meta-scriptBen Platt On 2022 GRAMMYs Tribute To Stephen Sondheim: "He Really Shaped My Worldview" | GRAMMY.com
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Ben Platt performs on "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon" in 2021

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Ben Platt On 2022 GRAMMYs Tribute To Stephen Sondheim: "He Really Shaped My Worldview"

'Dear Evan Hansen' nominee Ben Platt grew up listening to Stephen Sondheim's classic musicals. In addition to vying for Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media at the 2022 GRAMMYs, Platt will perform in a special tribute to the late composer/lyricist

GRAMMYs/Apr 2, 2022 - 10:40 pm

At the 64th GRAMMY Awards on Sunday, April 3, Ben Platt, Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr. and Rachel Zegler will pay tribute to the artists who have passed away in the last year during the in memoriam section of the ceremony. Among the honorees is the late composer Stephen Sondheim, who passed away on Nov. 26, 2021.

"He's meant so much to me. When I was a kid, I grew up listening to his musicals," Platt, an actor, singer and songwriter, told GRAMMY.com by phone. "He really shaped my worldview about how to be a person from his writing."

Prior to his death at the age of 91, Sondheim, won seven GRAMMY Awards and was nominated 17 times during his long and celebrated career. Sondheim's last win was for the 1994 musical theater album Passion, though he had been heavily in the spotlight at the time of his death.

In 2021, the prolific composer and lyricist was featured in the movie, tick, tick..Boom!; a revival of his Broadway show "Company" (for which Sondheim took home a GRAMMY for Best Score From An Original Cast Show Album in 1970) was in previews; and a second film version of West Side Story, which he wrote the lyrics to in 1957, was days away from its glitzy New York City premiere. 

In addition to performing in Sunday's Sondheim tribute, Platt is part of the Dear Evan Hansen team nominated for Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media. (The actor reprised his Tony Award-winning role as Evan Hansen in the 2021 film adaptation.)  A Dear Evan Hansen win  would mark Platt’s second GRAMMY Award for the same show — the original "Dear Evan Hansen" Broadway cast recording won Best Musical Theater Album 2018.

GRAMMY.com spoke with Platt all about his nomination, what the tribute to Sondheim will look like and how he's continuing to honor Sondheim’s legacy by filming a movie of another one of his GRAMMY-nominated musicals, "Merrily We Roll Along."

What was your reaction when you were asked to perform this special tribute?

It was one of those universe things of feeling like you're in the right place at the right time. The flashiness of being on the GRAMMYs is exciting no matter what, but there's something deeply honoring and humbling about doing it in this way. 

I saw Cynthia five times in "The Color Purple." We all saw Leslie in "Hamilton." I love the West Side Story film. It's a special concoction of theater people. You'll never get a group that truly represents the theater community and I’m proud this is the crew to carry out this particular message.

What can you tell us about the performance?

I don’t know what I am allowed to reveal or not reveal. Leslie, Cynthia, Rachel and myself are all representing different songs, and presenting different motifs. They all blend together in this really beautiful medley. I think it's really beautiful this year that it gets to be both for him in particular, and for the entire in memoriam section at large. 

Are you able to reveal what song of his you're singing on Sunday?

I'm not supposed to. But I will say they're all from different shows. And they're all very familiar, beautiful, popular tunes that I hope many people will know. 

Have you gotten the music yet?

We all gave our two cents about what we wanted it to feel like and sound like. Leslie and his really brilliant arranger Bruce Healey put it in motion and created this great arrangement. We've all been learning it separately. We get together on Friday and rehearse together off site. Then we rehearse again on Saturday. Then there’s a dress rehearsal and then we do it.

Who picked the songs?

It's a collaboration. We gave a list and [the producers] told us which ones that they were particularly interested in. We all expressed which ones fit our voices and then we all found a happy medium together.

What does Sondheim mean to you?

When I was a kid, I felt a little bit different than a lot of my peers in the sense that my mind was sometimes elsewhere. 

In "Sunday in the Park with George" [which Sondheim won a GRAMMY Award for Best Cast Show Album in 1984], which is my favorite musical of all time, [Sondheim writes] a lot about that mindset — what it's like to be an artist and what you have to sacrifice to really love what you do and be passionate about what you do. How sometimes relationships and other aspects of your life have to really take a backseat when you're devoting yourself to your art. Hearing that expressed in such a beautiful way was so moving to me.

What’s your favorite Sondheim lyric? Mine is "Let Me Entertain You."

I would say it's a tie between "anything you do/let it come from you/that it will be new" from "Sunday in the Park with George" and "if life were only moments/ that you'd never know you had one" from "Into The Woods." 

Did you ever meet Sondheim?

He came to see "Dear Evan Hansen" but he didn’t come backstage. I auditioned for him once for a revival of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" that James Corden was going to do that never came together. I got to sing "Love, I Hear" for him. Of course, I hated the audition. It wasn't nearly good enough for me because it was for Sondheim. But I did get to look him in the face and wave and say hello. 

We were meant to sit down and have dinner with Rick Linklater, Beanie [Feldstein] and Jonathan Mark Sherman to talk about our Merrily We Roll Along project. But we didn’t get it together in time before we lost him. 

How much of the movie have you shot already?

Just the first sequence. 

When is the next time you film?

Holidays 2023. 

It’s incredible how different it must feel to go from shooting Dear Evan Hansen in such a short time to filming this movie, which takes place over the course of 20 years.

This is a very special once in a lifetime situation that is definitely a leap of faith for all involved. I think everybody, particularly those that know and love "Merrily," what a particularly special opportunity it is to make this piece work in a way that it never has before. 

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Beanie Feldstein (L) and Ben Platt (R) speak onstage during the GRAMMY U Conference.
Beanie Feldstein (L) and Ben Platt (R) speak onstage during the GRAMMY U Conference.

Photp: Rob Kim/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Recording Academy & Amazon Music Host 2024 GRAMMY U Conference In New York Featuring Ben Platt

The two-day conference included a showcase of GRAMMY U performers and Infinity Song, as well as panels and workshops geared toward live television and Broadway musical performances, in addition to a thought-provoking keynote from Ben Platt.

GRAMMYs/Apr 22, 2024 - 06:57 pm

GRAMMY U hosted a two-day conference presented by Amazon Music for GRAMMY U members in New York City on April 19 and 20. The event, spearheaded by GRAMMY U Senior Director Jessie Allen, offered an immersive experience designed to enrich and empower emerging talents within the music industry. 

An emerging artist showcase took place on Friday, April 19, followed by a day-long series of panels and breakout sessions on Saturday, April 20, highlighting the live performance industries of Broadway and television talk shows, featuring GRAMMY, Tony, and Emmy-winning artist and actor Ben Platt as the keynote speaker.

The summit marks the beginning of a new cornerstone collaboration between GRAMMY U and Amazon Music, in which Amazon Music will play an integral role in the growth of GRAMMY U’s year-round programming, development and impact. Mastercard was also a participating sponsor of the conference.

“We were all thrilled to bring the GRAMMY U Conference to the heart of New York City. It’s a testament to the dedication of Jessie Allen, whose leadership has elevated this event year after year,” said Ruby Marchand, Chief Awards Officer of the Recording Academy. “I extend heartfelt gratitude to the Amazon Music Team for supporting GRAMMY U; this marks the genesis of an extraordinary collaboration, and together, we look forward to crafting an array of programs that will empower our GRAMMY U members throughout the year.”

The emerging artist showcase featured dynamic performances by GRAMMY U members Kayla Erhardt, Kühlname, Serena Laurel, Nicknames, Liv Paris, and Your Future Is Now scholar Jawan Audè. The evening concluded with a captivating performance by New York soft rock sibling ensemble, Infinity Song.

Saturday’s programming kicked off with keynote speaker Ben Platt. In a thought-provoking keynote discussion moderated by actor Beanie Feldstein, Platt delved into his musical journey spanning Broadway, film and television, inspiring attendees with his insights. The day continued with a performance workshop led by GRAMMY, Emmy, and Tony-winner Billy Porter. Moderated by SiriusXM Program Director Julie James, attendees immersed themselves in a captivating session aimed at honing their live performance skills. 

Read more: Inside Ben Platt's 'Honeymind': How Queer Love, Live Performance & More Led To His Most Authentic Album Yet

The conference included a panel featuring “Late Night with Seth Meyers” Music Associate Producer Yeji Cha-Beach, former member of the “Late Night with Seth Meyers” 8G Band, Marnie Stern, and musician Remi Wolf. Titled “On Screen: Performing on Live TV,” the panel covered the challenges and nuances of delivering live musical performances on television, and was moderated by Siobhan Schanda, Co-Executive Producer of “SHERRI.” 

Programming continued with a panel titled “Sounds of the Stage,” moderated by Thomas Winkler, Head of Publisher, Songwriter and Society Relations at Amazon Music, featuring SVP of Warner Music Entertainment and Theatrical Ventures Kurt Deutsch, Co-Founder of Park Avenue Artists David Lai, and composer, conductor and producer Kathy Sommer, where they explored sound production on stage and cast recordings.

Additional panels included “Side Stage: The Team Behind the Curtain,” featuring industry executives moderated by Michael Kushner, founder of Michael Kushner Photography and Dear Multi-Hyphenate, featuring producer, actor and director Erich Bergen, President of A&R of Atlantic Records Pete Ganbarg, Executive Producer of DR Theatrical Management Adam Hess, and Tony-nominated Broadway producer and vocalist Christen James, where they detailed the business of Broadway and how teams bring shows to life every night.

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Singer and actor Ben Platt seated and posing
Ben Platt

Photo: Vince Aung

interview

Inside Ben Platt's 'Honeymind': How Queer Love, Live Performance & More Led To His Most Authentic Album Yet

Ben Platt's expansive artistry has taken him from Broadway to the recording studio, and his new album continues this evolution. 'Honeymind' shows Ben Platt at his most honest and vulnerable, embracing a new sound.

GRAMMYs/Apr 18, 2024 - 01:47 pm

Ben Platt has never allowed the world to dictate his fate. The GRAMMY, Tony, and Emmy-winner's artistic outpouring has been relentless, and he's still early in his career. 

The 30-year-old actor and singer has performed in Broadway musicals like "Parade" and "Dear Evan Hansen," sold out Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl as a solo artist, and starred and co-wrote the film Theater Camp. Each project has marked a step into a new direction, but none more so than Honeymind — an album that captures what it's like to chase tender and safe intimacy in partnership, and the ecstasy that follows once found. 

His professional growth between 2021's Reverie and Honeymind is apparent not just thematically, but sonically and in production. This latest album sounds natural and lush, with input from GRAMMY-winning producer Dave Cobb and producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Alex Hope. While  Honeymind shows a version of Platt some listeners may not be accustomed to, he's never sounded more comfortable in his own skin. 

To celebrate the release of Honeymind, Platt will headline a three-week residency in New York City's Palace Theatre and a subsequent nationwide summer tour and serve as the keynote speaker at this year’s GRAMMY U Conference. He spoke with GRAMMY.com about his latest album, upcoming residency, and the beautiful and, at times, tricky trappings of romantic love.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Honeymind shifts away from the '80s electro-pop of Reverie and your Broadway roots. What made you gravitate towards a more tender, folky sound that exudes warmth and serenity?

The biggest catalyst was that I wanted to go and write Nashville because I admired so many songwriters there. When I started with my first round of writing sessions for this record — which was back in the spring of 2022 — what just very naturally started coming out was this super unadorned, very storytelling-forward type of music. 

When I made my first record [2019], it was very close after I had been on Broadway for a long time, and it was theatrically linked. Then, I experimented with leaning into pop and this Peter Gabriel vibe, but it felt like a landing pad this time. I closed my eyes and went, What's the most natural way to communicate in terms of what is specific to me? This seemed to fit really nicely. 

You worked with renowned producers like Dave Cobb on this album. There are times when the producer’s work stands out most, but Honeymind sounds like you. How did you ensure that all tracks sounded distinctly like you versus a Dave Cobb song?

​​I loved the idea of working with Dave! His specialty is unadorned things that are as essential as they can be. When it comes to my own sound, my priority is always obviously storytelling and songwriting, but certainly, to have the vocal performance be very much the focus. Dave was very amenable to that. 

I went and wrote the songs with my co-writers before starting work with Dave, and I sort of came in with all of his songs completed. He did a beautiful job of preserving the integrity of the songs I’d written. [He wanted] to present them in as organic and straightforward a way as possible, as opposed to trying to sort of put a secondary sound onto it. 

Your previous work has been personal to varying degrees, but your lead single, "Andrew," feels particularly candid.

I wrote that song with Alex Hope, one of my favorite longtime collaborators, and I had a session earlier in the week with someone else who was also wonderful. [This first songwriter] was talking to me about her son, who was 10 or 11, and how he had his best friend, a boy he loved so much. She shared that she had an inclination that more love was going towards this friend and was coming back to him [than] he could even really communicate. 

It reminded me so deeply and immediately of so many different experiences growing up: having straight friends in high school and middle school, who you just love and who aren't doing anything wrong, but just by virtue of chemicals and how we're born, you develop feelings that just can't be reciprocated. [That's] such a special kind of melancholy. It's no one's fault, and I hadn't heard that strain of unrequited love and that particular type of melancholy expressed in a song. 

The next day, I went in with Alex and pitched them a song, and they're queer as well and understood the perspective, so it came out very quickly.

What about queer love do you find most challenging to articulate?

Developing feelings for people that just don't have it in their blood to feel the same way is a uniquely queer experience, [as is] boundarylessness both positively and negatively. It's very particular to queer love in the sense that there are a lot less societal examples, and sort of prerequisites, for what queer relationships look like or shouldn't be. Which is so freeing and wonderful and makes for a really beautiful, honest relationship. Still, it's also a little scary because you're flying blind in a way that is very particular to being a queer person. 

There's an inherent sort of rebellion and statement that you have to be making every day when you're out in the world with your partner as a queer person because there remain so many people who are intolerant, don't understand, and are still fearful and judgmental. It requires an extra bit of courage just to engage in the relationship.

You have a three-week residency at New York City's Palace Theatre, where legends like Elvis Presley, Diana Ross, and Judy Garland performed and will tour afterward.  How are you feeling as you prepare for these concerts?

When I finish the record and sit on it, it exists in limbo; I start to second-guess it, feel like I'm losing my connection to it, or forget. I don't feel like I'm in the same place as I was when I wrote these things because they're so intimate. 

But for me, the whole shebang has always been getting to perform live, and that's just my greatest joy. The songs are the most mine when I'm singing them live. I also love sharing music with people, and hearing in person and online conversations, about how it applies to their lives, how it reminds them of things, and how they use it. The tour is always the part where I'm the most in love with the album, and when the tour ends, I'm ready to let it out into the world and say goodbye for a minute.

Beyond the risk of trying something new in your career, what roles do failure, trial, and error play in your creative process or other parts of your life?

For every song I've written that I love or even come out, there are eight to 10 that I never want to see in the light of day. 

It's hard to find the good things until you throw everything at the wall, and if you're too afraid to fall, then you'll never really try in the first place. And I was privileged because I started working quite young; things went from A to B to C in the sense that they went steadily. As I get older, I learn that a career is more about this longer journey that is not at all linear. Now that I have some hindsight, it's easy to appreciate the down moments and the valleys because that's the only way you recognize when something is going well. I try to be grateful for those moments of failure or misstep when they come because it's an essential part of being an artist — not the funnest part always, but necessary. 

You'll be the keynote speaker at the 2024 GRAMMY U Conference for young professionals. What do you want to share most with conference attendees?

I must share my transparency and experiences and try to help learn by failure and success. I've found, in all facets, that specificity begets universality, and I'm trying to be as specifically honest about my role in how I approached songwriting in my own artistry — whether that's something someone will directly connect to, create a tangential connection to something else, or be an example of something that doesn't work for someone. 

Art is so tailor-made, so it's just about sharing ideas and seeing what sticks.

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GRAMMY U NYC Conference flier

Photo: GRAMMY U

list

What To Expect At The 2024 GRAMMY U Conference In NYC

On April 20, music’s next generation will be in New York City for the 2024 GRAMMY U Conference, presented by Amazon Music. Read on for everything you need to know about the day of career-driven discussions with Broadway icons and pop stars.

GRAMMYs/Apr 12, 2024 - 03:56 pm

Shaneel Young contributed to this article

It’s been an unparalleled year of programming for GRAMMY U. 

Lainey Wilson and Greta Van Fleet connected with crowds at the 2023 Fall Summit in Nashville; Halle Bailey and Muni Long shared wisdom with the world during GRAMMY Week in Los Angeles at the GRAMMY U Masterclass. Now, music’s next generation of creative professionals will head to New York City for the 2024 GRAMMY U Conference presented by Amazon Music.  

This year it's all about show biz, and music has a hand in every part of the entertainment industry. Featuring a star-studded lineup of guests, the GRAMMY U Conference will dive deep into how your favorite musical performances on television are created, and offer insight into music careers on Broadway. 

GRAMMY U members will be able to learn all about the live performance industry through educational panels, a speed networking session, and even a performance workshop. You won’t want to miss what the big names have to say: GRAMMY, Tony, and Emmy Award winners Ben Platt will be the conference's keynote speaker, and Billy Porter (also a GRAMMY, Emmy, and Tony Award winner)O will work up close and personal with young talent, and Remi Wolf is going to talk about the music of late night shows. 

The action begins Friday, April 19 at the Chelsea Music Hall. Members from all over the country will gather for the GRAMMY U Showcase, where five GRAMMY U contest winners will perform original music. Catch a set by Jawan and stay for Infinity Song’s closing set.

Below, GRAMMY.com has gathered all of the information you need to get excited for the massive event.

GRAMMY U Welcomes Amazon Music

GRAMMY U has officially welcomed Amazon Music as a cornerstone partner. To kick off what will be an instrumental relationship, Amazon Music is proudly bringing their knowledge to the table as a presenter of the 2024 GRAMMY U Conference. Mastercard will also be returning as a participating sponsor for the event. GRAMMY U will kick off the conference with remarks from Ruby Marchand, Chief Awards and Industry Officer, Recording Academy;, Amazon Music's Global Head of Artist & Label Relations Andre Stapleton, and GRAMMY U Sr. Director Jessie Allen.

Hang With Ben Platt, The Star Of The Show

Starting the Saturday strong, Ben Platt will sit down with Beanie Feldstein to talk all about his storied career as an actor and singer ahead of his 18-date run at the Palace Theater in NYC, kicking off May 28th before his album release.

Growing up on the stage, Platt quickly became a leading force on Broadway, and has since shared his talents with the screen, starring in multiple films and TV series. Platt is also releasing music — his third album, Honeymind, drops May 31, beginning with an 18 date residency at the Palace Theatre in NYC followed by his national tour with special guest Brandy Clark this summer — and will discuss the significance of music within his various projects.

As the GRAMMY U Conference keynote speaker, Platt will share insights from the recording studio.

Share The Stage With Billy Porter

During a workshop, Billy Porter will share his best performance practices and advice for GRAMMY U members trying to make it big. Porter is no stranger to putting on a show, with over 30 years in the industry and numerous awards under his belt — and GRAMMY U is eager to learn and take guidance as they begin their music careers. Roy Gantz, GRAMMY U's National Membership Representative, will then take the stage and receive live performance coaching directly from Porter.

Making Music On Late Night TV With Remi Wolf & More

In a discussion moderated by talent booking pro Siobhan Schanda, members of "Late Night with Seth Meyers" will discuss bringing music to late-night television. The discussion will feature "Late Night" Associate Producer Yeji Cha-Beach and Marnie Stern, former guitarist for "Late Night" house band, the 8G Band and recording artist.

Singer/songwriter Remi Wolf, who performed recently on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert," will also join the discussion. In anticipation of supporting Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS World Tour and her upcoming sophomore album Big Ideas, Remi will discuss how a special performance like hers comes to life onscreen.

Learn What Happens Behind The Curtains

Have you ever wondered what happens behind the Broadway stage? This dynamic panel will highlight the brilliant minds that work to make the big show happen. Moderated by Michael Kushner, Founder and Creator of Michael Kushner Photography, hear from Broadway producers, directors, record label executives and more on how they put together a Broadway production behind the scenes. 

Panelists include renowned Broadway producer Christen James, Adam Hess of DR Theatrical Management, Pete Ganbarg, the President of A&R at Atlantic Records, and Erich Bergen, producer, actor and director at 6W Entertainment. From set design to marketing, this panel will reveal that whether on stage or behind the scenes, there's a place for every passion in the world of theater. 

Hear How Professionals Produce The Sounds Of Drama

In this panel, Broadway professionals will dive into the inner workings of theatrical sound in live theater, and how their expertise in Broadway audio production translates into other facets of the music industry. 

Experts Tom Winkler, Kurt Deustch, David Lai, and Kathy Sommer will detail the dynamic challenges that producers and composers must navigate to make productions possible. 

Learn How To Build Your Brand In The Career Center

At the start of the conference, attendees can learn from the experts and level up their profiles at the GRAMMY U Career Center. Learn how to present your best professional self, take a professional headshot, get a review of your resume from real recruiters in the industry, and network with professionals from Amazon Music, the Recording Academy and more. Networking mentors include AC Gottlieb, Asmita Khullar, Billy Seidman, Haley Bennett, Jameka Pankey, Jessica Fusco, John Ochoa, Leah Dowdy, Madeline Nelson, Nick Cucci, Nikisha Bailey, and Sarah Crane. So get there early and make the most out of your professional development at the GRAMMY U Conference!

Don’t forget to stop by the GRAMMY U Mixtape Listening station, too, and see the process behind how we select music for the GRAMMY U Mixtape every month.

Reserve Your Seat

Mark your calendars now, the 2024 GRAMMY U Conference will take place in New York City on Friday, April 19, and Saturday, April 20, and with more announcements to come, this is an event you surely won’t want to miss. Reserve your spot now with a RSVP.

For members who aren’t able to attend, the GRAMMY U Conference will be livestreamed on the Recording Academy’s YouTube and Twitch channels at 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. ET.

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Autumn Rowe at the 2023 GRAMMYs
Autumn Rowe at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

video

Where Do You Keep Your GRAMMY?: Autumn Rowe Revisits Her Unexpected Album Of The Year Win With Jon Batiste

Acclaimed songwriter Autumn Rowe reveals the inspirational location where her Album Of The Year golden gramophone resides, and details the "really funny way" she first met Jon Batiste.

GRAMMYs/Apr 10, 2024 - 08:33 pm

Ever since Autumn Rowe won a GRAMMY in 2022, it's been her biggest motivation. That's why the musical multi-hyphenate keeps the award nestled in her writing room — to keep her creative juices flowing.

"It reminds me that anything is possible," she says in the latest episode of Where Do You Keep Your GRAMMY?

Rowe won her first-ever career GRAMMY in 2022 with an Album Of The Year award for Jon Batiste's We Are. "It was very stressful," she recalls with a laugh.

"Right before they announced Album Of The Year, the pressure started getting to me," Rowe explains. "Album Of The Year is the biggest possible award you can win. So, I'm like, 'We didn't win any of these [categories], how are we going to win the biggest award?"

The win also taught her one unforgettable, valuable lesson: "We matter. The music matters. Everything matters. We just have to create it. If there isn't space for it, we have to make space for it. Don't wait for something to open."

Rowe says she grew up "super dirt poor" and never even had the opportunity to watch the awards ceremony on television. "To be a GRAMMY winner means it is possible for everyone," she declares.

Press play on the video above to learn more about the backstory of Autumn Rowe's Album Of The Year award, and remember to check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Where Do You Keep Your GRAMMY?

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