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 on his midnight shift, he would take a moment to noodle an improvisation on the piano in Old Chapel or on a Steinway in one of the Taylor practice rooms. But he prefers the electric piano in Beuth House, where he can channel his inner Chick Corea, the late icon of keyboard jazz.
A native of Schenectady and a graduate of Mont Pleasant, Bill grew up in a musical family. He started playing piano at age 8. His father, Bill Sr., is an accomplished electric bass player who once sat in with the Neville Brothers. (Bill Sr. formerly worked for the College in transportation.) Bill gravitates toward jazz, particularly keyboard greats like Corea and Art Tatum.
When Bill participated in a high school music competition, a professor from the Berklee School of Music encouraged him to carry on with this musical endeavors. Years later, he has kept up, 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 the Zoom performances by Heavenly Voices Gospel Choir at his home recording studio. Those performances were featured at Commencement and other events during the pandemic. He also used his home studio to record Josh Vietti, a nationally-known hip hop violinist who has performed in the Nott Memorial. Bill served as musical director for Union students who were participating in the production of “Lion King” at Proctors.
Blanchard, who moved to the day shift last winter after more than 20 years working nights, says he is still making the adjustment. “The sun makes me tired,” he laughs. He recalls that nights on a college campus can be interesting. The reinvented daytime Blanchard has some advice for himself and others: “People should be sleeping at night.”
He lives in Schenectady with his wife and four children.
FIRST APP YOU LOOK AT IN THE MORNING:
Facebook. I like to see messages from family and friends. I also check out CashApp. My godchildren are always asking me for a couple of dollars. I also look at a weather app, especially on a day when I know I’ll be outside writing parking tickets.
ONE BOOK YOU HAVE READ MULTIPLE 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. It keeps me in line to be of service to others. My parents always told me that and it’s important when serving others in the community.
FAVORITE SPOT ON CAMPUS:
Jackson’s Garden. It’s peaceful and a great way to enjoy nature, especially in the spring.
Turkey sausage, egg and cheese at Dunkin’ 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.
ONE SKILL YOU WISH YOU HAD:
I wish I could play the guitar.
LITTLE KNOWN FACT ABOUT YOU:
I teach piano. Also, I have worked with the Heavenly Voices Gospel Choir to produce four or five songs they performed during the pandemic.
THREE DINNER PARTY GUESTS (living or deceased):
Stevie Wonder or Sting to learn how they make music. My uncle, Ed Blanchard, who recently passed, was a football star at Mont Pleasant who moved north before I really got to know him. I truly miss my mother-in-law, Karen Benway, who passed a few years ago. She would always offer me her good chili soup.
Spyro Gyra at the Palace Theater about 1992. I love their bass player and percussionist.