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Terry Blackley was born to a musical family in Ottawa, Illinois. He began his musical career at age five when he began piano lessons. Blackley also began lessons on the euphonium and became a member of the Ottawa Grade School Band. He continued to excel at both instruments through high school where he was often a featured soloist with the Ottawa High School Band. His senior year Blackley was awarded the prestigious Arion Award for scholarship, musical organization, and performing.
Offered a scholarship in piano to Millikin University in Decatur, IL, Blackley continued his musical studies in both piano and euphonium. Upon graduating with his Bachelor of Music Education degree with honors, Terry accepted the position of assistant band and choral director at Prospect High School in Mt. Prospect, Illinois. He established the school’s first jazz band and taught band and choir. Two years later a new district high school was built and Blackley was offered the position of band director at Elk Grove High School in Elk Grove, Illinois. He purchased all of the instruments, uniforms, and equipment while recruiting a band of 60 students. In addition to the concert and marching bands, Blackley started the first school jazz band, still an integral part of the high school’s music program today. In his two years at Elk Grove, he increased the size of the band to 100 plus and directed two concert bands, a jazz band, and the marching band along with teaching music theory. While at the high school he was offered and accepted a part time position teaching piano at William Rainy Harper College.
During his second year at Elk Grove High School, Blackley learned of a national search for experienced music teachers. Winners of the competition would be awarded a full scholarship to the University of Michigan. He entered the competition and, out of over 900 applicants from across the country, Blackley won the national Experienced Teachers Fellowship Award. While at Michigan, he studied conducting with the renowned Dr. William D. Revelli. He also played in the University Concert band. After he was awarded his Master in Music degree from Michigan, Blackley, his wife Karen, and son Dan were lured to southern California by many position opportunities. They landed in Fullerton, California where he became the band director at Fullerton Union High School. Coming from the mid-west and having students study and play during school, after school and at nights, it was a shock when at the end of his first day teaching, not a student came into the band room after school. Asking his mentor teacher about this, he was told that the students don’t hang around after school. Blackley knew the student’s commitment had to change if there was going to be a viable program. He began recruiting students. The band grew from 28 students to 110 in two years. He resurrected the orchestra and started the jazz program still in existence today. For his teaching contributions to the music program he was awarded the Fullerton Union High School Academy of the Arts Tribute in 2007.
“When Terry Blackley began teaching music at Fullerton Union High School in 1969, he revolutionized the school’s music program. I clearly remember the 1969 football game when he had the field lights turned off during halftime. The marching band took the field as strobe lights, electric saxophones, and “Let the Sunshine In” filled the stadium.” Bruce Shoemaker, FUHS alumni and a committee member of the FUHS Academy of the Arts’ annual Arts Gala.
In 1971 Blackley was hired as the band director at Fullerton College. During the ’71-’72 school year, he taught full time at Fullerton College and fulfilled a ¾ position at Fullerton High School. Between the college and the high school he had two marching bands, two concert bands, two jazz bands, and multiple classes in piano and theory. Throughout this time he continued his recruitment efforts to increase the number of music students both at the high school and in the college band. In that one year, under his direction, Blackley produced the largest band in the history of Fullerton College with 120 musicians in the marching band. The number of concert band students increased, and Blackley wrote the curriculum for a new community band which was started in 1974. As the program grew at the college, Blackley decided a commercial music program, including two jazz combos and commercial harmony classes, was needed. He wrote several new courses for this program and lobbied for a new music faculty position. The music department was awarded two new positions, one for the new commercial music program and one to help with the continually growing band program.
“Fullerton College was an environment that provided me with the freedom to dream. Not only to dream, but to have this dream become a reality. With the encouragement and help from my very bright and talented wife Karen, the support from our administration, and the tireless work of the faculty and staff, the dream of creating a Fine Arts Division that was second-to-none became a reality. We all share in this accomplishment, but our students are the ones that benefit the most.”
— Terry Blackley, July, 2012
In 1972, with recruitment efforts increasing, Blackley started a jazz festival where local high school bands could compete during the day with the three top high school finalists and the college jazz band performing in the evening. Eight local high school jazz bands participated the first year of the festival. Recruiting by bringing high school students to the campus and having them learn and experience the college students perform was the basis for the jazz festival. Over the years, under Blackley’s leadership, the Fullerton College Jazz Festival grew to over 5,000 student participants performing in eight venues over two days. This widened awareness of the FC music program which continued to draw music students and increased the jazz band from one to three bands plus the multiple combos. Blackley chaired the jazz festival for 32 years and was awarded the Terry Blackley Founders Award in 2007 after his retirement, an honor for outstanding work with or for student musicians.
While director of jazz studies, his bands performed at such prestigious events as the Music Educators National Conference and several jazz festivals in California each year. His involvement in music wasn’t limited to FC. He was chosen to direct the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association’s All Star Jazz Band; was a member of the International Association of Jazz Educators ((IAJE), an international organization for jazz education; served for sixteen years as the Western Regional Representative of IAJE, was on the California State Board, the national chair for the Music Performance Trust Fund, and as the United States Representative on the IAJE Executive Board. He also served on the board of directors for the Reno International Jazz Festival and for the Friends of Jazz, a support organization for jazz education in Orange County. Also, Blackley was honored to be an adjudicator for bands at festivals across the country and Canada. He was the musical conductor for the Fullerton Civic Light Opera as well as for many college musicals.
When Terry Blackley began teaching music at Fullerton Union High School in 1969, he revolutionized the school’s music program. “I clearly remember the 1969 football game when he had the field lights turned off during halftime. The marching band took the field as strobe lights, electric saxophones, and ‘Let the Sunshine In’ filled the stadium.”
— Bruce Shoemaker, a FUHS alumni and a committee member of the FUHS Academy of the Arts’ annual Arts Gala.
In 1980, Blackley was named Dean of Fine Arts at Fullerton College following Ken Helvey, one of his mentors. At this time he hired a co-director of the top jazz band and together, as co-directors, they went on to win the first Disney All American College Jazz Festival in 1985. The jazz band continued producing college jazz albums and was the first college jazz band to have a commercial album. The group was featured on United Airlines inflight audio for two years and on ANA airlines for a year. In 1981 the Music Department at Fullerton College built a 16 track in house recording facility to serve as a teaching tool for both student musical groups and students wanting to take recording technology classes at a vocational level. Time Tripping is the second of many albums to come out of this studio to feature the award winning Fullerton College Jazz Band, containing tracks from three of the Fullerton College jazz groups. The Fullerton College Jazz Band, under Blackley and Jim Linahon, won 1st place as the “Down Beat Magazine” Best College Jazz Band Album for 1983. Time Tripping was lauded for winning over numerous college jazz records from four year colleges and universities such as North Texas State University, The University of Miami's Concert Jazz Band, and the Eastman School of Music's Jazz Orchestra. The roster on the album reflects the diversity and level of student musicians Fullerton College developed and continues to develop.
“Did you know that Fullerton College was the first college jazz band to have a commercial label in the recording world? We produced a number of albums each year for AM:PM Records which were distributed throughout the country. We were on radio programs and on the in-flight audio of United Airlines.”
— Terry Blackley, Jan., 2011
Blackley was chosen as the Associate Director of the 800 piece All American College Marching Band for The Opening Ceremonies of the Games of the XXIII Olympiad, Los Angeles, 1984. In 1985 Blackley stepped down from the director of the jazz band and devoted his full time efforts to the Fine Arts Division. As more students became aware of the excellent programs in Art, Music, and Theater, the Fine Arts Division grew. Turning all of his energies to building a solid base of faculty, Blackley began to add full time faculty and numerous part time faculty members to accommodate the hundreds of students enrolling in the arts. He co-wrote a grant for a recording studio with Don Depue, department chair in the radio and television department. Winning this grant, they wrote new curriculum and initiated the recording program that continues to flourish today. Blackley and theater instructor Gary Krinke co-wrote a grant in 1979 for a high school summer musical theater program. This successful program, Standing Room Only (SRO) has trained and recruited students to the theater and music programs for many years. It is still in existence today under the strong leadership of Gary Krinke. In the Art Department, Blackley and Todd Glen, along with the associate Dean of Instruction, developed the computer graphics program and worked to incorporate this new program into the Art Department. This eventually added three new full time faculty to the Fine Arts Division which increased the full time staff to 36 with over 100 part time faculty. The Fullerton College Fine Arts Division became the largest in the community college system.
Throughout his twenty-five years as Dean of Fine Arts, Blackley continued to look for ways to bring talented students to the college. Accomplishments include: new facilities for the Sculpture program; the establishment of a Sculpture Garden on the southwest corner of Chapman Ave. and Wilshire St.; new certificate programs in graphic arts, computer graphics, musical theater, commercial music, piano instruction and recording and production. He initiated and administered a summer jazz program for high school students, in Idylwild, CA. Blackley established the first articulation agreement with the Berklee School of Music in Boston, MA so students, after completing a Fullerton College two year program, could attend and transfer to Berklee.
On a personal note: Blackley has a dozen compositions and arrangements published; with wife, Karen Blackley, started and developed Forum Music Festivals, that served over 14,000 students per year; with Karen, daughter Sarah Blackley, and with advice from son, Dan Blackley, developed Musical Theatre Competitions of America® (MTCA). This weekend of education and competition brings high school and junior high school theater students to Fullerton College from across the country and Canada. Musicians all, Karen Blackley is a successful instructional designer and author. Dan Blackley is the director of drama at El Toro High School, and Sarah Blackley is an accomplished vocalist and a successful counselor and educator in the Bay Area. Terry and Karen enjoy traveling and “keeping in touch” with students through their company, MTCA.
“Fullerton College was an environment that provided me with the freedom to dream. Not only to dream, but to have this dream become a reality. With the encouragement and help from my very bright and talented wife Karen, the support of our administration, and the tireless work of the faculty and staff, the dream of creating a Fine Arts Division that was second to none became a reality. We all share in this accomplishment, knowing our students are the ones that benefit the most.”
— Terry Blackley, July 2012
Nov. 2, 1942