GRAMMY Camp Inspires Dreams, Not Fantasies

The Head And The Heart 

Courtesy of the Recording Academy™/photo by Rebecca Sapp, Getty Images © 2019


GRAMMY Camp Inspires Dreams, Not Fantasies

For the 15th annual GRAMMY Camp, artists The Head And The Heart and JoJo provide real-world advice and tools for the next generation of music professionals

GRAMMYs/Jul 30, 2019 - 12:22 am

At some camps, participants get to go live out their dreams for a day, a week, or maybe more. But at GRAMMY Camp, participants are provided with real-world tools to pursue their dreams not just for a day, or a week, but for a lifetime.

In fact, "this is not fantasy camp" was the theme of this year's 15th annual GRAMMY Camp, and the phrase that immediately caught my attention as I walked into the Carson Center at the University of Southern California, Thornton School of Music on July 24 for day two of GRAMMY Camp. The special guests for the day were Seattle-based indie folk-rock group The Head And The Heart, who were there not only to entertain but to educate. Throughout the afternoon, I got a sense that there was a barrier breaking down between artists and students. What started as a conversation in which the artists were talking to the students, turned into a two-way stream between likeminded individuals.

That’s what makes GRAMMY Camp not a fantasy camp. It’s real life. Students learn practical tools from real professionals working in the business who want to help them have real careers.

The students that attend GRAMMY Camp are eager to learn, network and develop their own path for success. That eagerness was palpable as the participants had the opportunity to lead the discussion portion of the afternoon event with the Head and the Heart, asking career-oriented questions and getting real-world answers.

David Sears, Executive Director of Education for the GRAMMY Museum, says inviting newer artists to participate in GRAMMY Camp provides students with more tangible learning opportunities.

"While we won’t say no to an artist who's been established and a big superstar for a long time, we like having younger artists here who, not too long ago, were sitting in these chairs, [or] could have been sitting in these chairs," says Sears. "It makes for a better connection."

Alec Davila, a first-time GRAMMY Camper from Los Angeles participating in the Vocal Performance track experienced that unmatched, intimate connection between industry professionals and students that GRAMMY Camp offers.

"It feels so much cooler than anything else just because you feel like you’re kind of in on it," says Davila. "You know what they're talking about, and they know that you know what they’re talking about. It’s more of a conversation that you can have with them, and there’s less of a barrier between the stage and the audience."

During the conversation, one camper asked if any of the band members ever had doubts about pursuing a career in music.

"I think you have to have doubts," says drummer Tyler Williams. "That’s how you know you’re right. When you can fight through that. There are a lot of people who want to do this. And there are a lot of doubts that stop people from doing it. But if you can fight through that, I think you’re winning the battle. If you can fight through the lack of money, comfort [and] safety. Those are the barriers that stop people from their dreams, and you have to push through."

"There will undoubtedly be doubts, and things trying to pull you down, tell you to stop, tell you you’re irrational, along the whole way," adds vocalist Charity Rose Thielen. "You will always doubt for one reason or another. You just have to ignore that and remember your reason that you’re supposed to do this. This is your purpose you have that fire. You’re the only person that can maintain that fire against doubt."

Other campers asked questions about their influences if they ever felt like they needed to move to Los Angeles to launch their music careers, and how to know when it’s time to release a song. All six band members shared how they learned to play their individual instruments, how they formed or joined the band, and how mentorship played a significant role in their careers.

GRAMMY Camp also seems to be equally as rewarding for the artist and industry participants as it is for the students. The Head And The Heart vocalist/singer Matt Gervais commented during the conversation portion of the event, "It’s fun to be in a room full of likeminded people." The program closed with an acoustic performance featuring songs including "Library Magic," "Missed Connection" and "See Through My Eyes."

In an interview following the program, The Head And The Heart's Williams, Thielen, and Gervais opened up about their personal musical mentors and the importance of a program like GRAMMY Camp.

"It’s kind of serendipitous how many people have come in and out of my life and have just opened a door for me or showed me the way," says Gervais. "When we were freshman in high school, there was a guy who opened up the portables outside the high school for us to be able to jam in after school because there was nowhere else for us to play. And my mom was actually the one who kind of coordinated with him and set it up because otherwise, we were playing in the basement until late at night."

Williams adds, "That's why music education is so important. Finding those mentors. I think music education keeps that culture alive of fostering artistry in kids, and in school, you don’t find that often. Most things that happen in school are logical things. They’re to help you succeed in a corporate world. But music education is so important because it is something very creative and different from the rest of schooling."

"I think we as a society and world value kind of the logical, but you’re missing out on the intuitive side, the creative side of things," adds Thielen.

"It’s about creativity and being a more well-rounded human being," says Williams. "Not just driven to make money or be productive in a society that demands you to do so. It’s about developing your mind and imagination. Being a better person because of it. I think without music education, or without the people who foster that development in kids, I think we would be much worse off. We could probably stand to use more of it."

Two days following The Head and the Heart's program, GRAMMY Campers were treated to another special conversation and performance with singer/songwriter JoJo on July 26. In an interview before her program, JoJo discussed her music education background, and why music education programs are so crucial for young people with

Related: Interview: JoJo Has Nothing To Hide

"I was fortunate enough to attend public schools that had good music programs," she says. "My band teacher, Mr. Murphy, was someone I looked up to as he was a bandleader/musician in and around Boston. Learning the basics of theory from someone who was living a touring musician’s life was so exciting to me. … My mom was a huge influence on me, too. She has a musical theater/classical soprano singing background and taught me about breath control, resonance, the importance of believing the lyrics you’re singing, and exposed me to a wide variety of music. Without her, I would have never been able to pursue a career in music so young."

On the importance of music education, JoJo believes "every kid deserves to find their own unique way to express what they’re feeling."

This year’s 15th annual GRAMMY Camp, which hosted 90 talented students from across the United States this summer, the most significant number of GRAMMY Campers in the history of the program, was definitely not fantasy camp. It’s safe to say that each of the 90 students who participated left with a new sense of confidence and determination to pursue their dreams, whatever those may be.

And as for the meaning behind the "this is not fantasy camp" phrase, Sears had a story about that.

"'This is not fantasy camp' has become our mantra," he says. "Four or five years ago, I stood up here in this room on this stage, and I told the kids, ‘this is not fantasy camp.’ They didn’t know what I was talking about. I said I was an avid baseball player from as early as I can remember all the way through high school. … I always had a dream of going to the Dodgers Fantasy Camp in Florida. That’s what they called it—fantasy camp. And what made it fantasy camp is you left the life that you knew, you went to fantasy camp, you played ball, pulled muscles, had a bunch of fun. And then you came home, and you were the same person as you were when you left. That’s not what this is supposed to be. You need to leave here with a plan. And if you already had a plan, you need to leave here with a better plan. That’s how this is not a fantasy camp. No one should leave here and be the same as they were when they came."

GRAMMY Camp Announces 2019 Selectees Plus Guests JoJo & The Head And The Heart

Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More



Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

Mumu Fresh On What She Learned From Working With The Roots, Rhyming & More


GRAMMY Camp To Expand To Three Major Cities In 2012

GRAMMY Foundation announces GRAMMY Camp installments for Los Angeles, New York and Nashville in summer 2012

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

The GRAMMY Foundation today announced that GRAMMY Camp — its signature music industry camp for U.S. high school students — will be held in Los Angeles, Nashville and New York in summer 2012. Held for the past seven years in Los Angeles and for the first time in New York last summer, the program is expanding to Nashville to reach a broader range of students.

"We are extremely excited to bring GRAMMY Camp to three dynamic music markets in the summer of 2012, and provide this valuable experience to the next generation of music makers," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation. "GRAMMY Camp is one of our most immersive programs in terms of exposing young people to what it's like to have an actual working career in the music business, and the opportunity to receive instruction directly from GRAMMY-winning artists and industry professionals instills knowledge, confidence and lasting lessons on GRAMMY campers."

"After basing GRAMMY Camp in Los Angeles for seven years, we had great success expanding to New York last summer," said Kristen Madsen, Sr. Vice President of the GRAMMY Foundation. "GRAMMY Camp is a residential, deeply interactive and collaborative experience that draws on the music industry riches of its respective host cities. We're happy that we'll have a home in Nashville next summer, and frankly see few boundaries in where we can go in the future."

GRAMMY Camp L.A.: July 14–23, 2012
This program offers selected high school students an interactive 10-day residential summer music experience. Focusing on all aspects of commercial music, this unique opportunity provides instruction by industry professionals in an immersive creative environment with cutting-edge technology in professional facilities. The program offers six music career tracks: Audio Engineering; Concert Promotion/Production; Electronic Music Production; Music Journalism; Songwriting; and a performance track for Bass, Drums, Guitar, Keyboard, Vocal, and Winds & Strings. All tracks culminate in media projects, CD recordings and/or showcase performances. GRAMMY Camp L.A. will be held at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music and other professional venues throughout Los Angeles.

GRAMMY Camp Nashville: June 17–24, 2012
GRAMMY Camp N.Y.: Aug. 6–13, 2012
GRAMMY Camp Nashville and GRAMMY Camp N.Y. are eight-day residential programs for high school students that offer campers the opportunity to work in integrated industry teams. This real-world, hands-on environment will involve an in-depth look at the entire creative process from the first spark of original material through the promotion of a finished product, and will culminate in a launch party. GRAMMY Camp Nashville will be held at Black River Entertainment located on Nashville's legendary Music Row, and GRAMMY Camp N.Y. will be hosted by Converse Rubber Tracks studio in Brooklyn, N.Y.

GRAMMY Camp applications are currently online at and the deadline is March 31, 2012. Financial aid is available and approximately 75 percent of GRAMMY Camp participants who have applied for financial aid have received assistance. Students are able to apply to all three sessions of GRAMMY Camp, and there is discounted tuition for participation in multiple sessions. This program is supported in part by Best Buy, Black River Entertainment, Converse, and Guitar Center. Applications for paid positions as GRAMMY Camp counselors for young people ages 21–25 are also available online at


The Week In Music: Who Is The Fairest Of Them All?

GRAMMY ladies go head-to-head in the battle of the pretty

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

What are the attributes that make the perfect woman? Is it a camera-ready glow? Fashion sense? Intelligence? Sense of humor? Talent? An uncanny argumentative ability? Chances are the ladies making's Top 99 Women of 2012 list have all of the above, and much more. With actress/television personality Sofia Vergara topping a list containing the usual abundance of actresses, models and paparazzi favorites, current Best New Artist GRAMMY nominee Nicki Minaj led all female musicians at No. 5. Other GRAMMY nominees putting the "s" in scintillating in the top 20 include Rihanna (No. 9), Zooey Deschanel (No. 12), Katy Perry (No. 16), and Lady Gaga (No. 18). Other notables making the grade include Selena Gomez (No. 14), Beyoncé (No. 39) and even hot newcomer Lana Del Rey (No. 95). Of course, lists of this nature are always subjective. But if you're a female looking to get in on the competition, we invite you to sample some tips from our GRAMMY Glam Squad.

While Music's Biggest Night is just a week away, Indianapolis will take center stage on Feb. 5 when the New England Patriots and New York Giants battle it out in Super Bowl XLVI. While the staff at ESPN is busy crunching statistics for their exhaustive game coverage, musicians are chiming in with their official predictions. Not surprisingly, JoJo, who grew up in Foxboro, Mass., will be pulling for Tom Brady and the Patriots. "I just feel like we [will] win by default, because we have heart," said the songstress. Putting on his analyst cap, Nelly thinks the Giants defense will be too hot for the Patriots. "I think the Giants play a little bit better defense, and I just think defense wins championships in the end," he said. Theory Of A Deadman's Tyler Connolly is leaning toward the Giants, but don't quote him on it. "I guess I'll go with the Giants," said Connolly, a San Francisco 49ers fan. When it comes to the halftime entertainment, Connolly did not mince words, however. "In reality you need to think about who's actually watching the Super Bowl — it's big dudes eating nachos and drinking beer," said Connolly. "And they want to watch the commercials with the Doritos girls. … Madonna? They're not going to watch Madonna." While there are few things better than Doritos girls, we here at TWIM we'd definitely rather watch Madonna, while enjoying a side of nachos.

Speaking of the Super Bowl, following Elton John and Madonna's Golden Globes feud last month, the Rocket Man is reportedly turning over a new leaf in offering the Material Girl some advice for her upcoming halftime performance on Feb. 5. "Make sure you lip-sync good," John advised Madonna on "Good Morning America." "I've never seen a decent one. Never ever." While Super Bowl halftime shows have arguably become more about the spectacle instead of the performance, it's hard to tell if John's advice is sincere. In 2004 the tiny dancer's response to Madonna winning the Best Live Act honor at England's Q Awards was: "Madonna, best f***ing live act? F*** off. Since when has lip-syncing been live?" While much of the Super Bowl action will happen on the field this Sunday, there's no doubt there will be lots more to see between Madonna's halftime spectacular featuring LMFAO and Nicki Minaj, and John's Pepsi commercial, set to air during the big game.    

While Dave Grohl has long been known for his quirky sense of humor, evidenced by videos for Foo Fighters songs such as "Big Me" (Mentos, anyone?), "Everlong," "Learn To Fly," and, most recently, the GRAMMY-nominated "Walk," the Foos frontman is taking funny to a whole new, hopefully hysterical, level. According to a report, Grohl is teaming with comedian Dana Gould to executive produce a 30-minute sitcom for FX Networks. The show will reportedly center on a rock band that is in the midst of their big break, and a breakup. The band seeks help from a therapist, who ends up being broken herself. Did we say sitcom? This sounds like the makings of a perfectly good drama to us. But whatever the show turns out to be, we're sure it'll be a hit, given Grohl's vast voiceover experience in films such as The Muppets and television series including "Daria."

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich lost the Florida primary Tuesday to Mitt Romney by a wide margin, but that may not be the worst news he got this week. Gingrich also joined the long list of politicians who have been sued for misappropriating a pop song for a campaign without the artist's permission. On Monday, Rude Music Inc., controlled by the song's co-writer Frank Sullivan, filed suit against Gingrich for his use of Survivor's GRAMMY-winning "Eye Of The Tiger" from Rocky III. Gingrich was clearly gunning for some Rocky Balboa magic now that he appears to be the underdog again, and the anthem's other co-writer, Jim Peterik, who hasn't joined the suit, says that's okay with him. "If it motivates people to get out to the polls and create some excitement, that's what it's for," he told the Washington Post. And while Chicago-native Peterik is loyal to his native son, President Barack Obama, he concedes, "I like [Gingrich's] taste in music." Still, as Rocky himself might ask, "Yo, don't I got some rights?"

Adele's "Set Fire To The Rain" is No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" is tops on the iTunes singles chart.

Any news we've missed? Comment below.                                                            

Last Week In Music

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Boyz II Men Among GRAMMY Celebration Performers

The Recording Academy's official GRAMMY after-party to also feature performances by Ciara, DJ Michelle Pesce and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Four-time GRAMMY-winning R&B group Boyz II Men, GRAMMY winner Ciara and DJ Michelle Pesce are scheduled to perform at the exclusive 2014 GRAMMY Celebration — The Recording Academy's official after-party. Additionally, the Celebration's MasterCard Jazz Lounge will feature performances by contemporary swing revival band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and members of the GRAMMY Camp — Jazz Session.

One of the year's most anticipated events attracting GRAMMY winners, nominees and celebrities, the 2014 GRAMMY Celebration will take place at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Jan. 26 immediately following the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards telecast. The Roaring '20s, the boisterous and exuberant decade proclaiming social liberation, will serve as this year's theme for the all-star GRAMMY Celebration where guests will dance, party and continue to celebrate Music's Biggest Night.

"What better way to celebrate Music's Biggest Night than with an amazing GRAMMY after-party where our guests can continue to enjoy their evening surrounded by music, incredible food and a stunningly visual party atmosphere culminating in not-to-be missed performances," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. "This year's glamorous Roaring '20s theme is sure to provide a uniquely memorable experience for all."

"With more than 600 catering and service staff, 400 production team members, 200 security agents, 60 dancers and acrobats, five featured performances, and hundreds of hours of planning, it is a daunting yet rewarding task to mount the largest and most complex awards show after-party annually," said Branden Chapman, Executive in Charge of Production & Chief Business Development Officer of The Recording Academy. "Each year, we are honored to bring our Recording Academy members and annual GRAMMY nominees together to celebrate the year in music amid amazing performances, delectable cuisine and spectacular thematic design."

The Recording Academy will produce the post-telecast GRAMMY Celebration, overseeing all of the event entertainment, décor and other logistics needed to fill the vast convention space, which equals the size of three football fields. The Roaring '20s theme will come to life with entertainers, dancers, acrobats, elaborate projections, and floor-to-ceiling design reminiscent of the lavish and opulent decade. Renowned celebrity caterer Along Came Mary returns to cater the event with an exquisite menu that includes five buffet-themed stations (New York Italian, Chicago Steakhouse, Atlantic City Boardwalk, Los Angeles Brown Derby, and San Francisco Chinatown) and numerous event-themed desserts such as signature hot fudge sundaes, Boston cream whoopie pies and Coney Island devil dogs, among others. The evening will also feature fine spirits by Patrón Tequila, Ultimat Vodka and Pyrat Rum, and beer by Anheuser-Busch. Beverages at the event will be provided by Pepsi.

The menu was designed using locally grown meat, produce and cheese, when possible, and all seafood is sustainably produced. Leftover edible food from the GRAMMY Celebration is donated to local food banks and all cooking oil used for the event will be recycled.

The 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards will take place live on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, at Staples Center in Los Angeles and will be broadcast in high-definition TV and 5.1 surround sound on the CBS Television Network from 8–11:30 p.m. (ET/PT). The telecast also will be supported on radio worldwide via WestwoodOne, and covered online at and

For GRAMMY coverage, updates and breaking news, visit The Recording Academy's social networks on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.