Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images The Recording Academy
Revisiting One Night Only: Producers & Engineers Wing 20th Anniversary Celebration 2021 Recap
The Producers & Engineers Wing 20th Anniversary Celebration included tears (of joy), lots of laughter plus, as always at P&E Wing Celebrations, great music. The GRAMMY Week fete was jam-packed with the P&E Wing’s highlights and accomplishments from the last two decades, not to mention excitement for the future of the more than 4,400-member-and-growing group of dedicated professionals.
The hour-long event, which featured clips from previous A-list honoree speeches, including Jack White, Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz, and Quincy Jones, among others, kicked off with a surprise for Maureen Droney (Senior Managing Director, P&E Wing), who was honored for her 15-year stewardship.
Chair & Interim President/CEO of the Recording Academy Harvey Mason Jr. presented the certificate of appreciation and thanked Droney for her "tireless dedication to bettering the lives of music creators." He continued: "Maureen really, really loves producers and engineers, and tonight we reflect that love back to her."
Through happy tears, Droney proclaimed, "Should we get the party started?!"
A variety of laughs, gravitas, information, and education was on tap, kicked off with a little history. Jeff Greenberg from the storied Village Studios in West Los Angeles joined Droney to set the stage for some colorful P&E history, courtesy of Al Schmitt and the late Ed Cherney. The pair told the tale of the Wing as a group that began as the Music Producer’s Guild of the Americas.
Or, as they prefer to be known, Cherney said, "The people in the studio who actually do the work."
Congratulations were also on tap for George Augspurger, the 2020 Technical GRAMMY recipient. He shared some words of advice for technical hopefuls: "If you like music but are curious about how things work and why things sound the way they do, recording technology can be an awful lot of fun. It certainly is for me," he said.
The 20th Anniversary Celebration created a space to discuss the joys of an audio career as well as the challenges. As made clear, the P&E Wing faces issues with crediting, metadata, creating technical guidelines, archiving and preservation, and of course, the digital transition. Among the sentiments of the night was that P&E Wing professionals are not an island. Their work is very much a collaboration, in a manner that sets important precedents for future generations.
As Cherney noted, if you ask, "What’s in it for me?" that’s not the right question. "It’s about supporting your profession, being a keeper of the faith, it’s about thinking of ourselves as part of a group with common goals and ideas," Cherney stated. "That’s who we are."
Harvey Mason Jr. Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images The Recording Academy
P&E Wing’s members concur, especially following the difficult year of 2020, where community building, support and shared goals became even more crucial.
As Mason told the party-goers, in 2020, the world turned to music for comfort, requiring creators, producers and engineers to help provide and deliver that saving grace.
"Producers and engineers are not people who give up," Mason noted. "We are by nature, problem solvers. We deal with those challenges, and strive to stay ahead of the curve."
Last year also saw an increased flow of online content, including the second round of the Recording Academy’s "Behind the Record" campaign, bringing the names of many deserving behind-the-scenes players to the forefront.
The event also took guests to previous annual galas: Jack White spoke of his humble teenaged beginnings on a 4-track reel-to-reel Tascam mixer, as he remembered back to the times when erasing a tape meant, "it was gone forever."
In another moment, Nile Rodgers, playing the P&E-appropriate Sister Sledge hit "We Are Family" with Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and Kathy Sledge, took the moment to share: “I’m honored to be standing here because dance music changed my life."
A clip of Quincy Jones at the 6th annual celebration cut to the chase: "Music and water will be the last things to leave this planet. You can’t live without it, man."
He captured the joy felt by so many who work with music. The event was powered by L-Acoustics, Audio-Technica, Fraunhofer, Lurssen Mastering, and the P&E Wing’s sustaining partner Iron Mountain Entertainment Services (IMES).
Jeff Greenberg and Maureen Droney. Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images The Recording Academy
Stellar newly found and restored Dylan footage of the troubadour backstage and performing while facing down initially hostile fans during his legendary 1966 electrified tour—courtesy of the Bob Dylan Archives and IMES—thrilled the virtual attendees. Fellow icon Neil Young quipped, "We create great stuff in the studio and then we just kiss its ass goodbye. The time has come for us to recover, and to bring music back to the people in a way that they can recognize it in their souls through the window of their soul, their ears."
Young was feted at that event via a surprise perf by a nervous Dave Matthews, who turned in a homespun version of Young’s "Needle and the Damage Done."
But it might have been past honoree Willie Nelson who had the best, and shortest, thank you speech, bringing the laughs in 2019. The beloved legend said, "I want to thank the producers and engineers over the years for really making me sound as good as I could. And I’m glad they liked me, ‘cause they really coulda screwed me up!"
All attendees and honorees over the years—as was made clear in this One Night Only: Producers & Engineers Wing 20th Anniversary Celebration—share a powerful camaraderie and pride in their work.
The festivities also emphasized the tremendous strides—made with humor, hard work, and turned up to 11—that the P&E Wing has achieved, and will continue to work on, via
hands-on technical workshops that engage and educate, advocacy, and being an integral part of one of humanity’s most beloved: music.
As Keys so inspiringly said, "I believe in the art of making a record… I believe in the music community and just the power of music, period. It’s medicinal." She quoted her own song, the perfect words for the P&E Wing: "We are the authors of forever."