By Steve Baltin
Let's face it, if you're in high school and you hear the title "career day," the first word that might come to mind is boring. It just sounds like one of those things counselors make you do. I felt that way, but then my high school career days never found the producers behind Lady Gaga and "Glee" sharing a stage with iconic GRAMMY-winning producer Jimmy Jam while top-selling European R&B artist Mohombi serenaded a group of high school students in an auditorium.
Welcome to GRAMMY Career Day 2011. Hosted by the GRAMMY Foundation at University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and perhaps fittingly, with "Glee" music producer Adam Anders in the house, this year's installment was arguably the most musical career day ever. It seemed like there was a song bursting out in every panel, either led by the students or the panelists themselves. The students had plenty of reasons to sing, being given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up on stage in front of Anders, Gaga's producer RedOne, Jam, Mohombi, and Kelly Price, who rocked the New Music Label panel with a stunning rendition of the "The Star-Spangled Banner." The performance prompted one student to suggest Price sing the song at the next Super Bowl. Fellow panelist, JoiStarr, a former backup singer for Kanye West, got the whole room clapping in rhythm to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'."
GRAMMY Career Day is always a blast, but this year it felt special. Maybe it was the extra-exuberant students — exemplified by a few shouting marriage proposals to surprise guest artist Jordin Sparks, who came on stage before the GRAMMY Jazz Ensembles showed their skills during the day's concert finale. Or maybe it was the guest artists, all of whom were happy to be there and share their collective knowledge and wisdom with the students.
"I think it's something that's really close to my heart because I was that kid," said Anders. "I was the music geek that didn't do other stuff because I was locked in my room playing music and people went, 'Who is that weirdo?' It's important for me to tell them, 'Look, if this is your passion and this is what you're good at, keep at it.'"
And current GRAMMY nominee RedOne, who was so excited to be asked to speak to students after 20 years of his own hard work, couldn't wait to share. "I want to give the new generation everything I know to make their life easier," he said.
That sentiment is exactly what Recording Academy and GRAMMY Foundation President/CEO Neil Portnow wants to hear. "I think it's symbolic that we begin the week, which will end recognizing the great music of the year and some of the great musicians of all time, to start thinking about the next generation — the future," said Portnow.
Educational, inspiring, and musical, GRAMMY Career Day turned out to be quite a party to kick off a week of celebration.
(To view more photos from the premiere of GRAMMY Career Day and additional GRAMMY Week events, click here.)