Jan. 22, 1998
Vol. 17, No. 8

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    Travelers treated to Blackwood's music

    By Jay Vanasco
    News Office

    Visitors to the city can now hear composer Easley Blackwood's music in a new venue -- O'Hare Airport.

    Recorded works by Blackwood, Professor Emeritus in Music, along with the music of Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Sugar Blue, recording artist Son Seals and other musicians, can currently be heard over the airport's sound system as part of a pilot program highlighting well-known Chicago artists.

    The Department of Aviation staff collected five hours worth of music from record labels, recording studios and the artists themselves, compiling it on CD. The music includes blues, classical, jazz, folk, rock and Latin styles.

    Blackwood chose his piece "Piccolo Clarinet Sonatina," performed by Chicago Symphony Orchestra member John Bruce Yeh and himself, as his contribution. "The sonatina has a light, upbeat feel," he said. "That way, people who are standing 25 deep in line on ghastly, rainy, foggy days won't be listening to something tragic."

    The new airport music premiered on Dec. 22 with a concert performed by the featured artists. Blackwood played second, after Sugar Blue and before violinist Rachel Barton. "It was great fun. After we had all played, someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I would mind jamming for a few minutes. We played some improvised boogie-woogie. I had never improvised before, and the panorama of different styles was just great."

    In conjunction with the compilation, artists offer a brief welcome after every few songs to point out the special nature of the music project. Visual displays also appear throughout the airport to attract attention to the music.