Bill Blanchard Jr., a public safety officer with Campus Safety since 1998, can tell you the location of the best pianos on campus.
During breaks from his night shift, he would take a moment to improvise on the piano in Old Chapel or on a Steinway in one of the Taylor practice rooms. But he prefers the electric piano at Beuth House, where he can channel his inner Chick Corea, the late jazz keyboard icon.
Originally from Schenectady and a graduate of Mount Pleasant, Bill grew up in a family of musicians. He started playing the piano at the age of 8. His father, Bill Sr., is an accomplished electric bassist who once sat with the Neville Brothers. (Bill Sr. previously worked for the College in transportation.) Bill gravitates toward jazz, especially big keyboards like Corea and Art Tatum.
When Bill entered a music competition in high school, a teacher at the Berklee School of Music encouraged him to pursue his musical endeavors. Years later he continued, playing piano and drums. He took piano lessons with Azzaam Hameed ’86. Now a teacher himself, he gives five to eight piano lessons most weeks. He performs regularly, with his father and others, at the Union Baptist Church in Albany. He played drums in a band that opened for gospel duo BeBe and CeCe Winans at Proctors.
At Union, he compiled Zoom performances by Heavenly Voices Gospel Choir in his home recording studio. These performances were featured at Commencement and other events during the pandemic. He also used his home studio to record Josh Vietti, a nationally acclaimed hip hop fiddler who performed at Nott Memorial. Bill served as musical director for the Union students who were involved in the production of “Lion King” at Proctors.
Blanchard, who switched to the day shift last winter after more than 20 years of night shifts, says he’s still adjusting. “The sun tires me,” he laughs. He reminds us that nights on a university campus can be interesting. The day reinvented Blanchard has some advice for himself and others: “People should sleep at night.”
He lives in Schenectady with his wife and four children.
FIRST APP YOU LOOK AT IN THE MORNING:
Facebook. I love seeing messages from family and friends. I also check out CashApp. My godchildren always ask me for a few dollars. I also check a weather app, especially on a day when I know I’ll be outside writing parking tickets.
A BOOK YOU HAVE READ SEVERAL TIMES:
The Bible. Especially the golden rule in Matthew 7:12: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED:
Stay humble. This allows me to remain at the service of others. My parents always told me that and it’s important when serving others in the community.
FAVORITE PLACE ON CAMPUS:
Jackson Garden. It’s peaceful and a great way to enjoy nature, especially in the spring.
Turkey sausage, egg and Dunkin’ cheese with coffee and orange juice.
I really don’t have a favorite podcast, but I spend a lot of time listening to my dispatcher tell me where to go next.
A SKILL YOU WISH TO HAVE:
I would like to know how to play the guitar.
A LITTLE KNOWN FACT ABOUT YOU:
I teach the piano. Additionally, I worked with the Heavenly Voices Gospel Choir to produce four or five songs that they performed during the pandemic.
THREE DINNER GUESTS (living or deceased):
Stevie Wonder or Sting to learn how they make music. My uncle, Ed Blanchard, recently passed away, was a football star in Mount Pleasant who moved up north before I really knew him. I really miss my mother-in-law, Karen Benway, who passed away a few years ago. She always offered me her good chilli soup.
Spyro Gyra at the Palace Theater around 1992. I love their bassist and percussionist.