Photo courtesy of Tianna Groelly/GRAMMY U
5 Highlights Of GRAMMY U's Spring 2022 Mentorship Program
GRAMMY U's mentorship program pairs college students with music industry professionals, with the goal of becoming successful in the industry. GRAMMY.com shares the stories of five participants.
At the beginning of each semester, GRAMMY U — a nationwide program that connects college students with music industry professionals — hosts a mentorship program. Mentors and student mentees are paired based on the interests of the student and the experience of the mentor. This year’s spring mentorship program included 2,000 participants and, for the first time, was available in every GRAMMY U chapter.
The program offers students an invaluable experience and insight about how to become successful in various aspects of the industry. For example, mentee Tess Considine had the privilege of being paired up with singer/songwriter Jordin Sparks for the program. Although this semester's program has come to a close, its core purpose continues to thrive through the connections that have been made.
Here are some of this semester’s mentorship highlights from 10 out of 2,000 participants who participated this year.
Tianna Groelly | Mentee | New York Chapter
P La Cangri | Mentor | New York Chapter
Tianna Groelly, a music technology and journalism student at Rutgers University, was paired with Latin artist P La Cangri. Groelly hoped that she would be paired with a mentor who would not only lend sound advice — but let her be heavily involved.
"Hands-on experience is the best thing you can get from a program like this," Groelly says. Cangri gave her exactly that. Beginning with in-person lunches, this pair developed a sincere and deep bond. P La even invited her mentee out to Miami to shoot a music video for her song, "Atrevete." Groelly threw herself into the video shoot, taking constant photos and behind-the-scenes footage. One of Groelly's pictures even ended up on a billboard in Times Square.
"As a college student, an accomplishment like this would only be in my wildest dreams, so I can’t thank everyone involved enough for letting me be a part of something like this!"
Groelly wasn’t the only one to benefit from the program, though. Beyond her parents, Cangri said she never had any mentorship programs when she was coming up in the industry. She feels that Tianna taught her to let go, and to trust someone else’s perspective every now and then, because they may see something you don’t. While the two started out as simply a mentor/mentee pairing, Groelly and Cangri plan to continue working with and learning from each other as equals.
Valeria Alvarez | Mentee | Florida Chapter
Dr. Donna Singer | Mentor | Florida Chapter
Valeria Alvarez is a sound and music business management student at Valencia College. She was paired with Donna Singer, PhD, who is an international jazz vocalist and is also a part of Emerald Baby Recording Company LLC.
The two virtually met with three different people in the businesses of acting, music and modeling. They met with Carlos Pinera where they learned of how he got his start in a Colombian band. Alvarez also had a chance to speak with Hunter Isbell, a GRAMMY-nominated sound engineer who created the album Bogota. Alvarez said her interview with actress Crystal Tweed inspired her to "really get into action with the things I want to do in the music industry and music in general."
Raven Hayes | Mentee | New York Chapter
Deryck Vanerbilt-Nicholson | Mentor | New York Chapter
Raven Hayes, an undergraduate music business major at NYU, was paired with Deryck Vanderbilt-Nicholson, who has significant experience in artist management, marketing, sync and licensing, A&R and creative and corporate strategy.
Hayes says she learned a lot from Vanderbilt-Nicholson about channeling her focus to be considered a serious candidate in the digital and artist marketing space. Hayes's mentor taught her to do the work, remain patient and research. "I have new confidence in my future in the music industry after graduation thanks to the guidance of Deryck and our mutual dedication to the GRAMMY U Mentorship Program," Hayes says.
Vanderbilt-Nicholson even learned a few things from Hayes. He said he learned time management, and through helping Hayes with her application process, he’s learned how much the industry is changing.
"I’ve never had a program like this. I wish I did," he admits. "I try to do my best to create visibility and representation. I enjoy this program through the Recording Academy, in partnership with GRAMMY U, because it allows me to do that. It’s important work, and I look forward to continuing impacting the new faces in music that need assistance!"
Rebecca Sanchez | Mentee | LA Chapter
Ryan Shore | Mentor | LA Chapter
Rebecca Sanchez took part in the mentorship program with hopes that she would learn ways to break into the music industry, and was paired with film score composer Ryan Shore. Sanchez said he helped her build her music portfolio and taught her better ways to pitch herself.
One of the best opportunities Shone was able to give Sanchez was connections to other songwriters, producers and musicians. He connected her with individuals working in pop and K-pop, such as artist/songwriter Celeste Scott. Sanchez says that because of her mentor, she is ending this program with a better sense of networking and collaborating with other industry professionals to further her career in the music industry.
"If there’s someone like me out there who doesn’t know how to break into the music industry or is trying to break through all on their own, GRAMMY U and its mentorship program is the right step in the right direction," Sanchez says.
Amir Duke | Mentee | Atlanta Chapter
Tyronne Sanders | Mentor | Atlanta Chapter
Amir Duke is a rising senior at Morehouse College majoring in economics with a desire to be in A&R. He was paired with Tyronne Sanders, who has 10 years of experience in A&R, promotions and artist management. Amir said he came into this program simply hoping to learn a little more about the music business and how it operates. However, he walked away with much more.
Through the help of Sanders, he grew his network outside of college students to executives at companies such as 300 Entertainment, Motown Records, Mezzo Agency and more. Duke got an amazing opportunity to assist Sanderse in having a private listening party for rap artist Big Boogie, signed to the label CMG. The event hosted over 400 guests. Duke jumped in and assisted with setting up a marketing plan for fans, visuals for activation, and the run of show for the event.
Sanders wanted to teach Duke to follow up on your word, be efficient, and to be one of the "good guys." "The biggest thing I wanted to teach him is that his work directly affects the dreams and livelihood of artists. So, he shouldn’t take what he does lightly," Sanders says, adding that he didn’t have a program like when he was starting out in the industry.
"Overall, the advice I've received throughout this program has prepared me for the next step in my music industry career," Duke adds. "I believe that the A&R advice I received from Ty allows me to approach new artists with an opportunity that can take them to the next level."
Stories like these are the heart of the program, and inspire music industry professionals to pay it forward, so that the next generation can flourish. These one-of-a-kind relationships are not only a memorable part of a student's journey, but provide hands-on experience that sometimes cannot be provided anywhere else.
The GRAMMY U Mentorship program hosts around 1,000 participants each semester, offering an exclusive benefit for GRAMMY U members who are looking to find genuine and inspiring relationships during their collegiate journey in the music business.
GRAMMY U will open its mentorship program again this fall, with applications opening in late summer/early fall 2022. Each semester has proven to be even better than the last due to the growth and success of the program. If you are interested in participating as a mentor or mentee next semester, please follow us on Instagram @grammyu for updates.
Bob Weir at GRAMMY U SoundChecks in Nashville
Bob Weir Holds Court At GRAMMY U SoundChecks: "The Passion Is Up To You"
The rock icon hosted an intimate Q&A with a small group of lucky GRAMMY U students in Nashville to talk about success, longevity and progress in the music industry
“If you’re born with enough curiosity to bring yourself to certain [creative] points, then you’ve got enough curiosity to say ‘What can I try that I haven’t done?’.” –Bob Weir
Grateful Dead co-founder and Dead & Company frontman, Bob Weir offered this piece of advice to GRAMMY U Nashville students at a SoundChecks event on Monday Nov. 5, stressing the importance of challenging oneself.
Students from Belmont University, Middle Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt University were treated to a private, in-depth sound check featuring a number of Weir’s original songs and a cover of Mississippi John Hurt’s “My Creole Belle,” featuring John Oates and Buddy Miller.
Over the course of nearly 30 years, Grateful Dead sold more than 35 million albums. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Weir managed to develop quite the following. When asked about his ability to establish and maintain such a large and diverse fan base known as "deadheads," he spoke about how the band's style of music transcends trends.
“With this particular style of music, it never goes in or out of style. We’re listening as hard as we’re playing," Weir said. "And that approach to music appeals to a person who requires a little adventure in his life and, therefore, a little adventure in his music.”
Quite a few years have passed since the so-called Summer of Love in 1967, when the Grateful Dead were a young band just starting out. The changes are especially noticeable in the music industry. From the advancement of audio engineering technology to the use of social media as a major marketing tool, the way artists and their teams create and sell music is completely different from the earlier days of Weir’s career. In regards to how technology has affected his creative process, Weir offered this perfect answer:
“Some people are going to hate it. Some people just roll with it. And I like to be somewhere in between there, I’m ere towards heritage, but I’m ere towards what’s new as well.”
Former Ratdog bandmate-turned-Bob Weir And The Wolf Bros-drummer, Jay Lane, chimed in, attributing the success of any record to its initial creative purity.
“It just needs to be organic. Not a project. That’s the key,” he said.
Weir chose to close the Q&A on a faultless note by giving students a key piece of wisdom regarding staying motivated and present in such a competitive industry:
“Just love what you’re doing. Make sure that you feel it," he said. "And if you hate it, hate it. But really HATE it. You need luck, and you need passion. The luck you might not be able to supply, but the passion is up to you.”
Overall, this SoundChecks experience was truly unique in allowing students to see into the industry’s past, present, and potential future through the eyes of a musical giant. Countless students left inspired and excited for their future careers in the music/entertainment business, with an itch to always dive deeper than the surface on any creative endeavor, and always keep the song in mind.
In the words of Mr. Weir, himself:
“You’re not going to get famous for playing the instrument. You’re going to get famous for playing the song.”
Run The Jewels
GRAMMY U’s “Music & Activism: Enacting Real Change” Envisions Industry’s Equitable Future
The live-streamed panel featured conversation with the acclaimed rap duo Run The Jewels and music industry visionaries Phylicia Fant of Columbia Records and UCLA's Dr. Shana L. Redmond
Central to any historical movement that helps to push social and political cultures forward, the power of music is a cornerstone for freedom, connection and unfiltered creative expression. However, in regards to its widespread influence and potential power in participating in the fight for social change, the music business has often fallen short to this task of moving the needle.
As the world continues to shift around the impacts of COVID-19 and the reignited fight against racial injustice and police brutality, 2020 marks a huge opportunity for comprehensive shifts in practice by the hands of executives, labels and the broader music business as we know it. Artists, their fans and the industry itself, are depending on it.
On Tuesday, Aug. 12, GRAMMY U hosted "Music & Activism: Enacting Real Change," which focused conversation on utilizing music and its surrounding communities as an engine for affecting social and political change. Further, the discussion emphasized avenues that artists and industry professionals can take in order to mobilize a more equitable future for young Black artists specifically within the recorded music industry as it evolves following global attention on dismantling systemic racism today.
The conversation involved Killer Mike and El-P of GRAMMY-nominated rap duo Run The Jewels, alongside Columbia Records’ Co-Head of Urban Music Phylicia Fant and political culture, race and Black music scholar and UCLA Musicology and African American Studies Professor Dr. Shana L. Redmond. The panel was moderated by Recording Academy Chicago Chapter President and GRAMMY-winning poet and spoken word artist J. Ivy.
Despite the creative power of music as an engine for mobilizing, according to Dr. Redmond, the music industry has not always cropped up to be the, “Animating device that we need it to be in movements towards freedom. It’s become actually one of the bull-works, one of the impediments,” she said.
Dating back to the Classic Blues movement of the early 1920’s, she referenced the pushback on artists from the industry, which has included deterrence on creative processes, struggles to live sustainably while also balancing career, separation through genre definitions driven by profit motives, and general dismissal and large absence of gender and racial equity by industry decision makers. She noted that the interest in advocacy for change by artists has mostly lived through rebelling against business practices.
“I hope those interested in the industry work and its future will actually pay attention to what needs to be radically and foundationally changed about the music industry,” she said.
Considering the future of the music industry by many accounts lies solely in the interest of creating a business that goes beyond inclusion and diversity on any surface level. Killer Mike, who throughout his career has vocalized similar concerns on both an industry and national level, stated that perhaps the most imperative concern is truly committing to being a more fair place for the Black artists who often help to stratify the business socially, culturally and economically.
“We need everything from street teams to CEO’s to be reflective of the people who are really from the culture. For the most part, we know that those people are going to be Black and brown, but we also know that there are others who are not, that are honestly with us,” he said.
“We’re 15 percent of this country, we want to be 15 percent of this company, and we want to control 90 percent of the budget that goes to artists like us. We have to demand and make sure that the people behind-the-scenes, the content creators, directors, that we’re building a trade within rap and hip-hop music that allows for young people coming out of high schools and colleges to go right into those trades and access the next level of it,” Killer Mike added.
As an executive at one of the world’s largest labels, Fant is working constantly towards these concerns through close relationships with artists and advocating for their best interests on both a business and personal level.
“A lot of us within these systems have fought to make sure that they are seen as human, especially artists of color. Once you bring humanization into the conversation, you recognize that there are certain things that you just deserve.” She mentions that things like access to financial literacy and mental healthcare are not to be considered business luxuries, but necessities to the wellbeing and sustainability of artists operating within the space of the industry.
Additionally, Fant added that from a business perspective, empowering artists to speak up for what they believe in is in the best interest of labels and the longevity of creators alike. “The artists that tend to fall off, don’t stand for anything. When you stand for something, you have a chance at having a longterm career,” she said.
Further, El-P emphasized that in terms of activism, the interest in appearances around current issues, or showing up strictly for the sake of optics, should not always be an artist’s primary concern. While there can be a lot of pressure to currently stand up and speak out, he says that only posing to be genuine or invested in community and politics isn’t necessarily what artistry is all about. Rather, the importance of creating space for mistakes, and a commitment to learning and evolving as both a person and an artist, should be more of the focus. Plus, there’s a certain appeal he mentioned in growing alongside a fanbase over time that can’t be manufactured.
“For anyone who’s young and getting into music and wants to make a statement about who they are, it’s okay to not be who you are yet,” he said. “It’s okay to not be who you will be yet. Your job is to create room for yourself. Right when you come out the door, you need to say ‘I have all the room in the world to evolve as a person, and I’m going to make sure that my music reflects that.' The eloquent translation of the human experience as it occurs to you is incredibly valuable, even if you know nothing about politics.”
He continued, “It is a valuable tool in the way that music heals people and in the way that it will connect with fans. And if you can make that connection for people to understand that you’re not about knowing everything, but you’re about learning, then there’s a connection. People are all searching, that’s something they can relate to.”
You can watch the full discussion, premiering on the Recording Academy Facebook page on Aug. 19 at 2pm PDT.
House of Blues
Photo: Vince Bucci/Getty Images
House Of Blues Foundation Hosting Music Industry Job Fairs For Youth Across The U.S.
The Music Forward Foundation's free All Access Fest events will feature music industry employers as well as panels and hand-on workshops for young people
Yesterday, Oct. 3, the House of Blues Music Forward Foundation announced they will be bringing back their All Access Fest music industry job fairs to select U.S. cities later this month. Following the event's launch last year, it will return to New Orleans, Las Vegas, Chicago and Los Angeles, and kick off in Orlando.
Registration is free and open to youth ages 16-22 interested in learning more about different music-related career paths and meeting potential employers. The first of the five events takes place next week, on Oct. 8, in New Orleans, followed by Las Vegas on the 17th, Orlando on the 21st, Chicago on the 24th and finally Los Angeles on Oct. 31. All are held at House of Blues/Live Nation run venues.
"We are thrilled to present our second annual All Access Fest for youth interested in music careers—on and off stage," Music Forward Foundation Executive Director Nurit Siegel Smith said in a statement. "This unique program offers young people from under-represented communities free resources and networking opportunities to help them navigate a career in music."
The foundation, via Billboard, reveals that the Recording Academy, House of Blues/Live Nation and Ticketmaster are among the companies represented at the job fair, and notes there will also be "experiential lounges" from GRAMMY U, CD Baby and others.
Hands-on learning stations will also be offered, as well as panels on topics like "The Working Musician's Experience" and "Gender Equality in the Music Industry." Each event is slated to run from 9 a.m. to noon and will, additionally, host performances from alumni of the foundation's artist development programs.
Experts will be on hand from Live Nation, along with and exhibitions by GRAMMY U, CD Baby, Full Sail, Hercules, Hurdl, Massive Act, Music Supervisor and Novel Effect for attendees.
The fairs run from 9 a.m. to noon and also include panels, hands-on technical learning stations, local employers and representatives from post-secondary schools, as well as live performances by alumni from Music Forward's artist development programs.
The foundation was established by the House of Blues in 1993 to bring music and the arts to schools and youth, especially in underserved communities. Recently, the organization announced a new mentorship program, the Ambassadors Council, where established artists including Carlos Santana, Khalid and Lauren Daigle can directly connect with and inspire these communities.
For more info on All Access Fest, including registration, please visit their webpage.