J.Ivy On The Power Of A Teacher



J.Ivy On The Power Of A Teacher

Recording Academy Chicago President J. Ivy shares his personal story about the importance of teachers

GRAMMYs/Mar 26, 2021 - 10:49 pm

Some people know from their earliest years what they’re bound to do for the rest of their lives, while others need to have that unlocked. J. Ivya onetime poetry skeptic, had his passion for spoken word unlocked his junior year of high school with the help of his English teacher Ms. Paula Argue. 

Long before winning a Peabody, a Clio, and an NAACP Image Award—or before contributing to Kanye West’s Grammy-winning College Dropout, giving John Legend his stage name and sharing his poetry with the world in books, on TV, and on record—J. Ivy was a kid in an English classroom assigned to write a poem. 

“It was my junior year at Rich Central High School in Olympia Fields, Illinoisthe south suburbs of Chicago. I was super shy and didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself,” Ivy recalls. 

Part of the assignment included reading the poem out loud, but a young Ivy, then known as James, wasn’t keen to share his poetry. Yet, Ms. Argue saw such potential in what he’d written that she insisted. “I was interested in hip-hop and not traditional poetry, but I learned you’re not gonna argue with somebody named Ms. Argue!” Ivy laughs.

As an attentive teacher, Argue knew that she needed to do whatever she could to help ignite the spark of talent she had spotted. “When students show promise in assignments, I look for other ways for them to expand on it,” Argue says. In addition to giving Ivy an A grade for his poem “There Once Was a Cloud”, Argue insisted he perform the poem at the talent show she was organizing. Still unconvinced by the premise of poetry, Ivy said he’d be there but ultimately no-showed. The next day, Argue refused to let the poetry spark fade. “She said, ‘This time I'm not asking you, you have to do it,” Ivy recalls being told.

He then spent the next few weeks memorizing a piece that Argue had given him, and when his recitation earned a standing ovation, the die was cast. “My life changed in that instant,” he says.

Argue recalls the pride she felt in that moment, knowing she’d helped him spot something special within himself. “I was just blown away seeing him embrace this voice, this presence that he didn’t even know he had,” she says. “It’s amazing to see what a little touch of encouragement can do.”

Ms. Paula Argue/ Photo: Courtesy of Paula Argue

For Ivy, that love quickly became focused on self-expression, of sharing his innermost thoughts with the world. And as Ivy started performing at every talent show, club show, and performance at the school, Argue encouraged him along the way. After graduating high school and starting college at Illinois State, that passion continued to grow. While the performative aspect of spoken word first caught his attention, Ivy quickly became entranced by writing as well. He started attending more and more open mics and talent shows, now performing his own poetry, and thriving on the response. “I felt an electricity shoot through my body when the audience chuckled at something that made me chuckle when I wrote it [and] when they cried at something that made me cry,” he says. “I fell in love with storytelling, with poetry that I didn’t know existed before Ms. Argue introduced me to it.”

And as the years went by and the accolades and achievements piled up, Ivy made sure to keep in contact with the teacher that made it all possible. “Teachers should be the highest-paid people in the country,” vows Ivy. 

For Argue, nurturing Ivy’s talent was about giving back. After initially thinking she’d like to be an attorney, Argue, having graduated from Rich Central High not all that long before starting to teach there, found herself inspired to share the passion and encouragement that had been shared with her. “I wanted to pay forward what my own teacher, Ms. Evans, had given me,” she says. “She was for me what I hope I have been for James: somebody to encourage me to do my best, to do what I love and do it well.”

Through his countless tour dates, book releases, albums, and more, Ivy has retained a connection to the teacher that helped him find and live in his purpose. And Argue, in turn, has been inspired by their continued friendship. “He’s always kept in contact to let me know what’s going on in his life, and whenever he’s in town we’ll go to lunch or he’ll stop by my classroom,” she says. 

Ivy continues to return to Ms. Argue’s classroom to talk with students about the power of poetry because he understands the depth of potential that teachers can have. “Teachers are the foundation and pillars of who we are,” he says. “There’s so much love and compassion, time and energy that they pour into our students. They change lives, they even save lives. They push people in directions that they don’t even know are possible. That’s why I love Ms. Argue. I want her to know that without her, none of this would be possible.”

For the past 60 years, the Recording Academy’s Chicago Chapter has recognized and celebrated the creative accomplishments of our members across the Midwest, fought for their collective rights, and supported them in times of need. We are proud of our legacies and excited to continue looking ahead. Here's to the next 60.

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Universal language: Why humans need music


Universal language: Why humans need music

Learn why music is truly a common language that is key to human development and evolution

GRAMMYs/Jul 3, 2017 - 11:51 pm

There's no doubt music finds a way into nearly every moment of our daily lives, whether it's marking milestones such as a first dance at a wedding, the soundtrack to our favorite movie or singing in the shower for fun. In fact, it's hard to imagine times when we are more than an ear-length away from hearing another song.

But why does music mean so much to us? A powerful form of communication that transcends all barriers — music is our common language, but why?

A composer and educator with a lifelong fascination for music, Adam Ockelford has traced our connection with music back to infants and caregivers. Infants are unable to follow words, but they are developmentally primed to trace patterns in sound, such as through the songs a caretaker sings to them. Therefore, understanding music is intuitive for humans, even at a very young age, and it encourages healthy development.

In addition, there may be another evolutionary purpose for music. Music provides a sense of sameness between humans — if you can copy the sounds someone else makes, you must be an ally. This synergy plays a role in human survival because it evokes empathy and understanding, a lesson we still learn from music in today's culture.

"Music is central to the notion of what it is to be human, and spans cultures, continents and centuries," writes Ockelford. "My music, your music, our music can bind us together as families, as tribes and as societies in a way that nothing else can."

Need a playlist? Check out our favorite songs of summer 2017 

Anthrax's Scott Ian Is Ready To Speak Up
Scott Ian

Photo: Jeff Vespa/


Anthrax's Scott Ian Is Ready To Speak Up

GRAMMY-nominated guitarist on his Speaking Words U.S. tour, hipsters, Meat Loaf, and the status of Anthrax's new studio album

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

A stand-up metal icon? Arguably there was no such thing until GRAMMY-nominated Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian started his Speaking Words tour in Europe in 2013. Up and down the metal highway with Anthrax for more than three decades, Ian has pretty much seen it all, and as you might expect, the straight-talking New Yorker has plenty of stories to share.

Audiences on this side of the Atlantic can get in on the fun with Ian's North American Speaking Words tour, which launches in Chicago on Feb. 20 and is scheduled to wrap in Portland, Maine, on March 8. Those unable to make it out will soon be able to enjoy the show from the comfort of their own home. Ian has launched a PledgeMusic crowd funding campaign for a Speaking Words DVD.

Meanwhile, Ian hasn't quit his day job as Anthrax's blitzkrieg rhythm guitarist. He's currently at work on a new album with the group, who were nominated for Best Metal Performance at the 56th GRAMMY Awards for their hard-slamming cover of AC/DC's classic "T.N.T." from the band's 2013 EP, Anthems.            

On the eve of his Speaking Words tour kickoff, Ian spoke to about the genesis of the tour, his crowd funding campaigns and the status of Anthrax's new studio album, among other topics.

Is the title Speaking Words a way of differentiating what you do from the more usual spoken word performance?
Yes. When I think of spoken word I think of sty hipster coffee shops with a guy smoking a sty cigarette reading sty poetry from his sty book that will never get published. I'm not doing that. I just want to be as far away from that image as I can possibly be.

How did the idea to do these shows first arise?
It's just something that fell in my lap. I wasn't really looking for any new ways to leave home. But back in 2012, I got an offer to come over to London and do a solo gig. At first I thought that meant sitting on a stool playing acoustic guitar and singing songs, which I don't do. But my agent said, "No, they want you to come and tell stories. It's this series that this venue wants to do called 'Rock Stars Say The Funniest Things.' They want you, Duff McKagan and Chris Jericho." "All together?" I asked. He said, "No, no, it'll be all your show."

The show was about two months down the road. I thought I would be real professional and prepare and write a script, but I kept putting it off. So the night before the show in London I'm in a hotel room with my wife Pearl and I'm sweating like a pig because I'm so nervous. I'm not afraid of public speaking, but I had no idea how to do a show like this. Yeah, I could tell stories. But would that be good enough? People were paying to come see this. I was freaked out to the point where I was gonna call my agent and say, "Cancel the show. I can't do it. Tell them I have the flu or something." But my wife said, "You know all these stories. You are these stories. All you're gonna do is go to a bar, sit with your friends and tell stories, like you've done a thousand times before." That was enough to get me onstage. Two and a half hours later, I'm standing in the dressing room with my agent asking, "How can I do more of this?" That snowballed into a whole European tour and now these U.S. shows.

When you do the show now, how much is scripted and how much is extemporaneous?
None of it is scripted. I've got 10 or 12 hours-worth of stories stored in my brain, basically. I've got all of that to choose from in a two-hour show. Although there's a Lemmy [Kilmister, Motörhead singer/bassist] story and a Dimebag [Darrell, the late Pantera guitarist] story that I told every night on the last tour. I don't get tired of them. If I did, I'd stop. That's something I learned from putting set lists together with Anthrax. We never want to look or feel bored playing something. If you're bored it's always gonna show. 

What are some of the more interesting and unusual topics that have come out of each performance?
Pretty much every night someone asks me something about having Meat Loaf as a father-in-law. Depending on what kind of mood I'm in or how the room feels to me, that basically dictates what kind of answer they're gonna get, which obviously isn't always gonna be truthful. If I tell the crowd, "Oh dude, he's got the whole Bat Out Of Hell set in his backyard and we fin' jam that s every day," obviously that isn't true. But I'll say that totally seriously and people will believe it.  

There's a DVD of the tour on the way, and you're crowd funding it?
Yes. We all know how things have changed in the music business. For artists, bands … anyone; to make money, you have to find new ways to do things. It was actually my record label, Megaforce, that pointed me in the direction of PledgeMusic, because they had worked together on projects with a couple of other artists and it went really well. So basically I get to own my own content and fund the whole project by selling merch and experiences. You donate $50 and you get a signed DVD; donate $250 and you get to chat with me on the phone — all the way up to a private show, where I would actually show up and hang out with your bros in a bar and shoot the s all night.

What were your feelings on learning that Anthrax had been nominated for a GRAMMY for your recording of "T.N.T."?
I was happy about that. … AC/DC are my favorite band. So maybe the fact that we got nominated kind of validates that we did a good cover version. I was actually pretty nervous about that. I didn't know if we could do it justice. And it really wasn't until [Anthrax vocalist] Joey [Belladonna] sang on it that I realized, "OK, this is f
ing great." He just channels Bon [Scott, the late AC/DC lead singer] on that.

Your version is pretty faithful to the original. But was there anything you wanted to do to interpret it your way?
No! We're doing a cover version because we love the song, so why would we want to change it? It's just that our tones are a little bit bigger and it's a more modern production. So it sounds maybe a bit more muscular [than the original] overall. But as far as changing arrangements or anything like that, no.

Is there a new Anthrax album on the way?
Yes, we're in the thick of writing it now. We started back in October and we've got a lot of material. The vibe has been great. It's pretty much the fastest we've ever written songs, which is awesome and scary at the same time. We're not working to any schedule at this point, but I would like to think it would be out later this year, if not early next year.

Can fans expect more of the classic Anthrax sound?
We're just continuing from where we were at on our last album, [2011's] Worship Music. People all over the planet connected with that one, and we had a two-year run touring on that record. We really couldn't ask for more. There's certainly more of a thrash element in a lot of the material that we've come up with, because it's just really fun to do that. We still love to play fast.

(Veteran music journalist Alan di Perna is a contributing editor for Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado. His liner notes credits include Santana Live At The Fillmore East, the deluxe reissue of AC/DC's The Razor's Edge and Rhino Records' Heavy Metal Hits Of The '80s [Vols. 1 and 3].)


WATCH: Lady Gaga And Ariana Grande Team Up For "Rain On Me"

Lady Gaga 

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Haus Laboratories


WATCH: Lady Gaga And Ariana Grande Team Up For "Rain On Me"

Grande enters the "Stupid Love" singer's futuristic world as the two pop sensations dance together in an out-of-this-planet setting

GRAMMYs/May 22, 2020 - 10:17 pm

Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande have come together for "Rain On Me," an optimistic pop track about Gaga's personal experiences off her forthcoming album, Chromatica

"I can feel it on my skin (It's comin' down on me)/ Teardrops on my face (Water like misery)/ Let it wash away my sins (It's coming down on me)," the global pop stars sing together on the chorus. "I'd rather be dry, but at least I'm alive/ Rain on me, rain, rain."

The song is an empowering track about being comfortable with letting tears fall. Gaga revealed the many layers behind the song in an interview with Vulture, sharing that some of the inspiration for it came from her relationship with drinking. "This is about an analog of tears being the rain. And you know what it’s also a metaphor for, is the amount of drinking that I was doing to numb myself," she said. "I’d rather be dry. I’d rather not be drinking, but I haven’t died yet. I’m still alive. Rain on me."

She added that the song also went beyond that. "Okay, I’m going to keep on drinking. This song has many layers," she said. 

Grande enters the "Stupid Love" singer's futuristic world in the video released Friday, May 22, with the two dancing together in an out-of-this-planet setting. The video ends with them in a strong embrace.

Gaga has shared how much the collaboration with Grande means to her and thanked Grande for "reminding me I’m strong."  Before the video's release, she tweeted out a special message to the "Stuck with U" singer. 

"One time I felt like I was crying so much it would never stop. Instead of fighting it, I thought bring it on, I can do hard things. @arianagrande I love you for your strength and friendship. Let’s show them what we’ve got," she tweeted

Grande returned the love with more love, revealing what sharing a track with Gaga means to her.

"one time ..... i met a woman who knew pain the same way i did... who cried as much as i did, drank as much wine as i did, ate as much pasta as i did and who’s heart was bigger than her whole body. she immediately felt like a sister to me," she tweeted. "she then held my hand and invited me into the beautiful world of chromatica and together, we got to express how beautiful and healing it feels to mothafuckinnnn cry ! i hope this makes u all feel as uplifted as it does for us both. i love u @ladygaga , u stunning superwoman !"  

Watch the full video above. Chromatica is set to be released on May 29. 

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2017 NBA Finals: Music lessons from LeBron James, Steph Curry

LeBron James (left) and Steph Curry (right

LeBron James Photo: Kevin Mazur/; Steph Curry Photo: Steve Jennings/Getty Images 


2017 NBA Finals: Music lessons from LeBron James, Steph Curry

From focused practice to meditation, here's how musicians can look to NBA basketball for inspiration to take their A-game to the next level

GRAMMYs/Jun 2, 2017 - 04:00 am

Basketball excellence will be on the primetime stage as Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors and LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers lock horns for the third consecutive year in the 2017 NBA Finals, tipping off on June 1.

Excellence in primetime is no stranger to The Recording Academy. For nearly 60 years, The Academy has celebrated music excellence via the GRAMMY Awards, currently crowning recipients in 84 categories.

On the surface, dribbling a basketball and record production or strumming a guitar couldn't be farther apart. But those looking to transform themselves into a world-class athlete or virtuoso musician can find common ground in the science and methodology of achieving mastery. Indeed, the consummate musician is always in search of knowledge, and one can look to NBA all-stars and hall of fame coaches for a sea of inspiration and ideas.

Take Curry, the reigning NBA MVP for two consecutive seasons, who is lauded as the game's best shooter. Though talent is unquestionably part of the equation, it's serious dedication to his craft that has lifted Curry above the rim. A big believer in repetition, Curry — who reportedly once hit 77 three-pointers in a row in practice — puts up 1,000 shots in practice every week and he goes through an intense 90-minute warm-up routine before each game.

James, a four-time NBA MVP, is noted for spending endless hours working on different shots, including hook shots, layups and jumpers. As outlined in Jennifer Etnier's book, Bring Your "A" Game: A Young Athlete's Guide To Mental Toughness, James repeats shots over and over, noting nuances such as his body position, footwork and release points. In game play, James focuses as the plays unfold and reacts naturally, letting his instincts and subconscious take over as informed by the repetition in his practice.

Just like Curry and James, for musicians looking to up their A-game, the development of an effective practice regimen is seen by many professional musicians as crucial. Rather than noodling incessantly, a musician will benefit from a focused, strategic practice schedule in alignment with their personal music goals.

Within that regimen, whether drilling a new scale or working on a difficult solo passage, the right kind of repetition is key. As outlined by SonicBids, the "mindful" musician uses repetition in a slow, thoughtful and precise manner. For example, when practicing a passage, the "mindless" musician will repeat it until it sounds like all the notes are correct, while the mindful musician spends time repeating the opening phrase to ensure it's letter perfect, and then rinses and repeats. When it comes to performance, the music will flow more naturally from the mindful musician, just like a patented Curry three-pointer.

Similar to the relationship between a music student and music teacher, an NBA coach can provide leadership, insight and directorial guidance to help shape a player. But it's the superlative coach who can take a group of players and usher them from the first-round of the playoffs to the Finals.

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Pat Riley, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, was renowned as a master motivator in presiding over NBA titles with both the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat. While Riley identified skills as of obvious importance, his coaching code placed a focus on attitude.

"The difference between people who are skillful and merely successful and the ones who win is in attitude," states Riley. "The attitude a person develops is the most important ingredient in determining the level of success. … If you can find people who really want to be a part of a great team, of something significant, to do something for others, for their teammates … then you've got yourself people who are special."

Applying Riley's thoughts to music, a successful band can be seen as a team activity, and a team with the winning attitude is one that will likely rise to the top. Writing for LinkedIn, John Sadler identified how a winning attitude informed by virtues such as respect is the crucial element to a band's success. Some of his helpful tips for instilling positive attitudes among bandmates include showing up on time, coming to rehearsals prepared, listening effectively, and discussing and outlining goals together as a group.

Also a hall of fame coach, Phil Jackson won 11 NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. While stars such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant made outstanding individual contributions, it was Jackson's unique approach to coaching that helped him manage star personalities and ultimately put his teams over the top.

A big proponent of mindfulness and mental strength, Jackson — who earned the nickname the Zen Master — used coaching tactics such as inviting players to meditate, practice in the dark and practice yoga.

"As much as we pump iron and we run to build our strength up, we need to build our mental strength up," Jackson told Oprah Winfrey. "We need to build our mental strength so we can focus, get one point at attention and so we can be in concert with one another in times of need."

Inspired by Jackson's philosophies, future hall of famer Bryant worked with mindfulness expert George Mumford throughout his career. Mumford, who also instructed Jordan, helped instill in Bryant the Zen Master-approved mechanism of meditation to cope with the intense pressure of elite athletic competition.

"I meditate every day," the now-retired Bryant told Winfrey in 2015. "I do it in the mornings and I do it for about 10 or 15 minutes. I think it's important because it sets me up for the rest of the day. … If I don't do it, I feel like I'm constantly chasing the day."

Many articles have outlined how meditation can benefit musicians. Writing for The Guardian, pianist/composer Rolf Hind explained how meditation helped him find new purpose as a musician.

"For me, the practise of meditating … has brought an enormous amount to my life and music-making," wrote Hind. "[I have] a sense of clarity and control, less neurosis about ambitions and 'career,' greater efficiency, awareness and body sense as a pianist. As a composer, I'm more in touch with the sources of my own creativity."

As the saying attributed to the great painter Pablo Picasso goes, "Good artists copy; great artists steal." In the context of music this is not meant to be taken literally, but musicians who borrow ideas and strategies from successful people — in this case, all-star basketball players and hall of fame coaches — will surely take their game to an MVP level.

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