Remembering My First Trip To The GRAMMYs

  • Cameron Ernst and Tara Keith
    Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

(Cameron Ernst was a runner-up for The Recording Academy and Hitlab's 2012 Emerging Talent Competition. Ernst shared his thoughts on performing during GRAMMY Week and attending the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards. The Academy and Hitlab recently announced the winner of this year's competition, Jade Novah.) 

Has it really almost been a year since my trip to the GRAMMYs? Wow, time flies. I can still remember the day I found out I would be going. 

I had been pouring my heart and soul into promoting the Hitlab Emerging Talent Competition as a top 10 finalist, endlessly trying to think of creative ways to get the word out about voting. When the voting ended and the waiting game began, I would constantly check Hitlab's site and social networks to see if the announcement had been made. The day came when I saw a Facebook post about the official press release. With every new, exciting opportunity that comes my way, I try not to get my hopes up. This particular day, I was prepared for a loss. So much so, in fact, that I scanned the press release, saw Tara Keith's name as the winner, and moved on with my day.

That afternoon I got a text message from a friend: "Congrats!!!!! You're Going To The GRAMMYs!" Huh? Without hesitation I thought, "I'm pretty sure I just read who the winner is and it's not me." Well, I was right. It wasn't me. But what I had missed was that I was the runner-up by a close vote and that I was invited to play during GRAMMY Week and attend the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards. What a sweet surprise.

I can still remember getting off the plane at LAX and trying to contain my excitement that I would soon be a guest at the music industry's most prestigious night of the year. My taxi driver asked me what I was visiting L.A. for and I told him that I would be attending the GRAMMYs. He said he could have guessed it was for something big because he could see that sparkle in my eye.

I can still remember doing a soundcheck with Tara the morning of our performance [at the Social Media Rock Stars Summit GRAMMY Week event]. As I stood onstage in front of my microphone, it was beginning to sink in that I had been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And the weekend was just getting started. When it was time to hit the stage for the Summit, I knew this was a moment I would not forget.

I can still recall being in my hotel room, tying my gray, skinny tie, and slipping on my suit jacket a few minutes before we were escorted to the GRAMMY red carpet. Was I actually getting to do this? A small town boy from Kansas who used to sing "Over The Rainbow" to whomever would listen was about to attend the GRAMMYs. My first red-carpet experience was going to be a pathway of cameras and bright lights leading into an arena full of music legends. And it was magical. Every step. After stopping for a GRAMMY Live interview, I introduced myself to singer/songwriter Dave Barnes, an artist I greatly look up to, and congratulated him on his nomination. Did that just happen at the GRAMMYs? Yes, yes it did.

I can still feel the silence of Staples Center in remembrance of Whitney Houston. I can still hear Adele singing her first note. I can still replay in my mind when Coldplay broke into Rihanna's song and dance with the simplicity of an acoustic guitar. But most of all, I can still remember how inspired I was to witness a night of grand musical talent and success, how blessed I felt to be an attendee of the 54th GRAMMYs, and how if my dream to be on that stage was burning inside of me before, it was now about to explode.

I can look back on last year's GRAMMY Awards and know that hard work (and the help of Hitlab and The Recording Academy staff who put on the Emerging Talent Competition) paid off to get me there and experience a trip I'll never forget. I can also look ahead and trust that hard work will take me back someday. Next time I'm at the GRAMMYs, I hope to be giving a speech on that stage where I will say, "I can still remember when I first came here."

(Dallas pianist/singer/songwriter Cameron Ernst released his self-titled EP in 2009 featuring five tracks, including "Boy With A Balloon" and "Undo The Days." His most recent single is 2012's "Three.")

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