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212 Quarterfinalists Announced For The 2024 Music Educator Award
Music Educator Award

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212 Quarterfinalists Announced For The 2024 Music Educator Award

The Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum have announced the quarterfinalists for the 2024 Music Educator Award, which recognizes educators who have made a significant contribution and demonstrate a commitment to music education.

GRAMMYs/May 8, 2023 - 01:00 pm

Today, the Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum have announced a total of 212 music teachers as quarterfinalists for the 2024 Music Educator Award, which recognizes current educators — kindergarten through college across public and private schools — who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools. The quarterfinalists, who hail from 197 cities, were selected from more than 2,000 initial submitted nominations. In addition to the quarterfinalists, 123 legacy applicants from 2023 will also be eligible to win the Music Educator Award this year.

Semi-finalists for the 2024 Music Educator Award will be announced this September. The ultimate recipient will be recognized during GRAMMY Week 2024.

Read More: Meet The 2023 Music Educator Award Recipient: How Pamela Dawson Helps Her Students Achieve Healing And Catharsis

A joint partnership and presentation between the Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum, the Music Educator Award is open to current U.S. music teachers, and anyone can nominate a teacher — students, parents, friends, colleagues, community members, school deans, and administrators. Teachers are also able to nominate themselves, and nominated teachers are notified and invited to fill out an application.

Each year, one recipient is selected from 10 finalists and recognized for their remarkable impact on students' lives. The 10th annual honoree will be flown to Los Angeles to attend the 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, as well as a range of GRAMMY Week events. The nine additional finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium, and the schools of all 10 finalists will receive matching grants. Fifteen semi-finalists will receive a $500 honorarium with matching school grants.

Read More: 8 Artists Who Were Inspired By Their Teachers: Rihanna, Adele, Jay-Z & More

The matching grants provided to the schools are made possible by the generosity and support of the GRAMMY Museum’s Education Champion Ford Motor Company Fund. In addition, the American Choral Directors Association, National Association for Music Education, NAMM Foundation, and National Education Association support this program through outreach to their constituencies.

Learn more about the Music Educator Award.

See the full list of the 2024 Music Educator Award quarterfinalists and legacy applicants below:

2024 MUSIC EDUCATOR AWARD QUARTERFINALISTS

Name School City State
Casie Adams Martinsburg High School Martinsburg West Virginia
Bruce Adams Sam Houston High School San Antonio Texas
Miguel Aguiar Southwest High School San Antonio Texas
Derek Alexander Orville Bright Elementary School Chicago Illinois
Dawn Amthor Wallkill Senior High School Wallkill New York
Jonathan Anderson University High School (Volusia) Orange City Florida
Christopher Andrews Hephzibah High School Hephzibah Georgia
Jeanne Andrews Pauline J. Petway Elementary School Vineland New Jersey
Justin Antos Dwight D. Eisenhower High School Blue Island Illinois
Javier Arau New York Jazz Academy New York New York
Andrea  Armour Christian County Middle School Hopkinsville Kentucky
Timothy Arnold Orono High School Long Lake Minnesota
Shawn Athey Veterans Memorial High School Corpus Christi Texas
Elizabeth Baker Mary Martin Elementary Weatherford Texas
Jeremy Bartunek Greenbriar School Northbrook Illinois
Adem Birson New York University New York New York
Benjamen Blasko Lipscomb University Nashville Tennessee
Amanda  Blevins Tri-Valley High School Dresden Ohio
Susan Boddie Valdosta State University Valdosta Georgia
Adrain  Bonner Lancaster High School Lancaster Texas
Cherie  Bowe Pascagoula High School Pascagoula Mississippi
Andrew Bowerly Tenino High School Tenino Washington
George Bradshaw Dover Area High School Dover Pennsylvania
Gwendolyn Brazier Lathrop High School Fairbanks Alaska
Steve Browne Nashville Community High School Nashville Illinois
Matthew Brusseau Davie County High School Mocksville North Carolina
Ryan Bulgarelli Loyalsock Township High School Williamsport Pennsylvania
Cathryn Burt East Newton High School Granby Missouri
James Byrn, Jr. Maconaquah High School Bunker Hill Indiana
Mary Catherine Campbell Seven Pines Elementary Sandston Virginia
Helen Capehart Bridgeport High School Bridgeport Texas
Marcos Carreras Conservatory of The Arts Springfield Massachusetts
Michael "Patrick" Carte Scott High School Madison West Virginia
Curtis Carver Harlem High School Harlem Georgia
Roger Chagnon III Westfield Academy and Central School Westfield New York
Kristopher Chandler Gautier High School Gautier Mississippi
Jeff Chang Decatur High School Federal Way Washington
Krista Clay West Branch High School Beloit Ohio
Travis Coakley William Carey University Hattiesburg Mississippi
Vanessa Cobb Montgomery Central High School Cunningham Tennessee
Mark Collins John S. Battle High School Bristol Virginia
Trish Conover Community Middle School Plainsboro New Jersey
John Contreras Pueblo High School Tucson Arizona
Kyle Cook Western Branch Middle School Chesapeake Virginia
Travis Cook Plymouth Christian Academy Canton Michigan
Daniel Cook University of North Texas Denton Texas
Andrew Cote Merrimack College North Andover Massachusetts
Drew Cowell Belleville East High School Belleville Illinois
Cory Craig Benton Intermediate School Benton Louisiana
Matthew Cunningham Brockton High School Brockton Massachusetts
Shannon Curtis Zimmerman Middle High School Zimmerman Minnesota
Isaac Daniel Stax Music Academy Memphis Tennessee
Jim Daughters Southeast Missouri State University Cape Girardeau Missouri
Marci DeAmbrose Lincoln Southwest High School Lincoln Nebraska
Jackie Deen Pottsboro High School Pottsboro Texas
Matthew Denman Classen School of Advanced Studies Oklahoma City Oklahoma
Ryan Diefenderfer Paradise Valley High School Phoenix Arizona
Jennifer DiVasto Pennridge High School Perkasie Pennsylvania
Antoine  Dolberry P.S. 103x Hector Fontanez Bronx New York
George Dragoo Stevens High School Rapid City South Dakota
Marisa Drake Patuxent High School Lusby Maryland
Kathleen  Dudley Andrew Cooke Magnet School Waukegan Illinois
Jonathan  Eising James Hubert Blake High School Silver Spring Maryland
Jonathan Eldridge Weston High School Weston Massachusetts
Carol Evans Gwynedd Mercy University Gwynedd Valley Pennsylvania
Anthony Ferreira Suffield High West Suffield Connecticut
Tamara Frazier North Valleys High School Reno Nevada
J.D. Frizzell Briarcrest Christian School Eads Tennessee
Chesteron Frye St. Helena College & Career Academy Greensburg Louisiana
Nicholas Garofalo Chattahoochee High School Johns Creek Georgia
Matt Gerry Salina South Middle School Salina Kansas
Anna Girling Sebastopol Attendance Center Sebastopol Mississippi
Vivian Gonzalez Miami Arts Studio 6-12 @ Zelda Glazer Miami Florida
Johnathan Gore Sandy Run K8 School Swansea South Carolina
Serena Gorham Weare Middle School Weare New Hampshire
Kylie Griffin Dozier Elementary Erath Louisiana
Jess Gronberg Hawkes Bluff Elementary Davie Florida
Alan Guckian Manor High School Manor Texas
Nathaniel Gunter Greer High School Greer South Carolina
Amy Hannequin Bethel Middle School Bethel Connecticut
Crystal Harding Ypsilanti Community High School Ypsilanti Michigan
Diana  Harrigan Bloom High School Chicago Heights Illinois
Toye Harris Miami High School Miami Oklahoma
Chris Hayslette Bridgeport Middle School Bridgeport West Virginia
Colette Hebert Ella Fitzgerald Academy Yonkers New York
Martha Heise Seventh Street Elementary School Oil City Pennsylvania
Jonathan Helmick Slippery Rock University Slippery Rock Pennsylvania
Corey Hermens Grant County High School Dry Ridge Kentucky
Joel Hill Velma Jackson High School and Shirley D. Simmons Middle School Camden Mississippi
Autumn Danielle Hodges Clarksville- Kraus Middle School Clarksville Arkansas
Elaine Holmes Comsewogue High School Port Jefferson Station New York
Gene Hundley Swainsboro Middle School Swainsboro Georgia
Victor Iapalucci Philip Barbour High School Philippi West Virginia
Devin James Salem High School Conyers Georgia
Heidi Jaye Daniel Webster Elementary School New Rochelle New York
Luke Johnson Ingalls Elementary Ingalls Kansas
Jamie Jones Manzano Day School Albuquerque New Mexico
Tyler Jones Thompson Middle School Alabaster Alabama
Daniel Joosten Edgerton High School Edgerton Wisconsin
Brett Keith Northern Bedford County Middle/High School Loysburg Pennsylvania
Deonte Kennedy Craigmont High School Memphis Tennessee
Matthew Kilby Fort Dorchester HS North Charleston South Carolina
Lou Kitchner Bedford Middle School Westport Connecticut
Michael Kiyoi San Marcos High School Santa Barbara California
Kate Klotz Monarch High School Louisville Colorado
Heidi Kohler Clarence Middle School Clarence New York
Michael Lapomardo Shrewsbury High School Shrewsbury Massachusetts
Michael Lee Jericho Middle School Jericho New York
Morgan Lentino Otter Creek Elementary Elgin Illinois
Joshua Light Soddy-Daisy HS Soddy-Daisy Tennessee
Lisa Linde Newton South High school Newton Massachusetts
Wes Lowe The King's Academy West Palm Beach Florida
Cole Lundquist Gloucester High School Gloucester Massachusetts
Robert Mamminga St. Francis High School Wheaton Illinois
Peter Manzi Carlsbad High School Carlsbad California
Samuel Maran Lake High School Millbury Ohio
Jayson Martinez Arts High School Newark New Jersey
Kevin McDonald Wellesley High School Wellesley Massachusetts
Jill Melchitzky Northwestern Middle School Albion Pennsylvania
Larrian Menifee Ball High School Galveston Texas
Kimberly Mettert East Noble Middle School Kendallville Indiana
Natalie Moore Sullivan High School Sullivan Missouri
Mario Morales Granbury High School Granbury Texas
Coty Raven Morris Portland State University Portland Oregon
Brian Nabors Shelby High School Shelby Ohio
Jenny Neff The University of the Arts Philadelphia Pennsylvania
Cassandra Nelson Mountaineer Middle Morgantown West Virginia
Trevor Nicholas Senn Arts at Nicholas Senn High School Chicago Illinois
Adam Nobile Big Spring High School Newville Pennsylvania
Sam Noyce Thomas Jefferson Jr. High School Kearns Utah
Tim O'Donnell Ephrata High School Ephrata Washington
John Panella Cottondale High School Cottondale Florida
James Patterson Kingstree High School Kingstree South Carolina
Shakia Paylor City Neighbors High School Baltimore Maryland
Fernando Penaloza Savanna High School Anaheim California
Kathy Perconti Wayne Central High School Ontario Center New York
Jordan Peters Dr. E Alma Flagg School Newark New Jersey
Catherine Plichta Theatre Arts Production Company School Bronx New York
Felix Ponce Back of the Yards College Preparatory High School Chicago Illinois
David Pope Baldwin Wallace University Berea Ohio
Ær Queen Braddock Elementary School Annandale Virginia
Brian Querry Charles A. Huston Middle School Lower Burrell Pennsylvania
Rebecca Raber University of Mary Bismarck North Dakota
Marc Ratner Mineola High School Garden City Park New York
Lance Rauh Patriot Oaks Academy St Johns Florida
Hoza Redditt MSA East Academy St. Gabriel Louisiana
Heather Rentz St. Mark Westpark Cleveland Ohio
Aaron Rex Mason Middle School Mason Ohio
Angela Rex Riverside Middle School Greer South Carolina
Chris Richard Rogers Heritage High School Rogers Arkansas
Sarah Riechers Thurgood Marshall Elementary School Manassas Virginia
Stephanie Robertson Ponchatoula High School Ponchatoula Louisiana
Bethany Robinson Noblesville High School Noblesville Indiana
Keith Robinson Jefferson Avenue Elementary Seguin Texas
Alberto Rodriguez Mount Vernon High School Alexandria Virginia
Chad Rose Sheridan High School Sheridan Wyoming
Stewart Rosen Walter Reed Middle School North Hollywood California
Shawn Royer Marian University Indianapolis Indiana
Dayshawn Russell North Iberville Elementary Rosedale Louisiana
Hannah Ryan University of Virginia's College at Wise Wise Virginia
Kyle Ryan Turkey Hill School Orange Connecticut
Ashley Sands Kennedy Secondary School Fergus Falls Minnesota
Mark Santos Santa Ana High School Santa Ana California
Danni Schmitt Roland Park Elementary/Middle School Baltimore Maryland
Kevin Schoenbach Oswego High School Oswego Illinois
Eric Schultz Coastal Carolina University Conway South Carolina
Jessica Schwartz Denham Springs High School Denham Springs Louisiana
Josh Settlemyre R.J. Reynolds High School Winston-Salem North Carolina
Jason Shiuan Saratoga High School Saratoga California
Katie Silcott Olentangy Shanahan Middle School Lewis Center Ohio
Kerra Simmons Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts Fort Worth Texas
Joani  Slawson Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy Melbourne Florida
Timothy Patrick Sloan Sr. Albright Middle School Houston Texas
Jessie Smith Yes Prep Public Schools Houston Texas
Cathryn Smith Coleman High School Coleman Texas
Patrick Smith Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School New Haven Connecticut
Tony Spano Culver City High School Culver City California
Wes Sparkes Eagleview Middle School Colorado Springs Colorado
Julian Spires Meade Middle School Fort Meade Maryland
Shannon Stem University Academy Panama City Florida
Harold Stephan Stuyvesant High School New York New York
Cassandra Sulbaran Braintree High School Braintree Massachusetts
Lynn Sweet Mount Anthony Union High School Bennington Vermont
Agnes Tech Indian Prairie Elementary School Crystal Lake Illinois
Chris Toomey Mineola High School Garden City Park New York
Tom Torrento Grosse Pointe North High School Grosse Pointe Woods Michigan
Jessica Torres Elmont Memorial Jr. Sr. High School Elmont New York
Michelle Trinidad Sacred Heart School Bronx New York
Alice Tsui New Bridges Elementary Brooklyn New York
Jordan Tupper Episcopal School of Baton Rouge Baton Rouge Louisiana
Martin Urbach Harvest Collegiate High School New York City New York
Johny Vargas Pueblo High School Tucson Arizona
Amy Villanova Canyon Crest Academy San Diego California
Valerie Vinnard Webster Elementary Long Beach California
Kenneth Walker Ralls High School Ralls Texas
Kathy Wallace Willard Elementary Winchester Indiana
Jennifer Walter University of North Carolina at Greensboro Greensboro North Carolina
John Ware Stovall Middle School Houston Texas
Brandon Weeks North Polk High School Alleman Iowa
Lisa Werner St. Bruno Parish School Dousman Wisconsin
Scott Weyman Solanco High School Quarryville Pennsylvania
Elizabeth White Holcomb RIII Holcomb Missouri
Tyler Wigglesworth West Covina High School West Covina California
Derrick Williams Vista Heights Middle School Moreno Valley California
Paula Williams The Ron Clark Academy Atlanta Georgia
Sandi Wilson Franklin School of Innovation Asheville North Carolina
Matthew Wiltshire Lewiston High School Lewiston Maine
Damion Womack The Montgomery Academy Montgomery Alabama
Tammy Yi Chapman University Orange California
Nicholas Young Altus High School Altus Oklahoma
Jason Younts Samuel V. Champion High School Boerne Texas
DeAnna Zecchin Indian River High School Dagsboro Delaware

2024 MUSIC EDUCATOR AWARD LEGACY APPLICANTS

Name School City State
Phil Aguglia Kenmore East High School Tonawanda New York
Heather Akers Central Middle School Dover Delaware
Eric Allen Western Middle School for the Arts Louisville Kentucky
Calandria Allen Zachary Community Schools Zachary Louisiana
Abigail Alwin Clague Middle School Ann Arbor Public Schools Michigan
David Amos Heritage Middle School Painesville Ohio
Luke Aumann Appleton North High School Appleton Wisconsin
Elizabeth Baker Ilima Intermediate School Ewa Beach Hawaiʻi
Andre Barnes Science Park High School Newark New Jersey
Conesha Barron Lanier High School Jackson Mississippi
Lyndra Bastian Creekside Middle School and Woodstock High School Woodstock Illinois
William Bennett Cane Bay High School Summerville South Carolina
Heather Bice Ridgeview High School Orange Park Florida
Charlie Bradberry Iowa Park High School Iowa Park Texas
Justin Britt Kingston Public Schools Kingston Oklahoma
Shantavia Burchette East Side High School Newark New Jersey
John Burn Homestead High School Cupertino California
Alexander Busby Oviedo High School Oviedo Florida
Aaron Bush Foxborough High School Foxborough Massachusetts
Meg Byrne Pleasant Valley High School Bettendorf Iowa
Philip Carter O'Fallon Township High School O'Fallon Illinois
Elizabeth Carter Snowden School Memphis Tennessee
Francis Cathlina University of Memphis Memphis Tennessee
Tiffany Chiang Mark Twain I.S. 239 Brooklyn New York
Ernesta Chicklowski Roosevelt Elementary Tampa Florida
Michael Coelho Ipswich Middle School and Ipswich High School Ipswich Massachusetts
Christine Cumberledge Central Junior High School Euless Texas
Heather Dipasquale Todd County Middle School Elkton Kentucky
Jack A. Eaddy, Jr. Western Carolina University Cullowhee North Carolina
Dominique Eade New England Conservatory of Music Boston Massachusetts
Cuauhtemoc Escobedo Eckstein Middle School Seattle Washington
Jasmine Faulkner Polaris Expeditionary Learning School Fort Collins Colorado
Daniel James Felton Tartan High School Oakdale Minnesota
Nicholas Fernandez Bentonville Schools Bentonville Arkansas
Cathryn Fowler Health Careers High School San Antonio Texas
Marisa Frank Explore! Community School Nashville Tennessee
Jasmine Fripp KIPP Nashville Collegiate High School Nashville Tennessee
Jacob Garcia Tennyson Middle School Waco Texas
Jorge L. Garcia Elias Herrera Middle School Laredo Texas
Tina Gibson Jefferson County Traditional Middle School Louisville Kentucky
Alex Gittelman Haverford Middle School Havertown Pennsylvania
Guillermo Gonzalez James A. Garfield High School Los Angeles California
Mansa Gory Denzel Washington School of the Arts Mount Vernon New York
Deanna Grandstaff Cecil Intermediate School McDonald Pennsylvania
Amanda Hanzlik E.O. Smith High School Storrs Connecticut
Marvin Haywood John Ehret High School Marrero Louisiana
Kristin Howell Syosset High School Syosset New York
Emmanuel Hudson Booker T. Washington High School Shreveport Louisiana
Karla Hulne Blair-Taylor Middle/High School Blair Wisconsin
Mia Ibrahim Health Opportunities High School Bronx New York
Luis Ingels Candor Elementary School Candor New York
Justin Janer Pinewood School Middle Campus Los Altos California
Daryl Jessen Dakota Valley School North Sioux City South Dakota
De'Evin Johnson Duncanville High School Duncanville Texas
Amir Jones Harvey High School Painesville Ohio
Allison Kline Blue Mountain Area School Orwigsburg Pennsylvania
Kenneth Kosterman Rockwall-Heath High School Heath Texas
Joshua Krohn Brent Elementary School Washington District of Columbia
Sarah Labovitz Arkansas State University Jonesboro Arkansas
Heather Leppard Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA) Los Angeles California
Hope Lewis Charles O. Dickerson HS Trumansburg New York
Meredith Lord Burncoat High School Worcester Massachusetts
Brendon Lucas Nyack High School Nyack New York
Christian Lucas Mariners Christian School Costa Mesa California
Alison McCarrey Romig Middle School Anchorage Alaska
Angie McDaniel Forest Creek Elementary Round Rock Texas
Ashleigh McDaniel Spatz Burgess Peterson Academy Atlanta Georgia
Matthew McKagan Lindero Canyon Middle School Agoura Hills California
Brian McMath Northwest Guilford High School Greensboro     North Carolina
Phillip McMullen Silver Creek Central Schools Silver Creek New York
Tracy Meldrum Verrado High School Buckeye Arizona
Xochilt Melendez Munguia Gainesville Middle School for the Arts and Sciences Gainesville Virginia
Kris Milby Greenup County High School Greenup Kentucky
Dana Monteiro Frederick Douglass Academy New York New York
Shelby Montgomery George Jenkins High School Lakeland Florida
David Moore Inspire Charter Academy Baton Rouge Louisiana
Ryan Moseley Appoquinimink High School Middletown Delaware
David Moss West Hopkins School Nebo Kentucky
Deborah Muhlenbruck-Fleischer Gunderson Middle School Las Vegas Nevada
Vicki Nichols Grandview Elementary Grandview Texas
Jeremy Overbeck Century High School Bismarck North Dakota
John Pachence Penn State Abington Abington Pennsylvania
Jennifer Page Niles North High School Skokie Illinois
Matthew Pitts Robert JC Rice Elementary School Gilbert Arizona
Courtney Powers Muhammad Ali School 23 Passaic New Jersey
Natalie Pratt Brentwood High School Brentwood Tennessee
William Rank Oak Prairie Junior High School Lockport Illinois
Brett Rankin Wilde Lake High School Columbia Maryland
Annie Ray Annandale High School Annandale Virginia
Tracy Resseguie Staley High School Kansas City Missouri
Giovanni Santos La Sierra University Riverside California
Ruth Schwartz Chugiak High School and Mirror Lake Middle School Chugiak Alaska
Laura Shapovalov Walden III Middle and High School Racine Wisconsin
James Sheffer Medford Memorial Middle School and Haines Sixth Grade Center Medford New Jersey
Matthew Shephard Meridian Early College High School Sanford Michigan
Dylan Sims York Middle School York South Carolina
Thomas Slater Chestnut Oaks Middle School Sumter South Carolina
Michele Slone Urbana Elementary and Jr. High School Urbana Ohio
Tony Small St. Vincent Pallotti Arts Academy Laurel Maryland
Andrew Smith Charlotte Central School Charlotte Vermont
Wayne Splettstoeszer Torrington High School Torrington Connecticut
Elizabeth Steege Cass High School Racine Wisconsin
Lawrence Stoffel California State University, Northridge Los Angeles California
Tyler Swick Robert and Sandy Ellis Elementary Henderson Nevada
Elizabeth Taylor La Crosse Elementary School La Crosse Virginia
Cami Tedoldi Foxborough High School Foxborough Massachusetts
Kylie Teston Leonardtown High School Leonardtown Maryland
Jonathan Todd Palisades High School Charlotte North Carolina
Matthew Trevino Roan Forest Elementary San Antonio Texas
Alexis True Thomas Downey High School Modesto California
Gregory Urban Dunedin Highland Middle School Dunedin Florida
Jon Usher Hidden Springs Elementary Moreno Valley California
Michael Vasquez Charles L. Kuentz Jr. Elementary Helotes Texas
Aaron Vogel Mountain Ridge High School Glendale Arizona
Bryen Warfield Homestead High School Fort Wayne Indiana
Sarah Wehmeier Aparicio Waukesha South High School Waukesha Wisconsin
Christopher White Hickory Ridge High School Harrisburg North Carolina
Tammy White Kiser Middle School Greensboro North Carolina
Tyron Williams New Visions Charter High School for the Humanities IV Far Rockaway New York
Krista Williams Floretta P. Carson Visual and Performing Arts Academy Mobile Alabama
Kelly Winovich Northgate Middle/Senior High School Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
Hayley Winslow Snow Canyon Middle School Saint George Utah
Ronnie Ziccardi Avonworth Pittsburgh Pennsylvania

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11 Women Pushing Amapiano To Global Heights: Uncle Waffles, Nkosazana Daughter, & More
(Clockwise) Khanyisa, Boohle, Kamo Mphela, Uncle Waffles, DBN GOGO, Pabi Cooper

Photos: Fundokwakhe Majozi, Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images; Courtesy of the artist; Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for UnitedMasters; Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images; Leon Bennett/WireImage

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11 Women Pushing Amapiano To Global Heights: Uncle Waffles, Nkosazana Daughter, & More

While Tyla may have brought amapiano to 2024 GRAMMYs stage, a vast network of women are responsible for bringing the South African sound to the world. Get to know 11 of the artists at the forefront of amapiano music.

GRAMMYs/Mar 1, 2024 - 04:15 pm

After South African singer Tyla won the inaugural golden gramophone for Best African Music Performance at the 2024 GRAMMYs award show, many likely wondered why her international breakout single "Water" garnered such global appeal. 

Beyond the R&B sensibilities that made its sound approachable to Western audiences, what really drew crowds to "Water" was the vitality of South African dance and elements of amapiano — a subgenre of house and a child of kwaito, South Africa’s post-Apartheid freedom sound. Punctuated by amapiano’s log drums and insistent shakers, brought to life through the frantic backside movements of bacardi  and Tyla’s aquatic theater, "Water" used genre fusion to carry South African sound across global airwaves.

What’s more, Tyla is part of a vast network of women propelling amapiano to the world. Zimbabwean singer Sha Sha’s breakout in 2019 created a monumental shift in a genre that was largely the terrain of boys and men, and since then the amapiano scene has seen many other women follow in her wake. The likes of Mawhoo, Ami Faku, Bontle Smith, and Nobantu Vilakazi consistently emphasize the genre's soulful heart through dreamlike vocal work, grounding the very hits that have made amapiano the widespread phenomenon that it is today.

Everything from the skillful improvisations of dancing schoolgirls, to lively performances from women DJs and vocalists has allowed amapiano’s essence to be communicated clearly to the world. A vast web of women are pushing the genre both within and beyond South African borders; read on for a list of 11 influential women who are key in elevating amapiano to global heights.

DBN Gogo 

It’s not that controversial: everybody loves Gogo. Born in the city from which she derived her name, Durban, DBN Gogo has steadily become one of amapiano’s most sought-after acts. From her 2021 smash hit "Khuza Gogo" featuring amapiano stars such as the late Mpura, to later hits like "Possible," "Bambelela," and "Bells," Gogo has made a name for herself as a highly-dependable hitmaker and an equally compelling performer. It was her, of course, who created the viral dakiwe dance challenge, inspiring countless dance variations and solidifying her position as amapiano’s queen of cool.

Even while she has offered the genre mass mainstream appeal, DBN Gogo's personal projects reveal her lasting dedication to preserving amapiano’s authenticity. Her 2022 debut album, What’s Real, is a warm, rich body of work, while her newest EP Click Bait is a genre-diverse wonder that transcends the boundaries of ‘piano itself. 

Since her breakout years ago, she has not even remotely backed down, taking over multiple AfroNation stages yearly, performing at Coachella in 2022, and featuring twice on the GRAMMY-nominated Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack. Dropping the Shakes & Les-assisted "Funk 55" in 2023, a track that is still dominating South African nightlife as we speak, Gogo is on an unending mission to take the world by storm.

Nkosazana Daughter

With a spiritual sound and an angelic voice to match, it’s safe to say that Nkosazana Daughter is amapiano’s sweetheart. Breaking out via an Instagram Live with DJ Maphorisa and Mpura during lockdown, the 23-year-old has proved that her ethereal vocals can impart a distinct sense of purity to any song she features on. 

She has since voiced dreamy hit singles like "Dali Nguwe" and "Sofa Silahlane" with frequent collaborator Master KG, and worked with continental artists including Tanzania’s Harmonize and Nigerian Afropop stars Mr. Eazi, Omah Lay, and Young Jonn. Last year, she asserted herself in a big way, releasing her debut album Uthingo Le Nkosazana

"Uthingo," meaning "rainbow" in Zulu, communicated to the world the vast color and love she had to bring to the scene. Nkosazana Daughter called amapiano’s greats to her world, working with the likes of Kabza de Small, Maphorisa, and Sir Trill throughout the project as well as Master KG on the lead single, "Amaphutha." She has already started the year with a bang via her successful hit "Keneilwe," proving her determination to come into 2024 with an unrelenting force.

TXC

Tarynn Reid and Clair Hefke are the dj duo that have proved the importance of intentional performance while pushing ‘piano. The pair are known for mixing amapiano party hits while clad in matching sets; Clair often holds down the fort while Tarynn drives crowds wild with impassioned dance moves. 

The duo has become a symbol of amapiano’s global appeal, ruling the Piano People stage at AfroNation in Miami, closing Boiler Room’s Soulection stage in London, and taking on Qatar’s 2022 Fifa World Cup stage alongside acts like Lil Baby. What’s more, they have consistently shown dedication to growth, expanding their title from DJ duo to production duo, including producing their debut EP.

That release, 2022's A Fierce Piano is a rich collection of tracks featuring assists from some of the genre's smoothest vocalists: Daliwonga and Murumba Pitch. Following up with "Vuka Mawulele" and their latest single "Turn Off the Lights," TXC have shown that their future as creatives in amapiano is limitless. 

Babalwa M

While the amapiano scene is fraught with disagreements surrounding origins, dates, and pioneers, all unanimously agree that Babalwa M is the queen of private school amapiano. Known for its deeply jazzy, soulful approach to amapiano, "private school" is a distinct subgenre that Babalwa’s vocals have refined throughout the years alongside its king, producer Kelvin Momo.

Listening to the transcendental vocals laced through tracks like "Aluta Continua" from her debut album of the same name, it should come as no surprise that Soweto’s own Babalwa M found her voice through the church choir.

Babalwa M's most infamous contributions to the private school archive come in the form of collaborations with the aforementioned Momo. Her near-spiritual vocals on tracks like "Feza," "Sukakude" and, most recently, "Amalobolo" from his newest project, have made even the most surface level consumers invested in the beauty of private school. Coming off of the heels of her most recent track "Maye Maye," Babalwa M is determined to continue sharing the sublimity of private school with the world. 

Uncle Waffles

Nobody quite epitomizes amapiano’s globalization in the way that Uncle Waffles does. 

It all boils down to one fateful day: a DJ booked for a 2021 club night in Soweto was unable to make their set, so Uncle Waffles was called in. She played Young Stunna’s "Adiwele," gyrating with incomparable cool as she responded to the crowd’s impassioned cries. A video of her dancing at this set went viral, generating a dance challenge that can still be seen at club nights today and converting her into an overnight sensation. Suddenly, Swaziland’s own Uncle Waffles was juggling bookings from all over the world. 

Since then, the cosmos has become the limit  — she has shut down Coachella, sold out US and UK headlines shows, and received cosigns from Drake, Kelly Rowland, and Ciara. Waffles' hit single "Tanzania" was even featured in an amapiano-influenced set during multiple stops of Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour. What’s more, she has proved that her talents transcend the stage with three projects in her catalog: Red Dragon, and 2023’s Asylum and Solace. 

With global hit singles "Yahyuppiyah" and "Peacock Revisit" from 2023, and her constant re-definition as a style icon, dancer, and creative director, Uncle Waffles continues to show the world that she cannot be confined to any one creative medium.

Chley

Slick-tongued Chley is widely understood as a secret weapon for any producer looking to cook up an amapiano anthem. Taking on music as recently as 2021, she’d already collaborated with prominent amapiano producers Mellow & Sleazy, Konke, and Musa Keys a year into her music career - voicing hits like "Kancane" and "M’nike." Chley was catapulted to a new level of fame once featured on Uncle Waffles’ "Yahyuppiyah," offering a rapid-fire verse that netizens all over the world fought hard to replicate.

Since then, she has featured on bangers such as "Vuma" with Felo Le Tee and Mellow & Sleazy, "Shu!" with Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz, Gogo’s "Funk 55," and Ggoldie’s "Asambe." With a discography bound to make even the most conservative of listeners get up and dance, Chley is certainly one to watch in the midst of amapiano’s ever-evolving scene.

Kamo Mphela

Kamo Mphela burst onto the scene after one too many videos of her dancing went viral — an expected outcome for a girl who consistently danced and MCed at block parties on the streets of Joburg. Her rise to fame fatefully coincided with amapiano’s nationwide popularization, allowing the multi-talented dancer to latch on to the township sound and never let it go. 

She soon jumped on tracks like "Sandton" alongside Kabza and Maphorisa in 2019 and "Amanikiniki" with Major League DJz in 2021, then released her own tracks "Percy Tau" and "Nkulunkulu" on her debut EP the same year. She’s since released smash hits, featured on the Wakanda Forever soundtrack, and offered a thrilling performance ahead of Davido at London’s O2 arena.

Throughout her career, Kamo Mphela has redefined the role of the dancer in amapiano’s landscape, not confining herself to the sidelines but instead positioning dance as a central component of any amapiano performance worth its salt. This radical ethic has allowed her to become widely regarded as one of amapino’s most notable performers, and she consistently ensures that her music embodies this weighty title. Her 2023 singles "HANNAH MONTANA" and "Dalie" came with expert dances — the latter with a viral dance challenge that has kept the song at a steady position on South African charts. 

Boohle

Hailing from the Vosloorus township of Johannesburg, Buhle Manyathi is all about soul. Kicking off her career as part of a gospel troupe in 2016, she later transitioned to Afro house and amapiano, releasing a multi-genre debut album, Izibongo, in 2020 and EP Sfikile in 2021. It was only a matter of time before she became the vocalist behind some of ‘piano’s biggest hits, voicing "Mama" with Josiah de Disciple (and its gorgeous Afro house remix from De Capo), "Siyathandana" alongside rapper Cassper Nyovest, and the glorious "Ngixolele," produced by Busta 929. 

Several top charting positions and awards later, she came out with arguably her most global single, "Hamba Wena" alongside Deep London. Igniting a global dance challenge created by South African steppers Hope Ramafalo and Hlongi Mash, "Hamba Wena" captivated the globe  and reasserted Boohle’s seemingly endless ability to produce ‘piano anthems.

Lady Du

Music was always in the cards for Lady Du, but it was amapiano in particular that changed the scope of her career. Reared in a family of influential DJs and producers, she kicked off her career as a Hip-Hop DJ before pivoting completely into ‘piano. 

Dropping both "Catalia" and "Woza" in 2021 — both with production from ‘piano pioneer Mr JazziQ — Lady Du suddenly had 2 gigantic hits under her belt, the latter becoming one of the biggest songs in the early days of amapiano’s globalization.

She has since offered roaring vocals on Busta and Mpura’s "Umsebenzi Wethu," hard-hitting rap on 9numba and TOSS’ "uMlando," and Mzansi flare on international features such as "I Did It" with Nigeria’s Niniola. 

Lady Du reaffirmed her centrality in the scene in 2023, dropping her debut album Song is Queen and later, the Megadrumz-produced single "Tjina." The percussion-heavy tune quickly turned global club nights upside down, secured high positions on South Africa’s streaming charts, and emphasized Lady Du’s centrality in amapiano’s sprawling ecosystem.

Pabi Cooper

or Pritori princess Pabi Cooper, winning is easy. Hailing from South Africa’s administrative capital Pretoria, Pabi broke out as a 21-year-old with the party-starting "Isphithiphithi," a hit produced by Busta 929 in 2021.

2022's "Banyana Ke Bafana" was a widely popular hit, propelled by irresistible verses from the Pritori trifecta of Pabi, vocalist Ch’cco, and rapper Focalistic. Her debut EP, Cooperville, introduced audiences to a vast world of her making, with soulful numbers like "MAMA," alongside more street-centric jams like "Waga Bietjie" and "Angeke." 

Today, Cooper has solidified herself as a symbol of youth power, mesmerizing South African crowds through her concert series Cooper FC and snagging a BET nomination in 2023 for Best New International Act. She also carries her hometown on her back wherever she goes; last year saw her release "Jukulyn" alongside Pretoria’s Jelly Babie, a track dedicated to a township of the same name and rooted in the city’s bouncy, infectious sound bacardi. 

Khanyisa

Khanyisa may have started off her career as a social media influencer, but she has seamlessly evolved into an amapiano star. Performing covers and skits to the millions of followers she amassed on TikTok, Khanyisa wielded relatability and humor as her social media superpowers. 

It wasn’t until her irresistible breakout "Bheka Mina Ngedwa" with Lady Du and her official debut "Ungangi Bambi" in 2021, both delivered with the same vitality that offered her acclaim online, that Khanyisa formally secured popularity within the amapiano space.

Since, Khanyisa has featured on popular tracks such as "Vuka Mawulele" with TxC and the  danceable "Zula Zula" with Villosoul. In 2023, she proved her role as an undeniable hitmaker, releasing the log drum heavy "SUKA" and "NGIMOJA" with producer of the year Tyler ICU. With her successful pivot to musical fame, it is clear that Khanyisa’s future as a player in amapiano is incredibly bright. 

10 Alté Artists To Know: Odunsi (The Engine), TeeZee, Lady Donli & More

Freddy Wexler On Helping Billy Joel "Turn The Lights Back On" — At The 2024 GRAMMYs And Beyond
Photo: Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

(L-R) Billy Joel, Freddy Wexler

interview

Freddy Wexler On Helping Billy Joel "Turn The Lights Back On" — At The 2024 GRAMMYs And Beyond

"Part of what was so beautiful for me to see on GRAMMY night was the respect and adoration that people of all ages and from all genres have for Billy Joel," Wexler says of Joel's 2024 GRAMMYs performance of their co-written "Turn The Lights Back On."

GRAMMYs/Feb 26, 2024 - 09:11 pm

They say to not meet your heroes. But when Freddy Wexler — a lifelong Billy Joel fan — did just that, it was as if Joel walked straight out of his record collection.

"I think the truth is none of it is that surprising," the 37-year-old songwriter and producer tells GRAMMY.com. "That's the best part. From his music, I would've thought this is a humble, brilliant everyman who probably walks around with a very grounded perspective, and that's exactly who he is."

That groundedness made possible "Turn the Lights Back On" — the hit comeback single they co-wrote, and Wexler co-produced; Joel performed a resplendent version at the 2024 GRAMMYs with Laufey. Joel hadn't released a pop album since 1993's River of Dreams; for him to return to the throne would take an awfully demonstrative song, true to his life.

"I think it's a very raw, honest, real perspective that is true to Billy," Wexler explains. "I think it's the first time we've heard him acknowledge mistakes and regret in quite this way."

Specifically, Joel's return highlights his regret over spending three decades mostly on the bench, largely absent from the pop scene. As Joel wonders aloud in the stirring, arpeggiated chorus, "Is there still time for forgiveness?"

"Forgiveness" is a curious word. Why would the five-time GRAMMY winner and 23-time nominee possibly need to seek forgiveness? Regardless — as the song goes — he's "tryin' to find the magic/ That we lost somehow." The song's message — an attempt to recapture a lost essence — transcends Joel's personal headspace, connecting with a universal longing and nostalgia.

Read on for an interview with Wexler about the impact of "Turn the Lights Back On," why he thinks Joel took such an extended sabbatical, the prospect of more new music, and much more.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

**You did a great interview with Rolling Stone ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs. Now, we're on the other side of it; you got to see how it went down on the telecast, and resonated with the audience and world. What was that like?**

It's why I make music — to hopefully make people feel something. This song has really resonated in such a big way. More than looking at its commercial success on the charts or on radio, which has been awesome to see, the comments on Instagram and YouTube have been the most rewarding part of it.

Why do you think it resonated? Beyond the king picking up his crown again?

I don't think the song is trying to be anything it's not. I think it's a very raw, honest, real perspective that is true to Billy. I think it's the first time we've heard him acknowledge mistakes and regret in quite this way. And to hear him do it in a hopeful way where he's asking, "Is it too late for forgiveness?" is just very moving, I think.

Forgiveness? That's interesting. What would any of us need to forgive him?

He has said in other interviews, "Sometimes people say they have no regrets at the end of their life." And he said, "I don't think that's possible. If you've lived a full life, of course you have regrets." He has said that he has many things he wishes he would've done differently. This is an opportunity to express that.

I think what's interesting about the song is it has found meaning in various ways with various people and listeners. Some people imagine Billy is singing to former lovers or friends. Other people imagine Billy is singing to his fans asking, "Did I wait too long to record again?" Other people wonder if Billy is singing to the songwriting Gods and muses. Did I wait too long to write again?

In Israel, where the song was number one — or is number one, I haven't checked today — I think the song's taken on the meaning of just wanting things to be normal, wanting hostages to come home and turn the lights back on. So, you never know where a song is going to resonate, but I think that Billy just found his own meaning with it.

You know the discography front to back. What lines can you draw from "Turn the Lights Back On" to past works?

I think it draws on various pieces of his catalog, right? "She's Always a Woman" has a sort of piano arpeggio in the chorus. To me, it feels like a natural progression. It feels like, on the one hand, it's a new song. On the other, it could have come out right after River of Dreams. To me, it just kind of feels natural.

**Back when you spoke with Rolling Stone, you said you couldn't wait to hear "Turn the Lights Back On" at Madison Square Garden. How'd it sound?**

Amazing. Billy is a consummate live performer. I think he's one of the few artists where everything is better live, and everything is always a little bit different each time it's played live.

It's been really cool to watch Billy and the band continue to change and improve the song and the song's dynamics for the show. He told me tonight that tomorrow night in Tampa, I think they're going to try to play with the key of the song, potentially — try it a half a step higher.

Those are the sort of things I think great artists do, right? It's different from being on a certain type of tour where every single song is the same, the set list is the same, the key is the same, the arrangements are the same.

With Billy, there's a lot of feeling and, "Hey, why don't we try it this way? Let's play it a little faster. Let's play it a little slower. Let's try it in a different key." I just think that's super cool. You have to be a really good musician to just do that on the fly.

What have you learned from him that applies to your music making, writ large?

I've learned so much from him. As Olivia Rodrigo said to us at GRAMMY rehearsals, "He's the blueprint when it comes to songwriting."

He has helped raise the bar for me when it comes to melodies and lyrics, but the thing I keep coming back to is he's reminded me that even the greatest artists and songwriters ever sometimes forget how great they are. I think we need to be careful not to give that inner voice and inner critic too much power.

Can you talk about how the music video came to be?

Well, I had a dream that Billy was singing the opening two lines of the song, but it was a 25-year-old version of Billy. It was arresting.

When I woke up, I sort of had the vision for the video, which was one set, an empty venue of some kind, and four Billy Joels. The Billy Joel that really exists today, but then three Billys from three iconic eras where each Billy would seamlessly pick up the song where the other left off.

The idea behind that was to sort of accentuate the question of the song — did I wait too long to turn the lights back on?

And so, to kind of take us through time and through all these years, I teamed up with an amazing co-director, Warren Fu, who's done everything from Dua Lipa to Daft Punk, and an artificial intelligence company called Deep Voodoo to make that vision possible.

What I'm driven by is the opportunity to create conversations, cultural moments, things that make people feel something. What was cool here is as scary as AI is — and I think it is scary in many ways — we were able to give an example of how you can use it in a positive way to execute a creative artistic vision that previously would've been impossible to execute.

Yeah, so I'm pleased with it and I'm thankful that Billy did a video. He didn't have to do one, but he liked the idea of it. He felt it was different, and I think he was moved by it as well.

What do you think is the next step here?

It's been a really rewarding process. And Billy is open-minded, which is really cool for an artist of that level, who's not a new artist by any stretch. To actually be described as being in a place in his life where he's open-minded, means anything is possible. I could tell you that I would love there to be more music.

I'd love to get your honest appraisal. And I know you're not him. But his last pop album was released 31 years ago. In that long interim, what do you think was going on with him, creatively?

Look, I'm not Billy Joel, but I think there were a number of factors going on with him. Somewhere along the way, I think he stopped having fun with music, which is the reason he got into it, or which is a big part of the reason he got into it. When it stopped being fun, I don't think he really wanted to do it anymore.

Another piece to it is that Billy is a perfectionist, and that perfectionism is evident in the caliber of his songwriting. Having always written 100 percent of his songs, Billy at some point probably found that process to be painstaking, to try to hit that bar where he's probably wondering in his head, What would Beethoven think of this? What would Leonard Bernstein think of this?

I think part of what was different here was that, perhaps, there was something liberating about "Turn the Lights Back On" being a seed that was brought to Billy. In this way, he could be a little disconnected from it, where maybe he didn't have to have the self-imposed pressure that he would if it was an idea that he'd been trying to finish for a while.

Ironically, he still made it. Well, there's no "ironically," but I think that's it. There's something to that.

Billy Joel's Biggest Songs: 15 Tracks That Best Showcase The Piano Man's Storytelling And Pop Hooks

GRAMMY U Reps Experience GRAMMY Week Like Never Before Thanks To The Recording Academy & United Airlines
GRAMMY U Reps and staff walk the red carpet at the 2024 GRAMMYs

Photo: Andrew Sankovich

news

GRAMMY U Reps Experience GRAMMY Week Like Never Before Thanks To The Recording Academy & United Airlines

United Airlines flew the GRAMMY U Representatives out to L.A. for an unforgettable 2024 GRAMMY Week. The trip provided significant professional development in music, and the Reps savored every moment. Take a look at the GRAMMY U Reps’ inspirational week.

GRAMMYs/Feb 22, 2024 - 10:38 pm

Thanks to United Airlines' partnership with the Recording Academy, the students traveled from all over the country to Los Angeles and met in person for the first time. In past years, GRAMMY U Reps have only been able to attend a few select events in addition to the GRAMMY Awards on Sunday. But because of United Airlines, these National and Chapter Reps were able to experience the music industry’s most exhilarating week.

Come with the GRAMMY U Reps as they experience Music’s Biggest Night, behind-the-scenes tours, and events highlighting various initiatives within the music industry during GRAMMY Week 2024. Learn how to apply to GRAMMY U here.

Tuesday: Travel Day

The GRAMMY U group chat was exploding with excited messages as we arrived at the airport early Tuesday morning. Each Rep was about to meet their co-workers — many of whom had only connected virtually — and gain the experience of a lifetime. 

United flew all 14 Reps to Los Angeles with exceptional timing, service, and care — even though we were traveling to work at GRAMMY Week, it felt like we were getting celebrity treatment. Once we touched down in L.A., we ran to the United baggage claim to hug our friends and capture the experience to share with fellow GRAMMY U members.

Philly Rep Tamara Tondreau and Nashville Rep Della Anderson┃GRAMMY U

Philly Rep Tamara Tondreau and Nashville Rep Della Anderson┃GRAMMY U

After grabbing lunch near our hotel in downtown L.A., we made it to the Recording Academy Los Angeles Chapter Office in Santa Monica for our first in-person team meeting. Sporting new custom GRAMMY U jackets, T-shirts, and hats, we prepared for our signature GRAMMY Week event, a Masterclass with actress/GRAMMY-nominated R&B artist Halle Bailey

Reps were briefed on plans for the week, then took an office tour where we spotted multiple golden gramophones. Since we work remotely year-round, this was our first time getting to see where all the magic happens.

Wednesday: Behind-The-Scenes & Behind The Music

On Wednesday, we were up bright and early to explore the Crypto.com Arena and learn about the behind-the-scenes preparation it takes to host the GRAMMY Awards each year. 

Jody Kolozsvari, Associate Producer of the GRAMMYs and a GRAMMY U alum, guided us around the arena. He also introduced us to the incredible audio, mixing, communications, and production teams as well as Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr

"Walking intoCrypto.com Arena and seeing the GRAMMY stage being built was a very surreal moment," said Sara Hudson, GRAMMY U's New York Chapter Rep. "Meeting so many of the people behind the show and witnessing the hard work that is put into producing the GRAMMY Awards made my passion for working in live music grow even more."

Later that night, Philadelphia Chapter Rep Tamara Tondreau and Los Angeles Chapter Rep Jade Bacon worked as GRAMMY U press at the A Celebration of Craft event, a collaboration between the Recording Academy Producers and Engineers Wing and Songwriters and Composers Wing. This was the very first time GRAMMY U Reps were invited to this exclusive event; Tamara, a songwriter herself, called this event "unforgettable."

"Since songwriting sparked my interest in the music industry, it was inspiring to be in the room with so many talented creatives," Tamara says. "Networking with professionals who hold multiple roles in the industry encouraged me and reaffirmed my goal of maintaining both business and creative aspects in my career."

Thursday: Fostering Community & Culture

Hosted at GRAMMY House, Thursday morning started with a beautiful luncheon at the inaugural A Celebration of Women in the Mix. This event made space for women in the music industry to gather and support one another, recognizing all of the strides made in a male-dominated field. 

Twelve of the 14 Reps identify as women, and this was a special moment to meet some of the industry leaders that we look up to as role models. Networking with female artists, managers, and producers who are laying the groundwork for our generation was a powerful moment we will never forget.

After delivering the keynote speech, Ty Stiklorius, the founder of management company Friends at Work, spoke with some of the GRAMMY U Reps.

"Having a conversation with such an established female in the music industry was incredibly inspiring," says Memphis Rep. Shannon Conte. "After this moment of mentorship and encouragement, I left the event feeling much more confident in my ability to one day succeed in becoming an artist manager."

Dressing up in our finest suits and gowns, we hit the town to attend the exclusive Black Music Collective’s 2024 Recording Academy Honors event, where legends Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz accepted Global Impact Awards. Sitting in the same room as these superstars was awe-inspiring, and it was an honor to see how the Black community was celebrated during GRAMMY Week.

GRAMMY U Reps Shaneel Young, Jade Bacon, and Chloe Sarmiento hosted interviews for our social media, highlighting the fashion of dozens of high-profile attendees including Adam Blackstone, Jordin Sparks, Flavor Flav, and Erica Campbell as they walked the signature black carpet. The excitement of the press line on the black carpet provided Reps with first-hand experience of what a career in press and publicity could look like. 

GRAMMY U DC Rep Shaneel Young aspires to work in music marketing. "Interviewing some of the most influential people in the industry about my passions: music, fashion, and culture, will be a moment I remember for the rest of my career," she reflects.

Reps at Black Music Collective’s Recording Academy Honors┃GRAMMY U

Reps at Black Music Collective’s Recording Academy Honors┃GRAMMY U

These two spectacular events immersed us in the initiatives the Recording Academy has implemented to celebrate diversity and representation in music, and we are so honored to be a part of the company’s continued mission.

Friday: Work Hard, Play Hard

After months spent planning our signature GRAMMY Week event, the GRAMMY U Masterclass with Halle Bailey, presented by Mastercard, we finally saw the fruits of our labor come to life. This year, we welcomed over 500 attendees in person, with members from every Chapter flying in to experience the event together at GRAMMY House.

GRAMMY U PNW Rep Chloe Sarmiento worked as talent lead and interacted directly with Halle Bailey and her team. "It was incredibly fulfilling to see the event come together on-site in Los Angeles after weeks of working on it from home," Chloe says. "Halle and her team were so great to work with, and I couldn’t have asked for a better speaker for the Masterclass!"

Working with experienced Recording Academy staff onsite further enlightened us about all things event production. From talent handling and partnerships to working radios and managing the stage, we were excited to execute a large-scale event with all of the Reps at GRAMMY House.

After a successful Masterclass, the Reps split up for the evening to conquer even more GRAMMY Week events. Half the group went to the #GRAMMYsNextGen party to spread the word about membership, host a photobooth, and interact with influencers and emerging performers. We met hip-hop duo Flyana Boss, and some of our other celebrity sightings included Laura Marano and Milo Manheim. It was inspiring to see other young professionals who have established themselves in the entertainment industry so early in their careers.

Mastercard surprised us with an entire seated table at the exclusive MusiCares Person Of The Year Gala honoring Jon Bon Jovi. It was an outstanding evening honoring the rock icon and the many ways he has given back to the music community. Following a live auction, Brandy Clark, Lainey Wilson, Jelly Roll, Shania Twain, and others performed some of Bon Jovi’s biggest hits — Bon Jovi even graced the stage with Bruce Springsteen for a special rendition of "Who Says You Can’t Go Home." 

The Reps were incredibly grateful to United and Mastercard for granting us the opportunity to witness these exclusive live performances. To see the music community come together to honor a legend while giving back and furthering the mission of MusiCares is a heartwarming aspect of the music industry we don’t get to witness every day.

Reps with Sabrina Carpenter at the Person of the Year Gala┃GRAMMY U

Reps with Sabrina Carpenter at the Person of the Year Gala┃GRAMMY U

GRAMMY U Chicago Rep Rachel Owen was one of the lucky attendees able to watch the thrilling performances while mingling in the crowd with other musicians like Sabrina Carpenter and David Archuleta.

"To even be in the same room as Shania Twain is an honor, she’s timeless and more exquisite than I could've even imagined," Owen says. "To see her perform live to Jon Bon Jovi is the type of moment you just never take for granted."

Saturday: Divide & Conquer

Saturday was jam-packed with events. Back again at GRAMMY House, a group of Reps attended the Best New Artist Spotlight, where nominees discussed their breakthrough years and what it means to be considered a "new artist." From upstarts Ice Spice and Gracie Abrams to the long musical journey of Victoria Monét, The War and Treaty, and Jelly Roll, these diverse perspectives all stressed that each person has a unique career timeline and reminded us as students to practice perseverance and patience as we navigate this industry. 

Various Reps continued at GRAMMY House, some working as press at the #GRAMMYsNextGen Ambassador Power Brunch and the first-ever Academy Proud event, celebrating LGBTQIA+ voices.

A handful of us worked as GRAMMY U press at the Special Merit Awards ceremony and subsequent celebration. Being a part of these exclusive events and witnessing historic moments like the presentation of Lifetime Achievement Awards was truly impactful. We interviewed nominees at the celebration, including boygenius engineer Owen Lantz (the supergroup would win their first three GRAMMYs the very next day.)

Hundreds of nominees attended the Special Merit Awards and Celebration, proudly displaying their blue medallions and glowing as they took their official GRAMMY nominee photos; the hopeful and energetic spirit of the event fueled our drive to succeed in this industry even more.

Sunday: And The GRAMMY Goes To…

Sunday morning was the day everyone had all been waiting for: the 66th GRAMMY Awards! After getting our glam on, the GRAMMY U Reps got to walk the red carpet for the first time ever. We took tons of photos and videos to commemorate this special moment and share our experience with friends and family.

While most of the Reps were posing on the carpet, Pierson, Jasmine, Rachel, and Chloe had the honor of being trophy presenters during the GRAMMY Premiere Ceremony. This was the first time GRAMMY U Reps from across the country were given the honor of being up close and personal during artists' career-defining moments.

Reps on the GRAMMYs Red Carpet┃Andrew Sankovich

Reps on the GRAMMYs Red Carpet┃Andrew Sankovich 

Moving into Crypto.com Arena to be seated for the telecast portion of the evening, the GRAMMY U Reps were ecstatic to watch the ceremony in person. As legends like Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel, Tracy Chapman, and Stevie Wonder blazed on stage, all the Reps were singing and dancing along, thrilled to be a part of Music’s Biggest Night. Phenomenal performances from nominees SZA, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Dua Lipa, Miley Cyrus, and Luke Combs were equally captivating. 

Witnessing the live telecast after experiencing so much behind-the-scenes production exemplified how rewarding the music industry can be, and how prestigious winning a GRAMMY truly is. The quiet suspense before a winner was announced and the roars that followed created a rollercoaster of emotions that took our breath away.

Immediately afterward, we were off to enjoy the official GRAMMYs After-Party  — and not even the constant showers could not rain on our parade. The Reps hit the dancefloor as soon as NE-YO took the stage, and hearing "Time of Our Lives" felt especially relatable. 

As we headed back home on our United flights, we reflected on an exhilarating GRAMMY Week. Not only were we able to be part of exclusive events, but we also interacted with artists, learned from experts, and grew exponentially. Experiencing these moments with the other Reps brought our team closer, while meeting members and peers showed the expansive community GRAMMY U is cultivating. 

Because of United, we witnessed all the Recording Academy does for the music industry. After GRAMMY Week, we feel more inspired and empowered than ever to lead the next generation of the music industry.

With additional reporting from Pierson Livingston.

2024 GRAMMYs: See The Full Winners & Nominees List

South African Singer Tyla Won The Inaugural Best African Music Performance Category At The 2024 GRAMMYs. What Does It Mean For African Music On The Global Stage?
Tyla with her golden gramophone

Photo: Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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South African Singer Tyla Won The Inaugural Best African Music Performance Category At The 2024 GRAMMYs. What Does It Mean For African Music On The Global Stage?

While Afrobeats and amapiano are certainly crossing over in America, Tyla’s win reflects how Western influence is often necessary for African music to transcend the continent. Is "Water" what African music needs to blossom?

GRAMMYs/Feb 12, 2024 - 10:43 pm

As the first recipient of the inaugural Best African Music Performance GRAMMY Award, South African songstress Tyla has officially etched her name into history. At the 2024 GRAMMYs, the 22-year-old's amapiano-infused Afro pop hit "Water" beat out several long-established names in African music.

While Tyla's success on Music's Biggest Night stresses the Recording Academy's continued efforts to showcase diverse African music, her victory is more of a one-armed hug rather than a full, legs-off-the-ground embrace of African music. 

This is chiefly because "Water" was successful and marketable for its use of Western pop influences. While Afrobeats and amapiano are certainly crossing over in America, bestowing a golden gramophone upon an artist whose work reflects familiar sounds is a curious step forward for African music. Still, Tyla's win may foster a greater embrace of the African sound, and the virality and pervasiveness of "Water" propelled the Johannesburg-born singer/songwriter to unheard of heights. 

"Water" hit No. 1 on the Billboard U.S. Afrobeats Songs and Hip-Hop/R&B charts, and became the first African song to enter the Billboard Hot 100 since 1968. The track peaked at No. 7, making Tyla the highest-charting African female solo musician in Billboard history. The "Water" dance challenge on TikTok further pushed the track into the global sphere, and the song has been featured in over 1.5 million videos.

The widespread appeal of "Water" is a culmination of elements, notably a fusion of Western pop with subtler amapiano influences. The song melds sleek American R&B and pop compositions with the log drums and piano trails synonymous with the South African amapiano genre. 

Read more: 10 African GRAMMY Winners Through The Years: From Miriam Makeba To Angélique Kidjo & Burna Boy

Indeed, most musical genres (regardless of continent of origin) draw inspiration from and contribute back to each other. The resulting music transcends regional boundaries and appeals globally — and Tyla's "Water" is proof of this resonance. Yet it also reflects how a major Western influence is often necessary for African music to transcend the continent. 

The Recording Academy's new Category was designed to highlight "strong elements of African cultural significance," said Shawn Thwaites, Recording Academy Awards Project Manager and author of the Category. In describing eligibility for the Best African Music Performance Category, Thwaites noted that songs must feature "a stylistic intention, song structure, lyrical content and/or musical representation found in Africa and the African diaspora." 

Still, when it comes to recognizing lesser known genres — from South Africa's gqom to Tanzania’s singeli and Ghana’s asakaa — the global audience still has a long way to go.

"We need to go deeper and in more detail within different genres of music. We know there are multiple different types of music — hundreds of genres, in fact — coming from Africa and from all 54 countries on the continent," Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. told GRAMMY.com after his three trips to the vibrant continent. "I'd love to see us be able to honor even more music from Africa and other areas of the world."

Thwaites hopes that celebrating the diversity of African music will also lead to greater cultural exchange. Eventually, this could lead to "more collaborations between artists of different genres and more artist relations between labels and executives in America," he said. 

But for this progression to happen correctly, there has to be a cultural education about the music within the continent and it's something Ghazi Shami, CEO/Founder of Empire Records, Distribution and Publishing — who consulted with the Recording Academy on the new Category — is looking forward to watching develop. 

"I think we'll see expanded categories in African music in the years to come, but this is a great start toward recognizing the merits and impact of African music," he told GRAMMY.com prior to the ceremony. 

Tyla's GRAMMY win is an exceptional achievement — particularly so for a young African woman. Popular African music has often been skewed towards male artists. At the 2023 GRAMMYs, Tems became the only female solo artist currently living in Nigeria to win a GRAMMY. (Sade, who was born in Nigeria, has won four GRAMMYs but lives in the U.K.)

A similar trend is observed in South Africa, where Miriam Makeba was both Africa's first GRAMMY winner and the country's solo female vocalist to win prior to Tyla. 

Tyla's win is a beacon to other young female performers in Africa — including fellow Category nominee Ayra Starr and singer/songwriter and producer Bloody Civilian — proving that female artists can and will be recognized, regardless of their country of origin. It also demonstrates how the distance between African artists and international prestige has been shortened, thus furthering the likelihood of artistic innovation.

Her win is also notable in a Category stacked with Nigerian artists. Of the five nominated works, "Water" is the only one not created by an artist of Nigerian descent or currently living in Nigeria. (Though South African producer Musa Keys is featured on Davido's nominated "UNAVAILABLE.") Although South Africa has a lengthy history at the GRAMMY Awards, Tyla is proof the world is listening to what her country has to offer. 

While her fellow nominees — Starr, Burna Boy, Davido, ASAKE & Olamide  — and artists such as Wizkid have also shouldered the responsibility for the globalization of popular African music, there is still a long road ahead. 

Tyla’s win holds significant promise for African music as pop music. While "Water" certainly has noticeable South African elements, its Western appeal may partially lay in its use of familiar sounds. For Africa to truly win, the world has to embrace African music for what it is, and not for what it's trying to be. 

Big First Wins At The 2024 GRAMMYs: Karol G, Lainey Wilson, Victoria Monét & More