Jazz violinist to be educational, entertaining
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 10:02
John Blake Jr. is set to perform at 8 p.m. Feb. 21 in Gorell Recital Hall.
The performance, according to Blake, will be filled with jazz, politics and
Blake was born July 3, 1947 in South Philadelphia. He began playing the violin at a young age with lessons at his public school and also at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia.
Blake was the first African American musician to graduate from West Virginia University. After he graduated, he traveled to Switzerland to further his studies with the violin.
“My first trip outside of the country was to Switzerland. It was very enlightening because Switzerland is such a different country, and I was around nothing but the arts at the time. The trip helped me find myself.”
The world-traveling musician believes it was those first lessons that have lead to his current life. He is concerned for the current generation.
“Looking back, I really feel like I’ve lived an enriched life because of the arts, my family, my community, and my school,” Blake said. “Some things have not been preserved because of cuts in funding. The arts have really suffered in public schools particularly. The school district had a real commitment to making sure that every child, because of race or whatever, was exposed to the arts. They had music in the schools, and they offered free lessons. Those things were really primary conditions that lead for me to become an artist.”
But it will not just be the musical repertoire established over his lifetime that Blake will display in his performance at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. There will also be some history.
“Part of my concert at IUP is going to be involving passing down information on black history and the arts,” Blake said. “I think that it’s important for people, in general, to know about it. It gives more of an understanding on how important the arts are in terms of understanding history and even people and culture.”
Blake believes that learning history is the first step to understanding American society today, and he is impressed with the knowledge about history that his current students possess.
“I am very impressed with how aware of the past my students are, and also how we do relate,” Blake said. “I’ve got grandkids now, and it’s interesting to me to see how they’re growing up and how they relate to me and the kind of things they’re being exposed to that my parents didn’t have to worry about.”
Blake has released several albums including “Twinkling Of An Eye” which was number 11 on the Billboard’s Top Jazz Albums in 1986. He has collaborated with many artists
including McCoy Tyner, James Newton and Grover Washington Jr. Blake has also been a part of ensembles including The Duke Ellington Orchestra, The Steve Turre Sextet, and The Billy Taylor Trio.
Tickets for Blakes performance are available at the Hadley Union Building Box Office and are $20, $16 discounted and $12 with an I-Card.