*Music is the universal language by which a society communicates with itself and the rest of the world. It is also the world that pianist and music impresario, Terrance McKnight (pictured) lives in and thrives.
A graduate of Morehouse College, where he was an active member in its Glee Club, Mcknight has dedicated his career to music and music education via his tenures at Georgia Public Broadcasting, WNYC and now at WQXR radio.
Throughout his career, McKnight has demonstrated a commitment to exposing European classical musical traditions alongside the American classical music traditions like jazz, gospel, African American spirituals and country, among others.
The Robertson Treatment Syndicated Column (RTSC), recently interviewed the dedicated music man to share with our readers his thoughts about the importance of American classic music and why all Americans need to support its musical legacy.
Robertson Treatment: Please briefly discuss your appreciation for classical music. When did you realize that it was your passion and what you were meant to do?
Terrance McKnight: In 1987, I heard Andre Watts playing piano with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. His affinity with that music stunned and captivated me, and I was immediately hooked. His playing was soulful and spontaneous, energetic and spiritual. At the time I was majoring in music at Morehouse College but didn’t have specific direction. That one concert ignited a fire in me for classical music that deepens every day.
RTSC: How did you cultivate your talent as a classical pianist?
TMK: I took my first lessons when I was 8 years old. By 14 I was playing in my father’s church. By my senior year of high school I had three church jobs which exposed me to a wide variety of religious music. At Morehouse I studied piano and toured with the college’s glee club as a bass and piano soloist. I accompanied voice studio there also. In graduate school I accompanied ballet classes, and I also directed church choirs. And in addition to performing, I attended many concerts and listened to a lot of music on public radio, particularly piano and vocal music.
RTSC: Why do Americans (particularly African Americans) have such a reticence about the musical genre?
TMK: Classical music is ubiquitous. It’s in our movies and commercials. It’s in our elevators and physicians’ offices. We pay for our children to learn it in their music lessons. Classical music is accepted and loved in our society. Our reluctance to participate is due to the presentation of the music.
For many years our musicians and presenters have been saddled with an inferiority complex regarding American culture, especially in comparison to European culture. That’s has been changing incrementally. Framing the music in a way that’s familiar to the American vibe and aesthetic will allow the music to flourish and seem less foreign and intimidating.
RTSC: You were a member of the Morehouse Glee Club when you were a student. Now we have the hugely successful show, GLEE, which has made glee clubs popular and appealing. Any insight into what it’s really like to be a member of a Glee Club? What was most enjoyable about your experience?
TMK: Being a member of the Glee Club at Morehouse was about so much more than simply music. It was about being dedicated and committed to something larger than one’s own musical abilities and artistic pursuits. We learned how to be selfless and humble. We sang in Yoruba, Russian, Latin, German and other languages, and by extension we learned something about a thread coded in music that connects all human beings. One of my most memorable experiences was performing at the funeral of Wendell Whalum. He was our second director and had led the group for 34 years. That day I witnessed music’s healing power as tears turned to joy while 200 men sang in one accord.
RTSC: What was the inspiration for the special Black History Month programming you presented recently on WQXR? This included the 2-hour tribute to classical and jazz pianist Hazel Scott, the former wife of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., and a gifted musician whose legacy is not as recognized as it probably should be.
TMK: Knowing the history of black Americans was stressed in my home growing up in Cleveland. Although it wasn’t woven into my public school education. At my Lutheran High School, remember a class mate saying that there wasn’t enough black history to substantiate a black studies course. Can you believe that? We’ve contributed to every sphere of American life and society, yet our history is boiled down to a just few key figures. I took up that challenge and any opportunity that I have to correct that misconception, I’m eager to take on. Hazel Scott was an incredible player and advocate for our rights and dignity – she’s one of many African Americans we need to know more about. She grew up just two blocks from where I live in Harlem, and I knew when people heard her story and her music they’d be enriched. I hope I have accomplished that.
RTSC: The population of classical music lovers (as well as traditional jazz) appears to keep getting smaller and smaller. How are you helping to help renew interest in and enthusiasm for these seminal art forms?
TMK: I present the music in a way that is approachable to my listener. Telling stories and finding connections between genres that listeners can readily identify with. If my listeners know Prince’s music then through him you meet Mahler. If a listener likes hunting or gardening then I can use that to introduce Franz Schubert and William Grant Still. For me it’s about taking the listener on a journey into culture, history and discovery through sound. Through the sheer beauty of sound a listener forgets what he or she doesn’t know or thinks they don’t like, which allows them to enjoy the ride.
BEST BETS – TELEVISION
Braxton Family Values
I’m sure that fans of the fabulously talented Toni Braxton will be glad to know that she’s back, at least somewhat, and has her sisters in tow for a new reality show, that debuts this week on the WE tv Network. On the opening episode we are introduce to the lively Braxton flock, which includes Trina, Traci, Towanda, Tamar and momma, Evelyn. Although baby sis, Tamara is the lightening rod that will definitely keep fans tuning in, her big sister Toni also keeps fans mesmerized as we watch her perform her amazing repertoire through various episodes. Her fans will definitely want to watch to find clues as to when she will once again emerge on to pop landscape.
Overall, it’s a cute display of sisterhood that deserves a chance.
2011 Ford Edge
The 2011 Edge exudes a confidence that’s apparent even before you get behind the wheel. A smart car, this ride lived up to its name in providing me with a superior driving experience during a busy week in Atlanta’s rough and tumble traffic.
Wow Factor: Besides its impression aesthetics, the 2011 Edge packs a lot of bling without being over powering. I was also impressed with its evolved technological improvements, which greatly adds to the on the road experience for both driver and passenger.
Ride: The Edge’s 3.5-liter, V6 engine, gave my ride added punch on a variety of different road conditions. Its front-wheel drive and braking system was also very responsive and aided my confidence when maneuvering in busy rush hour traffic.
Comfort: The interior of the 2011 Edge was clearly designed with comfort in mind. Starting with its spacious cabin, the Edge offers great leg-room for driver and passenger, plus ample storage space. The Edge also comes outfitted with MYFORD Touch System that offers great added-value (especially on long road trips), for managing your driving experience.
Spin Control: With its muscular and sharp styling, solid fuel efficiency (17–19/23–27 mpg) and competitive price, (a base price starting at $27,995), the 2011 Ford Edge will appeal to a variety of driving demos. It’s a good bet that you will see a lot of these rides on the road.
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