The Gift Of Giving Back

By Steve Baltin

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Whether it was GRAMMY-nominated artists Keri Hilson and Shaila Dúrcal or GRAMMY musical director Rickey Minor, there was one sentiment echoed again and again today as industry professionals and high school students descended on the USC campus for GRAMMY Career Day: "Man, I wish they had this when I was a kid."

For myself and participants such as Hilson, Recording Academy Chair Emeritus/GRAMMY-winning producer Jimmy Jam and jazz artist Boney James, who came into a music industry career they maybe didn't know existed at a young age, there was incredible excitement (and not a hint of jealousy they got to skip school to meet with GRAMMY-nominated artists and visit a college campus, which is way better than the La Brea Tar Pits field trips we had as students) for the lucky 800 students in attendance.

These students representing various California high schools attended a wide array of workshops from Music For Film & TV, Music Law, Game Composer, Singer/Songwriting/Production (which included Justin Timberlake), Concert Event Promotion, and Music Publishing (with iconic songwriter Lamont Dozier). In addition to the insight they received, the students now have an idea that a career in music is possible, evidenced by GRAMMY Foundation Board Chair George Jones, who explained early in the morning how he came into his career in artist management and TV development after realizing he wouldn't be the next Jimmy Page.

For Minor, who was another one of us unsure of how to pursue a career in music, imparting this wisdom is why he returns year after year. "If we aren't spending the time to nurture the future and impart what we've learned along the way to these students, then where does it go?" said Minor. "And how are we contributing to help them and inspire them, because a lot of kids, including me, didn't know where to begin."

For a lot of the artists who come to GRAMMY Career Day they get as much as they give back. A GRAMMY winner and three-time nominee this year, Anthony Hamilton spent his birthday at USC to meet with the students and sit in with Hilson, Jam, Eddie Galan, and Nate "Danja" Hills on the very popular Producer workshop. Now, to get up and be at USC in Los Angeles traffic at 8 a.m. on your birthday Hamilton should win an award, but for him it was a pleasure and a great gift. "Sometimes when you share your moment with others it makes it even more special," he told me.

And for Hamilton, the day brings an understanding he can help change someone's life today. "It's an honest and pure moment for [the kids] so whatever you tell them they're going to believe it," he said. "So why not give them something they can use for the rest of their life?"

That's a pretty good birthday gift actually.

(To view photos from GRAMMY Career Day and other GRAMMY Week events, click here.)

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