Neil Portnow, Yolanda Adams & P.J. Morton
Photo: Paul Morigi/WireImage
Inside The 2019 GRAMMYs On The Hill Awards Celebration
Hot on the heels of the successful passage of the Music Modernization Act in October 2018, the 2019 GRAMMYs on the Hill gala event celebrated an industry now looking to provide quality educational opportunities for young artists, as well as the artists of the past and present highlighting their stellar advocates in the halls of Congress. Ultimately, the underscored the truly good, decent and humane benefits that can blossom when music and politics unite to ensure a sustainable future for all music creators.
Washington, D.C.’s The Hamilton hosted the event, which honored singer/songwriter/actress Kristin Chenoweth and gospel icon Yolanda Adams. As well, two congressional honorees—Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Okla), the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York), the Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus—were feted. Though Senator Grassley was unable to attend, he was more than ably replaced by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif), the Speaker of the House, who noted the “tireless advocacy work of artists like Adams and Chenoweth for the aid of America’s music professionals,” was, “greatly appreciated by their many friends on Capitol Hill.”
Chenoweth, a stalwart musical icon whose talents span musical theater, film, and television, was honored with the GRAMMYs on the Hill Philanthropist Award. Regarding her Kristin Chenoweth Art and Education Fund, the diminutive in stature yet mightily voiced performer noted that she would rather show than discuss the impact of her Art and Education Fund. Pairing with Cassandra Haight, a student from Washington, D.C.’s Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts, she performed “For Good,” her duet from the soundtrack of legendary Broadway musical Wicked.
Incredibly honored and grateful to have received such a beautiful recognition at #GRAMMYsOnTheHill last night. Thank you to @SpeakerPelosi for presenting me with the Philanthropist Award from the @RecordingAcad @GRAMMYAdvocacy pic.twitter.com/4bPrZjlImw
— Kristin Chenoweth (@KChenoweth) April 10, 2019
Insofar as being the man responsible for being the first (and only) person to quote Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy” on the floor of the House of Representatives (during a 2017 discussion on Affordable Care Act), Hakeem Jeffries is already a groundbreaker. Regarding the passage of the MMA, he noted a promising message of bipartisanship and unity as it related to how Congress regarded the industry. “We came together as Republicans and Democrats, the left and the right because music is such a universal language. [Music] captures the soundtrack of our life including love, loss, and a life well lived. People put aside their partisan differences to do what’s right for artists, songwriters, and creatives.”
Adams, was gracious in being honored with the Recording Academy's Creators Leadership Award, and the GRAMMY-winning gospel icon also delivered a memorable performance. The President of the Recording Academy Texas Chapter, her strong advocacy work for preserving the health and financial sustainability of her fellow artists and songwriters via Academy charity MusiCares, was highlighted.
As always, this year’s “only at the GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards” moment did not fail to entertain. GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter Linda Perry played a stirring acoustic guitar rendition of a song she penned, Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful, which won the GRAMMY for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 2004. Perry then launched into a feel-good rendition of her own—via her former group 4 Non Blondes—1991 hit “What’s Up” alongside a stage filled with performance luminaries including Gavin Degraw, and 20 members of Congress as a backing choir and band.
I’m in Washington DC for #GRAMMYsOnTheHill. And on this stage is a bunch of congress, @GavinDeGraw and @LZZYHALE oh and @SpeakerPelosi watching from the audience .. @GRAMMYAdvocacy pic.twitter.com/VC3Uad21qN
— LINDA PERRY (@RealLindaPerry) April 10, 2019
“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else,” outgoing CEO of the Recording Academy, Neil Portnow paraphrased Mister Rogers, at the open of his remarks. Capping his 17 years in the position with the passage of the Music Modernization Act (MMA) is unquestionably a highlight.
"The passage of the MMA is a monumental success, not only for music creators but for music people everywhere," said Portnow. "Progress begins with unity. From creators to elected leaders, our Recording Academy staff, and our partner organizations throughout the industry, have demonstrated altruistic harmony.”
He also noted that, “At the heart of Recording Academy members is a desire to give back. The Academy has deepened its commitment to its charities. Tonight’s beneficiary, The GRAMMY Museum, is our shared music cultural home.”
As the event bringing together the worlds of music and politics came to a close, everyone looked toward the following morning for GRAMMYs on the Hill Advocacy Day, where both lawmakers and music advocates are able to share perspectives looking ahead to the future of music policy. And as all of those on stage and in the audience experienced on this lively night in the Nation's Capitol, music has the power to bring us together.