Passive Echoes

Larry Brian Binns - Composer, Lyricist, Keyboardist, Trombonist, Manager and Producer


Larry in 1968Birth: Hampton, Virginia

Education: Walden University, Postgraduate Studies in Music Education and Technology; Indiana University at (IUPUI), Jacobs School of Music; Master Degree in Music Technology (Music Technology Program). Berklee College of Music; Film Scoring, Music Business and Arranging. Graduate of Strayer University; Bachelor Degree in Business Administration. Graduate of Strayer University, Associate of Arts in Computer Information Systems. Hampton University; Certificate in jazz composition. University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), composition major; formerly the North Carolina School of the Arts founded by composer Dr. Vittorio Giannini; composition major. Graduate of University of North Carolina School of the Arts (HS Division), composition major (HS Composition Program).


Composition Teachers:  Robert L. Hunt (AHS); composer, Dr. Louis A. Mennini (HS), 1st Dean of the School of Music at UNCSA, (older brother of composer and former President of Julliard, Dr. Peter Mennin); and Pulitzer Prize composer, 2nd President and 1st Chancellor of UNCSA, Dr. Robert Ward (College). In June, 2011, Dr. Ward was named a recipient of the nation's highest honor in opera by the National Endowment of the Arts. At the age of 94, he is regarded the last great composer of his generation as a recent interview and the NEA Awards video details.

Card From Dr. Ward

(Click to Enlarge)

A Tribute to Dr. Ward:

"On March 17, 2012 Dr. Ward and I enjoyed a final intimate talk on the set of the 'Crucible', in the background (shown below after this tribute). I expressed my appreciation for his fatherly counsel, his superb teaching, and patience. He is truly a humble and modest man. I am very grateful that he had an opportunity to be honored in this manner in the city that he sacrificed and gave so much to in the area of the arts.

He was the only one at NCSA that I discussed our desire to marry and withdraw from school for a year. I assured him that it was not because Marcia was pregnant, we were just so very much in love and desired to be with each other the remainder of our lives.

Additionally, Marcia did not want to accept my father's offer to finance our education and to live with him, my stepmother and two younger sisters while we completed college. She felt strongly that we needed time away from everyone, to live independently to adjust to marriage on our own, and I wholeheartedly agreed. My father still offered to pay for both of our education once we decided to continue it.

In April, 1972 a few weeks before I left Winston-Salem to seek employment in Virginia and to locate an apartment for us, Dr. Ward discussed with me the difficulty of our undertaking for two hours in his office the day following composition class at his home. He understood how we felt because of his love for his wife. His primary concern was our young age, just nineteen-years-old and our not having completed our training. 
Nevertheless, after thoroughly considering all the factors and recognizing our determined resolve he provided fatherly counsel and his personal assurance that we would be welcomed and accepted back when we decided to return. He instructed me to call him personally when we were ready to return to the NCSA family to complete our training. He exhorted me to always compose and never permit anything to stifle the creative spirit within me.

Dr. Ward reminded me:

'It is better to write a single simple but inspired tune that will survive the ages than to write an entire catalogue of intellectual music that is not remembered beyond the instance it is performed.
Larry, always remember that music is more art than science and that composing is to be a venture nurtured by inspiration and not a scientific experiment plotted with complex schemes and formulas.'
Years after leaving NCSA we heard that he was no longer serving in the capacity of president/chancellor. I could not comprehend why they 'removed' him from his position after he had accomplished so much and was loved and respected by both students and faculty. I felt similarly when Dr. Mennini, my first composition teacher and first dean of the school of music left.
Dr. Ward and Dr. Kolt in his book clarified matters for me. As a matter of fact, we were discussing this subject when Marcy took the photo of us onstage of the set of the Crucible (pictured below). Dr. Ward informed me that he was actually responsible and stepped down to be a professor of composition. (The YouTube video of the Crucible below is far better quality but this "one" shows Dr. Ward actually conducting his Pulitzer Prize winning opera on tour in 1963).
It was written into his contract that after five years he would step aside to refocus his energy to composing and teaching. He explained that every contract that he has ever signed, i.e. Eastman, Julliard, Galaxy Music Publishing, and NCSA, included this clause.
He was a composer and family man first, teacher, and then administrator. He also explained that my last year, 1972, was the final year that he felt capable of doing both. Our class was small and did not hinder or infringe on his capacity to compose, teach, and handle his administrative duties. However, as the school grew, so did his administrative responsibilities. This he could not permit. Hence, I wasted a lot of time harboring resentment toward the board of directors for something they did not desire nor initiate.
We next discussed my future plans with regard to my composing endeavors. He encouraged me to refocus my energies now that I am retired and strive to use a portion of my freedom to composing with a greater zeal. We agreed to continue to correspond and to remain in touch. Dr. Ward also extended the invitation to share my works in progress with him to critique and expressed his willingness to continue in his role as my teacher.
This was the last time that I spoke face-to-face with my beloved teacher (Photo Below). I am grateful for that time because he passed away peacefully a year later, April 3, 2013, at the age of 95.

This  reminds me of an observation made by one of Dr. Ward's teachers and a close personal friend of his, legendary composer Aaron Copland. He stated:
'How indeed does anyone describe adequately what is learned from a powerful teacher? I myself have never read a convincing account of the progress from student stage to that of creative maturity through a teacher’s ministrations. And yet it happens: some kind of magic does indubitably rub off on the pupil.
It begins, perhaps, with the conviction that one is in the presence of an exceptional musical mentality. By a process of osmosis one soaks up attitudes, principles, reflections, knowledge. That last is a key word: it is literally exhilarating to be with a teacher for whom the art one loves has no secrets.' - Copland On Music, page 87.

                      "Riders of the Dark Pale Winds" Composed by Larry Brian Binns - Performed by Dr. Howard Swyers
I have been 'in the presence of an exceptional musical mentality,' and perhaps that musical magic may yet rub off on me someday." -Larry B. Binns


Larry also studied theory and harmony with composer Philippe Buhler (HS), theory, orchestration, and conducting with critically acclaimed composer Sherwood Shaffer (College) at UNCSA. Additionally, he attended master classes at UNCSA with classical/jazz composer and pianist John Lewis (Modern Jazz Quartet) and jazz master classes at Hampton University with composer/trumpeter Freddie Hubbard.

Scoring project entitled: "Hearts and Conceptions" composed by Larry B. Binns

 It was Marcia's hope and desire that Larry would continue to develop his compositional style in the path of his primary composition teachers at UNCSA, Dr. Louis Mennini ('70) and Dr. Robert Ward ('71). They were composition students of the renowned composer, Howard Hanson, of the Eastman School of Music. Dr. Ward was also a composition student of in the opinion of many, the greatest American composer, Aaron Copland. Larry never lived up to the music legacy of his teachers nor contributed to the musical lineage which included Copland. Nevertheless, Larry did have the unique privilege of meeting Mr. Copland in 1971 when he visited UNC School of the Arts (NCSA).

Professional composers who either preceded Larry or who attended UNC School of the Arts along with him were Michael Colina, Daniel Foley, and Patrick ByersKenneth Frazelle began attending UNCSA several years after Larry had left the conservatory and married Marcia. The composers listed above have made significant contributions to the UNCSA lineage of composers and its legacy. Larry remains in communication with all of the aforementioned composers and former classmates as well as their former teacher, Sherwood Shaffer, via Facebook.

The leadership of UNCSA in those days was comprised of composers, commencing with the first president, Vittoria Giannini. Additionally, the former president of Julliard, Dr. Peter Mennin (He dropped the "i" at the end of his name to avoid confusion with older brother, Louis Mennini) served on the Board of Directors of UNCSA and was also an Eastman graduate and teacher. (Links to video samples of the music, styles, and personal websites of the composers listed on this site are contained in this paragraph and the two previous paragraphs)

Additionally, Mennini and Ward both taught composition at Eastman. Larry had expressed to Dr. Mennini his desire to attend Eastman after two or three years of study at UNCSA. His reply was: "Why? You are studying with two former Eastman composition teachers right here." Listen as Larry and classmate Patrick Byers discuss Dr. Mennini's impact on them. This was recorded a few years before Patrick's death in 2010. Also, read an article about Dr. Mennini. (See Together at NCSA in 1970)

 Music Technology Teachers: Dr. F. Rees, Dr. G. Peters, and Dr. R. Nardo (IUPUI) and Dr. Estelle Jorgensen, (IU).

Memberships: American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) as both a composer and publisher; The American Federation Of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM)l; MENC; Technology Institute for Music Educators (TI:ME); and Indie Managers Association (IMA).

Past Career Pursuits: In April, 2010, Larry was appointed the Director of Artist Development for a major Indie label, Genre Records, whose home office is based in Arizona. Subsequently, he was given additional responsibilities as a vice president, prior to a career ending injury and multiple surgeries. He now serves as a consultant. Grammy winning bassist and producer Mel Brown serves as the Senior Vice-President of Technologies and Label Acquisition for the label. 

David Sanborn and Harold Blanchard in 2003

In 2003, Larry was requested to become the personal manager and assistant to professional composer/pianist, Harold Blanchard.

Mr. Blanchard had repeatedly requested Larry's assistance but he was hesitant to mix business with friendship. However, after considering all factors Larry ultimately acquiesced after assurances that they would keep their friendship and business completely separate,

Larry also co-managed Mr. Blanchard’s trio, The Harold Blanchard Trio and Suzy Park, wherein he negotiated a performance contract with the renowned Hampton Jazz Festival in 2003, where they opened for the great saxophonist, David Sanborn.  

After the performance, Sanborn noticed Blanchard preparing to leave and stopped his tour bus (seen in photo) while on their way to another performance and stepped off the red and black bus just to talk with the modest and surprised Harold. He only wanted to express his appreciation and admiration for Harold's magnificent skills.

Larry continued in this capacity until Mr. Blanchard's death in 2010. Listen to this amazing pianist who was a dear friend and whom Larry spent countless hours discussing and collaborating musically with. Before his death, Larry was asked by Mr. Blanchard to write a brief but honest professional assessment and description of Mr. Blanchard's uniquely smooth technique and improvisational abilities on the last remaining website devoted to this great musician.

As noted in his bio at the Genre Records website his former publishing company had among his clients Patrick Byers, a friend and a former composition classmate at UNCSA. Patrick also served as Marcia's accompanist at times during her four years at UNCSA.

Patrick's encouragement and his recent death has renewed Larry's resolve to concentrate and devote his composing efforts principally to classical music. Patrick also transferred all publishing and administrative rights to his vast music catalog to Larry prior to his death. As of April, 2011 his affiliation with Genre Records is now as a volunteer advisor and he is no longer in the music publishing business due to his medical conditions.

Perhaps the most significant career decision he pursued was during the fall of 2007 when Larry began preparing for a teaching career. While pursuing his Ph.D in Music Education and Technology, he passionately taught and mentored students part-time at a magnet school for communication and the arts, Huntington Middle School located in Virginia.

Below, the video was taped in March, 2011. It discusses Larry's and Marcia's work with at-risk students and a recent grant to purchase new equipment. Unfortunately, two weeks after this video was produced Larry required more evasive surgery and was forced into retirement due to his injuries.

Ultimately, Larry also had to abandon his dream of teaching due to his physical limitations and also withdraw from pursuing his Ph. D. However, as part of his dissertation research in music technology he focused on the social impact and effect of music programs directed at non-traditional musicians. It was his desire to contribute to the decrease in dropout rates of at-risk students by engaging them musically and providing 21st Century skills to prepare them for careers in the music industry as he discusses in the video below.

 The video below was produced by Larry's middle and high school students in 2010. It is entitled: "Beautiful Eyes".

Larry's four years of research and work at Huntington with traditional and non-traditional music students (NTMs), has been motivated by the research that he completed during his graduate studies at Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). After completing research on education theorists, he was captivated and intrigued by the findings of Dr. Howard Gardner and his theory of "Multiple Intelligences".


 "Dr. Esstelle Jorgensen was among the three members that comprised my dissertation supervisory committee which included a chair, member, and a university research reviewer (URR). The student nominates the chair and committee member. I had nominated Dr. Jorgensen as a committee member.

She was also my assigned mentor and one of the faculty members assigned to guide me through the development of the Dissertation Prospectus. We communicated on numerous occasions via telephone, email, and through the school’s online portal. These were highly educational interchanges wherein she gently but firmly dissected, critiqued, and encouraged me to reassess and challenged me to intensify my scholarly writing and research."

Dr. Jorgensen  was also instrumental in encouraging Larry's doctoral research. Her writings and research were instrumental in enabling him to recognize the need to transform music education to be inclusive of the disenfranchised and music education deprived "other eighty-percent", students who are not involved in traditional music education programs.

To quote her: "

“I want to go beyond the claims of school-age children and young people to stress the importance of composing for musicians generally. In many of my classes over the years, master’s and doctoral students have told me that throughout their musical studies they have rarely composed. They believe that they do not have the skills to compose and that composing is best left to those with sufficient know-how, that is, the composers themselves”. - Jorgensen, Estelle R. (2008-03-19). The Art of Teaching Music (Counterpoints: Music and Education) (p. 165). Indiana University Press.

Dr. Jorgensen comments on the use of technology and composing:

“For the creative music teacher, the technological possibilities of our time enable students to compose who might not have been able to do so in the past. Other compositional approaches that require little technology are also promising...."

"Still, even in the absence of such courses, we can seek out the help of composers directly. In so doing, we follow the time-honored musical tradition of apprenticing ourselves to experts and learning whatever we can from them.” - Jorgensen, Estelle R. (2008-03-19). The Art of Teaching Music (Counterpoints: Music and Education) (p. 181-182). Indiana University Press.

Larry's desire was to create a curriculum to encompass and address the musical talents of the NTMs, mostly self-trained music students. Some research has indicated that the NTMs (other 80%) are not particularly motivated academically in school and often becomes a problem student who is bored and uninspired and at times is labeled as unintelligent or unteachable. Those who are unfamiliar with Dr. Gardner's research will be enlightened by the following video presentation that Larry created for a simple class project during his first months as a graduate student at IUPUI:






© 2019 Passive Echoes. All Rights Reserved.