“I'm still a student of Bernard Terry”

By Tia Scott and Xzavier Simon

FLINT, Michigan -- Music producer and audio engineer Bernard “BT” Terry Sr., a pillar of Flint’s music community, has died at age 69. 

Known for his precise engineering style, Terry worked on albums from notable Flint music acts such as Ready For The World, The Dayton Family, MC Breed, Jake The Flake, Top Authority, and a slew of others during his 30+ year career. 

Even before starting his professional production and engineer work in the early 1980s, the stoic, mild-mannered Terry was a musician himself and played guitar in the funk band J.C.C.L.B Movement which had a following throughout Michigan. His work on Ready For The World’s 1985 debut album officially ushered him into the music industry, where he learned as much as he could about the business and returned home to Flint to share the knowledge. 

For years, Terry was not only respected for his professionalism but for the willingness to help local rap artists, singers, and producers with words of wisdom and encouragement. A mentor to many, his home studio, Area 521 Studios, was frequently occupied with people who came to visit the man deemed a legend within the city’s music scene. 

Terry’s influence was able to transcend to the next generation, at which he excelled. He wasn’t only a producer, engineer, or studio manager—he was a life coach. He possessed a unique ability to listen and immense compassion, showcasing incredible empathy and the ability to connect with whoever entered his space. Whether needing assistance with the technical know-how or a discussion in understanding their purpose in music and who they were as human beings, BT’s character was matched only by his musical prowess in the community’s eyes. 

His influence and legacy generationally tapped into Flint’s wellspring of the varied and diverse creative scene. To note, Terry has worked with Asé Audio’s Nygee Gant and Lost Champion CEO Dee Golden. He’s worked with and influenced Flint’s LGBTQ+ community through musician and choreographer Jesse Davis of Him/Hers Dance and pop-R&B artist Furillostar. BT’s reach even extends itself out to fellow icons Mama Sol and Jon Connor.

Sharing their stories and reflecting upon Terry’s life, Flintside has reached out to many of the people he touched and gathered their thoughts on one of Flint’s greatest icons.

Shea Cobb (Phire Sis) | Buckham Fine Arts Project Writer in Residence

“I woke up thinking about Bernard Terry this morning and what he means to us as artists. I believe it is his spirit and energy that is pushing me to work today to create and make an effort to show how we make a difference in the world so that one day someone may see it and have hope for a better tomorrow. I pray for myself, and I pray for all the children here who miss him. The clouds are present, but so is the sunshine. I will carry him with me until I cannot. His life coaching and performance enhancement ability will forever reign in my heart. His witty humor and alkaline smile will stay with me.”

Nicholas J. Shemes (Shemy) | Rapper

“I’ve known BT since I was a kid. He’s been a role model but a little deeper because he’s always been there through different stuff. If I needed advice, he’s there and not just about music. He was such a wise guy and seen so much. BT was spiritual. He didn’t really believe in being in the right place at the right time. He lived with a purpose and he would have told you God decided this was his final purpose. I’m going to miss him so much. I love that guy. He would tell me one day we’ll meet again … so until next time, my friend.”

Dwight Skrapp Reynolds | Music Philanthropist 

“I’ve been crying all weekend. You ever met somebody who’s just giving naturally? That was his gift. He was a genius. He was super humble that I think that’s probably the most deceiving part about it. The way he taught was firm. He didn’t give you answers. He made you learn them, own them, and do with it what you will. I always called him the guru or sensei. He taught me how to make a record. He said, ‘study the number ones and dissect those.’ I can’t say Bernard was a big brother or a father figure ... he was just an awesome Jedi and I was Skywalker.”

Jon Connor | CEO of All Varsity Music Group

“Bernard was truly the best of us—as a musician and as a human. There is so much I could say, so many more stories we had throughout the years, but that’s the thing we all do. He was the same amazing person to everyone he came in contact with. Every artist in Flint could go on for days about how great he was, how much he helped them, and encouraged them to keep pushing; he was our Yoda. There is now a space that can never be replaced in Flint’s music scene and, more importantly, a space that can never be replaced in humanity. Bernard Terry, you were truly one of a kind, a true angel walking among us. We were all blessed to know you. I love you, my friend. My father says he loves you too. We miss you. Forever in my heart BT.”

Nygee Gant | Audio Engineer & Producer

“I had people like Bernard Terry to mentor me and took me under his wing when I was 21-years-old. I remember asking him, ‘yo B, when are you gon’ show me the ways of the Jedi?’ He laughed and said, ‘whenever. If you’re willing to learn I’m willing to teach.’ Ten years later I'm still a student of Bernard Terry. He always told me in order to be a master at your craft you have to remain a student. We’re always learning. When I talked to him he’d always ask what I learn new, because he’s always learning. I take that with me and it’s up to me to input those values into the children that we come across.”

Ace Gabbana | Rapper 

“I met BT through a friend of mine when I was about 15 years old. I recorded most of [DMT], my first tape I ever put out, at his studio. B would always tell me, ‘once you find yourself, you’ll be okay.’ He was always more interested in teaching all of us about life. Sometimes he would take the whole studio session to give me super gems and deep [knowledge] about life and the game I’m choosing to play. I loved that because you could tell he cared about the younger generation. He never judged us at all, and that said a lot about him. In a world where the older generation seems to give up on us, he always pushed us to be ourselves no matter what. That meant a lot. The crazy part is, he didn’t owe any of us anything—it was all out of his heart. One of the greatest people I ever met. I know his energy and soul will live forever.”

Pasha Chaney | Rapper/Author

“Bernard Terry was recommended to me by a friend while I was in the process of recording. After we talked briefly over the phone I set up a meeting to meet with him at his studio. Not only was I impressed by the elaborate equipment he had but I was in awe of his knowledge of musical engineering and production. He was always professional, on point with his work, and one of the kindest people in music I ever met. He set the standard when it came to my expectations on how musicians should carry themselves and be passionate about their work. Witnessing this also inspired me to introduce him to my brother Joe Ryan III who is a self-taught musician, producer, songwriter, and engineer. BT was a very close mentor for him and taught him the intricate parts of engineering and production which was the foundation that allowed his skill set to elevate in the industry. I can’t thank BT enough. He was more than a kind, gentle soul he was like family and will forever be a part of my musical journey.”

Steven Banks (This Life. We Lead) | Rapper

“He was the highest of the high for us rappers in Flint; we would go and seek knowledge from him. Every time I sat down with him, he made me feel like I belonged there and I was welcomed. Hearing the news of his passing was rough for everybody, and hearing further about what he did before, like saving the baby, really shows how selfless he was and how willing he was to give and care and pour into everybody else. I can count on one hand the times I've worked with him but they stuck with me because he was super positive and made you feel like you can do this.”

We at Flintside would like to extend our deepest condolences and love to all of Terry’s family, friends, and those whose lives were touched. You can support and contribute to the Bernard Terry Memorial Service GoFundMe here. Funeral services will be held Friday, May 21, at 11 a.m.