Renowned trumpeter and Lawrence school district band teacher earn Lied Center honors

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A renowned musician and a Lawrence school district band teacher have earned special recognition from the Lied Center for their gifts to performing arts.

The Lied Center has named Terence Blanchard, Grammy Award-winning composer and trumpeter, and Melissa Smith, assistant director of bands at Free State High School and West Middle School, the IMPACT Award winners for the 2023-24 season.


Each season, the Lied Center gives the award to one artist or group for their service to performing arts, and one Lawrence school district educator for their service to arts education. Both honorees will be presented with their awards during Blanchard’s upcoming concert at the Lied Center.

“Melissa Smith is truly an unsung hero in our community’s music education circles,” Derek Kwan, the Lied Center’s executive director, said in a news release. “From jazz to film scoring and opera, there is not a current artist who is more versatile and impactful than Terence Blanchard.”

Read about the 2023-24 IMPACT Award recipients below, with information from the Lied Center’s news release:

Terence Blanchard

“Terence Blanchard, seven-time Grammy winner and twice Oscar-nominated film composer, stands tall as one of jazz’s most-esteemed trumpeters and defies expectations by creating a spectrum of artistic pursuits. Blanchard, who is the newly appointed SFJAZZ executive artistic director, is unique in the jazz world as an artist whose creative endeavors go far beyond the genre into film scoring, crafting television series soundscapes and conceiving grand operas that have been recognized at the highest levels of art appreciation.

“With over 75 credits to his name to date, his major scores include Spike Lee joints such as ‘BlacKkKlansman,’ ‘Da 5 Bloods,’ ‘Mo Better Blues’ and ‘25th Hour;’ Kasi Lemmons films such as ‘Eve’s Bayou’ and ‘Harriet;’ along with scores for Regina King (‘One Night In Miami’), George Lucas (‘Red Tails’) and Gina Prince (‘The Woman King’). He was nominated for a best-score Oscar for ‘BlacKkKlansman’ (2018) and ‘Da 5 Bloods’ (2020). One of his opera’s, ‘Fire Shut Up in My Bones,’ opened New York’s Metropolitan Opera House 2021–22 season—the first time an opera by an African American composer graced the Met’s stage in its 136-year history. As an educator, Blanchard was recognized in 2019 as the Kenny Burrell Chair in jazz studies at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, after serving as artistic director of the Berklee College of Music (2015–2018), the Henry Mancini Institute at the University of Miami (2011–2014) and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz (2000–2011).”

Melissa Smith

“In her 32nd year in music education, Melissa Smith came to Lawrence from Boone High School in Boone, Iowa, where she was the director of bands for ten years. Prior to her time in Iowa, Smith directed bands in Moody, Texas; served as assistant director of bands, director of orchestras, and managed the winter drumline and color guards at her alma mater in Danville, Illinois; and began her teaching career in Highland, Illinois.

“Bands, ensembles and students have received superior ratings and many accolades under her direction. She is also currently the color guard instructor for the Marching Jayhawks at the University of Kansas and for the Marching Firebirds at Lawrence Free State High School. Smith holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. As an accomplished oboist, Smith is currently a member of the Lawrence Community Orchestra and Crossroad Symphony Wind Ensemble. She has been a longtime advocate of the Lied Center and the performing arts in education.”

The Lied Center each year nominates up to five artists or groups from its current season, based on their “leadership in their field, artistic integrity, commitment to arts education and the creation of new and innovative work,” according to the release. Then in the fall, current and former Friends of the Lied board members make a final vote using electronic ballots. 

Past IMPACT Award winners and Lawrence school district partners help the Lied Center select the arts educator each year. It’s tradition that both honorees receive their awards during the winning artist’s Lied Center performance.


“This year’s winners will be added to the list of esteemed recipients, such as the Dancing Wheels Company, Emmet Cohen, Samuel Ramey, Joshua Bell, Black Violin and Wynton Marsalis; and USD 497 educators Lysette DeBoard, Rachel Downs-Doubrava, Peter Gipson, Johannah Cox, Deborah Woodall Routledge, Sara Bonner, Dani Lotton-Barker and Lois Orth-Lopes,” according to the release.

Blanchard’s performance, “Film Scores Live!”, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2 at the Lied Center, 1600 Stewart Drive. Members of the Lawrence Community Orchestra are also set to join Blanchard on stage for songs. Tickets cost $16 to $24 for students and youth and $30 to $45 for adults. Those can be purchased on the Lied Center’s website or in person at the ticket office.

In conjunction with “Film Scores Live!”, the Lied Center will host a pre-performance event the day before. Blanchard will be in conversation with filmmaker Kevin Willmott at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1 at the Lied Center. 

Blanchard and Willmott, the KU professor of film who wrote and directed the Oscar Award-winning film “BlacKkKlansman,” will discuss social justice and the societal impact that music and movies make. That event is free and open to the public.

Visit to learn more about the IMPACT Award and previous winners.

Visit this link and click the green bookmark icon to add the pre-performance event to your Google, Apple, Outlook or other calendar.

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