality television programming that is late night, variety and talent competition shows.”

“It is significant that we are saluting these extraordinary Black musical directors during Black Music Month,” said Willis Edwards of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP. “These musical artists as music directors play an instrumental part in bringing shows alive. The historical significance is that we have so many Black musical directors conducting orchestras for such top-notch shows.”

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, Sheryl Crow, 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.

ABOUT THE PRESENTING PARTNERS (listed alphabetically):

American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO (AFTRA)

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO, are the people who entertain and inform America. In 32 Locals across the country, AFTRA members work as actors, broadcasters, singers, dancers, announcers, hosts, comedians, disc jockeys, and other performers across the media industries including television, radio, cable, sound recordings, music videos, commercials, audio books, non-broadcast industrials, interactive games, the Internet and other digital media. The 70,000 professional performers, broadcasters, and recording artists of AFTRA are working together to protect and improve their jobs, lives, and communities in the 21st century. From new art forms to new technology, AFTRA members embrace change in their work and craft to enhance American culture and society. Visit AFTRA online at www.aftra.com.

Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch NAACP

The focus of the NAACP continues to be the protection and enhancement of the civil rights of African Americans. The Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch of the NAACP has fought the good fight to protect equal opportunity, secure civil rights for African Americans in the entertainment industry and to provide a positive representation of the African American community. The Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch of the NAACP is called the “Keeper of the Image” for its efforts to salute and support the positive images of African Americans in the Entertainment Industry, as well as individuals and companies who contribute to the positive achievements for the African American community through the industry. The branch created the NAACP Image Awards and the Black Theater Festival and Awards. Membership is the lifeblood of the Association and is open to anyone believing in the basic tenets of the NAACP. For more information visit: www.beverylhillshollywoodnaacp.org.

California African American Museum (CAAM)

The California African American Museum (CAAM) researches, collects, preserves and interprets for public enrichment the history, art and culture of African Americans. CAAM serves its public by enriching the educational experiences of thousands of California school-children, offering programming that appeals across racial, social and economic lines and by exhibiting art that invites engagement and participation. CAAM hosts specially mounted exhibitions from around the world, and curates and tours its own collection and exhibitions throughout California and the nation. Through its intense, scholarly, exciting research and catalog development, CAAM has become a treasured repository for African-American memories, recollections and collections. Chartered by the California State Legislature in 1977, CAAM is a state supported institution and a partner with the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization Friends, the Foundation of the California African American Museum that works intensely to maintain CAAM’s free admission and public programs. For more information visit: www.caamuseum.org.

California Legislative Black Caucus

Since the formation of the California Legislative Black Caucus in 1967, the core mission has been to close and to ultimately eliminate, disparities in a wide variety of areas that stagnate the growth of the African-American community. The Caucus represents and advocates for the interests of African Americans throughout California. It seeks to increase African American participation and representation in all levels of government. The CLBC membership includes: Senator Curren Price (26th Dist.) (Chair); Assembly members Mike Davis (48th Dist.) (Vice-Chair); Wilmer Amina Carter (62nd Dist.) (Treasurer); Holly Mitchell (47th Dist.) (Secretary); Isadore Hall (52nd Dist.); Sandre Swanson (16th Dist.); and, Senator Rod Wright (25th Dist.). Visit: http://blackcaucus.legislature.ca.gov/ for more information about the CLBC.

The Next Twenty

The Next Twenty, formed in 2009, is a boutique event management and execution firm specializing in branded one-of-a-kind events for businesses and individuals within the greater Los Angeles community. Our outreach across the entertainment industry includes extensive relationships in music, film, television, and sports sectors, creating event experiences that support our corporate motto: Big names. Intimate events.” Contact: thenexttwenty2.0@gmail.com.

Presenting Sponsor’s Joint Statement

“We honor Black Music Month and present a special night focused on the abundance of exemplary Music Directors of African American descent. Together for the first time, seven major talents, who are shaping the sound of television today, will share their powerful personal experiences. These formidable music directors will discuss their musical origins, skills and the special challenges of working on variety and talk shows. From our moderator Patrice Rushen to Michael Bearden, Ray Chew, Rickey Minor, Greg Phillinganes, Harold Wheeler and James “Big Jim” Wright, all are valued contributors in American entertainment who have generously donated their time to be a part of this program. Great moments begin with a simple idea. The Next Twenty brought these wonderful panelists and concept to the American Federation of Television and Recording Artists where it was further developed and integrated it into their entertainment partnership with the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP. The NAACP in turn reached out to bring on the California African American Museum, and through this unique partnership, support from the California Legislative Black Caucus was leveraged for an unprecedented, one-of-a-kind collaboration. With this dynamic synergy among the presenting and supporting sponsors, the enormous depth of the talent on our stage, and a special audience to share this experience, we are certain that we are witnessing the making of another historic page in the journal of celebrating Black Music Month.” ~The Presenting Sponsors ~

This SHAPING THE SOUND OF TELEVISION: The Black Music Directors program will be held at CAAM, which is located at 600 State Drive in Exposition Park, Los Angeles. Attendance at this event is by non-transferable invitation only. RSVP’s are required. The event will be video taped for archival purposes.




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