Braille Institute students and staff performed songs by Johnny Mercer at the Los Angeles City College (LACC) Herb Alpert Music Center on April 17. The performance comes just a month after Braille Institute held their annual Johnny Mercer Music Festival in March at the Los Angeles Center.
“It was a kick to be in a different setting, with a different set of ears, and give them a little idea of what their neighbors to the south are up to!” Jeanne Walters, Assistant to General Counsel, said. “We made new friends that day!”
Jeanne occasionally sings with the Braille Institute music groups and is the resident historian on all things Johnny Mercer. In between songs, she shared historical information about Mercer and his work.
For example, Mercer wrote a song with Harold Arlen in 1941 which caused a change in the Motion Picture Academy eligibility rules. The song lost the Oscar because it was not written for the film it was used in.
Sharing Mercer’s history with LACC Music students attending the April performance was beneficial because they were unfamiliar with Johnny Mercer, Braille Institute Music Instructor Fay Roberts said.
“It was a very positive outreach experience,” she said.
Debbie Lawrence, Braille Institute Administrative Assistant, and visually impaired, has been playing the piano since she was five. She dazzled students with her skills at playing the grand piano and sang a duet with Jeanne.
“I worked with very talented people and really enjoyed that,” Debbie said. The audience was very receptive, she added.
Mercer immersed himself in music and honed his craft, Jeanne said. He and his colleagues crated the “Great American Songbook”, the music everyone now considers standards because they were so well done, she added.
“I think it’s important to realize that even people like Prince, Sondheim, and Lin Manuel Miranda, are standing on the shoulders of the old guys!” Jeanne said.