GRAMMY Career Day Grows In Size And Scope
Event gives students professional pointers from music industry heavyweights
"Believe in the impossible," was the message song publishing professional Tom Sturges repeatedly advised students at The Recording Academy's annual national GRAMMY Career Day at USC Feb. 8.
In an ongoing commitment to serving Career Day students most beneficially, the Los Angeles Chapter of The Recording Academy redesigned this year's annual event, expanding program elements to welcome 800 L.A.-area high school students who participated in a crash course on numerous fields in the music business, along with three end-of-day concerts.
Recording Academy President Neil Portnow gave a "sneak preview" of his upcoming GRAMMY Awards address. Portnow said he will talk about the importance of music education in schools, "an agenda and mission that is so vital to The Academy."
Portnow also spoke about a new GRAMMY Career Day workshop on CD-package design, "The Eye Of Music," where attendees discovered opportunities in art and graphic design from top art directors Mike Diehl and Jeri Heiden, and learned to use imagination in turning visual elements into CD-cover art.
Workshops covered many careers in today's music industry, and were as individual in delivery and content as the pros who facilitated them. Some sessions were structured, some had a more "go-with-the-flow" orientation, and others combined the two methods. All were flexible, and included student interaction and questions.
Though Patti Austin joked that the early-morning start time was "too early for jazz," her vocal skills were unequivocal when she held her "Avant Gershwin" workshop, singing selections from her current album of the same name. Austin focused on teaching the student vocalists the art of singing with an accompanist, to listen while singing.
With songwriter panelists Nisan Stewart, Sacha Skarbek and Sean Garrett, Sturges' informative "Write On Top" workshop revealed aspects of collaborative songwriting. Sturges gave examples of the process, including how co-writers Elton John and Bernie Taupin never even meet — "except on the bridge of a song!" Sturges pointed out that Lennon and McCartney wrote together, but if one composed a song's verse, the other would write the chorus. "Get with people who don't do what you do," Sturges advised, "people who balance what you do."
Both Sturges and songwriter Lamont Dozier told an identical story in their respective workshops, Dozier in his "The Dream Team" session. Sturges and Dozier related how Dozier had written a poem at age 11, which his teacher posted on the wall, inspiring Dozier to continue writing and believe in his creativity.
Current double-GRAMMY nominee Imogen Heap detailed her career path in the "Hide And Seek" workshop, named for her hit song. Though many of Heap's musical skills were self-taught or acquired through collaborations with producer Guy Sigsworth, she also emphasized the value of more formal education in music theory, orchestration, arranging and reading music, as well as learning music software such as Pro Tools.
"On Track: Recording And Mixing With Pro Tools" allowed GRAMMY Career Day students to get hands-on in the Intel- and Digidesign-sponsored workshop. Producer Mike Clink facilitated the students use of Pro Tools on individual laptops, and he began by first demonstrating how to record an artist directly into Pro Tools while vocalist Sarah Kelly sang "About Midnight" live. Then, on the laptops pre-loaded with several original tracks of the song, which Clink had previously produced for Kelly's current GRAMMY-nominated Where The Past Meets Today album, students mixed their own version of the song.
Saxophonist Dave Koz, a panelist in the "Jazz Experience" workshop moderated by producer John Burk, commented that he also learned from the students during the event. Koz likened the free-flowing aspect of the experience to jazz itself and going with wherever it took him. Of all Recording Academy programs, Koz said, "GRAMMY Career Day is the one that's got the most heart and soul."
Among the other participants were current GRAMMY nominees Corinne Bailey Rae and Timbaland, "American Idols"'s Rickey Minor, and urban artist Ne-Yo.
Recording Academy West Coast Regional Director Lizzy Moore announced that 100 volunteers made GRAMMY Career Day possible, with 15 workshops and 55 presenters and panelists. She acknowledged the Gibson Foundation's sponsorship, the support of host USC's Thornton School of Music, the Los Angeles Chapter Governors who put together the workshops, the efforts of Vice Chairman Jimmy Jam (who presented the day's "Produce This!" workshop with Timbaland), the contributions of GRAMMY Foundation Board members, and the Hollywood Guitar Center for furnishing musical gear.