Photo: Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images
The Recording Academy Establishes Black Music Collective
The newly launched collective comprises a group of prominent Black music creators and professionals who share the common goal of amplifying Black voices within the Recording Academy and the wider music community
The Recording Academy has today (Sept. 3) announced the creation of its Black Music Collective (BMC), a group of prominent Black music creators and professionals who share the common goal of amplifying Black voices within the Academy and the wider music community.
As part of the Recording Academy's commitment to evolving hand-in-hand with its membership, BMC will serve as a space for members to speak openly about new and emerging opportunities in Black music across all genres and identify ways to drive more representation.
The launch of BMC follows the Recording Academy's recent partnership with Color Of Change, the nation's largest online racial justice organization, in July, which set forth to create a Black music advisory group. The BMC fulfills this promise and is bringing together creators and business leaders to create a pipeline of future industry trailblazers. Leaders will meet regularly and initiate programs that will encourage participation and accelerate Black membership in the Recording Academy.
Jeffrey Harleston, Jimmy Jam, Quincy Jones, Debra Lee, John Legend, and Sylvia Rhone will serve as honorary chairs of the BMC. A distinguished leadership committee will be confirmed in the coming weeks and will work in sync with the honorary chairs to propel the collective's mission. Recording Academy Trustee Riggs Morales and Washington, D.C., Chapter Executive Director Jeriel Johnson will lead the initiative internally.
"The Black Music Collective is necessary to help drive the Recording Academy into a new era. Creating an open space for Black music creators can only benefit our membership as a whole," Harvey Mason jr., Chair and Interim President/CEO of the Recording Academy, said. "Through the past few months, I've been personally invested in propelling this collective along with Chapter leadership within the Academy. Together, we will elevate Black music creators within our organization and the industry at large."
"As Black music continues to drive culture, it is essential we grow and maintain representation within the Academy and the music industry," Valeisha Butterfield Jones, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer of the Recording Academy, said. "We're thrilled to help develop the leaders of tomorrow with impactful educational and experiential programs that we will announce in coming weeks."
In March 2018, the Recording Academy established a third-party task force to examine issues of diversity and inclusion within the Academy and the broader music community. The Academy has since taken action on the Task Force's initial assessment and recommendations and has made additional strides to facilitate a culture of belonging while recognizing the need to focus on underrepresented communities. Recent initiatives include the hiring of a Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, a $1 million donation to Color Of Change, alignment with #TheShowMustBePaused movement created by Jamila Thomas (Atlantic Records) and Brianna Agyemang (Platoon), and the development of an industry Inclusion Rider and Toolkit to be released later this year.
Stay up to date on the Recording Academy's progress, future announcements and recent initiatives on diversity and inclusion.
Recording Academy Invites & Celebrates Its 2020 New Member Class
Photo: Max Wanger
Chamber Ensemble yMusic Step Into The Light On New LP: "We've Been In Training For This Moment"
Contemporary chamber ensemble yMusic have backed up GRAMMY winners from Paul Simon to John Legend and St. Vincent. On their eponymous new LP, they reveal themselves to be a self-contained universe.
Over the course of a decade and a half, yMusic have pointed their arrow toward collaborators, happy to exist chiefly as facilitators and augmenters — until Paul Simon had something to say about it.
"Every time we'd work with songwriters and bands, they'd say 'So, when are you guys going to write your own stuff?'" the chamber group's violist, Nadia Sirota, recalls to GRAMMY.com. "And we'd be like, 'Oh no, what are you talking about?'"
If you know classical, you'll know this is par for the course. But when yMusic appeared with Simon on his 2018 album of reimagined deep cuts, In the Blue Light, "He was like, 'You guys have to figure out what your voice is as an ensemble yourself,'" Sirota says. "We took him seriously."
With that encouragement from the 16-time GRAMMY winner under their belts, yMusic partitioned time in their rehearsal schedule for writing — and that built a bridge to their autonomous, eponymous new album of originals, which arrived May 5.
YMUSIC places the young sextet — Sirota, flutist/vocalist Alex Sopp, clarinetist Hideaki Aomori, trumpeter CJ Camerieri, violinist Rob Moose, and cellist Gabriel Cabezas — within a concise framework, emphasizing each composition's innate singability and dramatic arc.
"One organizing principle that we kept coming back to was the idea of song form, because that almost felt foreign to our body of work in a cool way," Moose, who has won two golden gramophones, tells GRAMMY.com. "But also, because we've collaborated with songwriters so much, it felt at home to us."
As you absorb YMUSIC's multivalent highlights like "Zebras," "Three Elephants" and "Cloud," read on for an interview with Sirota and Moose about the group's 15-year creative journey, what they bring to the table for singer/songwriters and how this consolidative work came to be.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
The press release for YMUSIC says it finds "the group focused on discovering an artistic voice all their own."
Nadia Sirota: A really important thing to know about the group is that we've been around for 15 years, but every single thing that we've done prior to the album has been a collaboration with another artist.
We have worked with a ton of amazing composers, bands and songwriters, and it's been a joy and a pleasure to work with all those people, but we had never created any original music until we started the process that resulted in this album.
So, it's been really amazing to double down on the creativity within the group. We've always been pretty hands-on in our collaborations with other people — and certainly super-opinionated, and very into editing and honing and re-orchestrating.
The whole time, we had a very creatorly hand, I think, on these collaborations, but we've never really made music ourselves — so that's what this is about.
Was this by design over the past 15 years? To augment other musicians?
Sirota: Yeah, and I think a lot of it, honestly, comes from the fact that we all come from a pretty classical background despite where we ended up in the world. In the classical-music world, it's more common than not that you are either a composer or a performer.
There are some people who do both things in an explicit way, but if you're training as a performer, you're training as an interpreter…. who's working on Brahms and Beethoven and Rebecca Clarke and all that stuff.
Even if you're doing new music, you're working with composers. We took that as we became a young new music ensemble, like so many other new music ensembles.
Rob Moose: I feel like our origin story — our mission from the beginning — was about empowerment.
We were active as freelance performers equally in new classical or classical music, but also in working with songwriters and bands. We had a lot of respect for the groups we were working with outside of classical music, and felt like they were being underrepresented in who was performing their music — or even how they were looking at their collaborative work.
So, I think built into the group's DNA was this idea of helping to — not elevate by our presence, but just lift up these people who were doing great work and give the best possible presentation to it.
We were always interested in underdogs, in a sense, and it just took us a long time to look at ourselves in the same way: Can we help our own voices get out there?
I think we realized that we've been in training for this moment all those years and we're really excited to step into this new role.
Sirota: Another angle of this is that these pieces have really been written collaboratively. It's not like one of us came with a whole bunch of ideas and doled out parts and figured it out.
In the very earliest phases of this, the six of us would get into a room with nothing and just try to create something — and six people is a lot of people to be in that creative space. I think we were all just delighted at how well it worked.
Then the pandemic hit. Everyone had to go our separate ways, but because we had forged this way of working together, we were able to keep that up over digital spaces and figure out how to collaboratively write and hone and record all this stuff.
I'm most intimately aware of your work on Okkervil River's Away and Paul Simon's In the Blue Light, although I've heard yMusic in any number of other contexts. How do you tailor your approach and methodology to each artist you work with?
Moose: I think each collaborator we've worked with has really set a tone for the way in which we'll approach the results we're looking for.
Ben Folds and Bruce Hornsby were two really important people for us that helped us get off the page and encouraged us to do the homework and create the parts — but also find freedom in live shows, or in recording studios, to create in a less conventional way for us.
Paul Simon did too, but also, he was the most meticulous about editing and refining the ideas. Which makes sense, because if you look at his work — his words, the stories, the structures of what he's created, the interaction with different styles and cultures of music — I think thoroughness is something you would never imagine would be a missing ingredient there. I feel in some ways, he pushed us to be in the moment, but also be the most under the microscope.
I think our group always approaches collaborations the same way: with great seriousness and joy and admiration for who we're working with. We take cues from the people we're working with about what's going to work best for them, as well as their audience.
Sirota: We've learned to be adaptable to all different processes, whether it's from audio first or chords first or written notation or just a vibe.
Sometimes, when I'm trying to create something alone, I get mired in my critical brain and it's really hard to work. I think the cool thing about the systems yMusic has built to work with is that they don't start from a critical place — although we get super-critical.
Moose: Being there's so many people in the group, one of the benefits is that we're still able to observe each other and pull ideas out of each other like those collaborators did for us.
A lot of pieces of music that we composed for the record started with almost eavesdropping on our neighbors as they were warming up, like: "What was that sound you just made? What is that technique that you're doing?" We would be able to shine a light on somebody else's idea that they might consider completely insignificant and perfunctory, not the basis of a composition.
To be able to bear witness to that and encourage it, that's something we learned from our collaborators; they helped us see that in ourselves, and I think we also helped them find things in that way. So, we've been really excited to keep that as part of our process.
As the violist and violinist in yMusic, how would you two characterize your interplay and function as cogs in the musical machine — both between you two and the ensemble as a whole?
Sirota: I feel like there's definitely a certain amount of rhythm viola that I sometimes play in the group. There are our most obvious functions, and then our auxiliary functions.
In the group, the only tools we have as a bassline are the cello and bass clarinet, really. So, there are ways in which those guys really end up functioning that way, and then sometimes, we totally subvert that.
The broadest spectrum of the group is piccolo to bass clarinet, kind of. Sometimes, we use that spread to kick it up a little bit. If we want to add some energy, we'll either pull something up or pull something down in a really nice way.
Being a violist is a funny thing, because you're always adding butter to the sauce. You're not necessarily the main thought of it, there's a way in which you can really add an unctuousness to the sound. Usually, I'm just trying to add a little bit of texture and excitement.
Sometimes, Rob and I are in the stratosphere doing light disco string lines or whatever. There's all sorts of flexibility in the way that this group works. Sometimes, we throw viola over to the wind side and have flute and violin do string things. There are really so many different options with the group.
I don't know if you know this, but the [template of] instrumentation that we have hasn't existed before. So, we have had the great luxury of trying to figure out every single thing that it can do, and there's some neat stuff.
Sometimes, the cello is up in the violin and viola range, too, so we have this crazy high-string section for the violin section, but made up of things that are in that register, with timbres that are slightly more exciting, in my mind.
Moose: I think, in some ways, the role that you have, Nadia, is maybe the most diverse in the group.
With cello, you can form that core low-string, warmth, support thing. Then, some of my favorite combinations are when we pair bass clarinet with viola and horn for that warm triadic lifestyle. Then, like you pointed out, you'll be doing high stuff in octaves or unison with me.
Sometimes, two or three of us can represent what the guitar or piano would do. I do love being on this bright team, sometimes, with trumpet and flute. Part of my journey has been to learn how to attempt to mimic the way their notes end, which is so abrupt compared to the way our notes end.
yMusic. Photo: Max Wanger
What were the core ideas that dictated the framework of YMUSIC?
Moose: We didn't start with an intention to write a record, necessarily. It was more of a commitment to figure out what would happen if the six of us, 13 years into our journey, decided to collaboratively compose in real time with no cheat sheets, no prep, no collaborators.
Sirota: Anything can inspire the beginning of something, and then the material itself dictates where it ends up having to go. Oftentimes, we set out to do something that was not where we ended up, but it brought us somewhere else that was really cool. I think that's the nature of writing.
YMUSIC really breathes as a listening experience; it's sequenced rather well, in my opinion, and the drama seems to expand and retract.
Sirota: That was certainly the goal, and I will say we had a lot of material for this album. Pulling it together in a way that felt both exciting and kind to the listener was the goal.
The thing about the six of us is we can get in this hyper twin-language thing where we keep wanting to gild the lily, and keep on wanting to work. We could probably obsessively rewrite every single one of these songs until we die, if we wanted to.
Moose: We have pieces in there that felt like anchors that you want to arrive at in different moments, like "Baragon," "The Wolf" and "Three Elephants" — the structural beams that are [tracks] one, four and seven.
I think it felt important to end with the piece "Cloud" — the last piece that we worked together on in the room before the pandemic started. The idea of that piece was to try to introduce something positive and soothing and nurturing in a moment of uncertainty.
Sirota: Interestingly, "Baragon" is one of the most recent things that we wrote. So, we bookended the album with these two works that were important for us in the process of writing, and figured out a way to get from point A to point B.
As 2023 rolls on, what's in the works for yMusic, and what would you like to eventually do?
Moose: We got to play the entire record for the first time at Carnegie Hall in January, which was really exciting.
I know we're really looking forward to presenting the work more — especially the concert that we did — the first half being music we composed, and then the second half being two premieres from two composers that we really admire.
I think it's important] to hear our work alongside work like that, and not separate them and be like, We did that before, we're doing this now, but be like, All of these things are who we are.
Sirota: We've got some upcoming collaborations we can't quite talk about yet. So, there's the stuff on the songwriter side that will be percolating.
The stuff on the composer side that we can talk about is: we're excited to record this brand-new major work by Andrew Norman soon, and a new piece by Gabriela Smith coming in the next season or so. Alongside this, we're going to carve out more time to write more stuff.
A neat thing about this group, which has always been true, is it's not the only thing that any one of us is supposed to do. We have always treated it like an extremely important part of our lives, but we all also do other creative things, and they're not all in the same realm at all.
So, I feel like a nice thing is that when we do come together, we're always coming with a fresh perspective.
Yo-Yo Ma On His Lifelong Friendships, Music's Connection To Nature & His New Audible Original, Beginner's Mind
Photo Courtesy of the Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum
212 Quarterfinalists Announced For The 2024 Music Educator Award
The Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum have announced the quarterfinalists for the 2024 Music Educator Award, which recognizes educators who have made a significant contribution and demonstrate a commitment to music education.
Today, the Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum have announced a total of 212 music teachers as quarterfinalists for the 2024 Music Educator Award, which recognizes current educators — kindergarten through college across public and private schools — who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools. The quarterfinalists, who hail from 197 cities, were selected from more than 2,000 initial submitted nominations. In addition to the quarterfinalists, 123 legacy applicants from 2023 will also be eligible to win the Music Educator Award this year.
Semi-finalists for the 2024 Music Educator Award will be announced this September. The ultimate recipient will be recognized during GRAMMY Week 2024.
Read More: Meet The 2023 Music Educator Award Recipient: How Pamela Dawson Helps Her Students Achieve Healing And Catharsis
A joint partnership and presentation between the Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum, the Music Educator Award is open to current U.S. music teachers, and anyone can nominate a teacher — students, parents, friends, colleagues, community members, school deans, and administrators. Teachers are also able to nominate themselves, and nominated teachers are notified and invited to fill out an application.
Each year, one recipient is selected from 10 finalists and recognized for their remarkable impact on students' lives. The 10th annual honoree will be flown to Los Angeles to attend the 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, as well as a range of GRAMMY Week events. The nine additional finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium, and the schools of all 10 finalists will receive matching grants. Fifteen semi-finalists will receive a $500 honorarium with matching school grants.
Read More: 8 Artists Who Were Inspired By Their Teachers: Rihanna, Adele, Jay-Z & More
The matching grants provided to the schools are made possible by the generosity and support of the GRAMMY Museum’s Education Champion Ford Motor Company Fund. In addition, the American Choral Directors Association, National Association for Music Education, NAMM Foundation, and National Education Association support this program through outreach to their constituencies.
Learn more about the Music Educator Award.
See the full list of the 2024 Music Educator Award quarterfinalists and legacy applicants below:
2024 MUSIC EDUCATOR AWARD QUARTERFINALISTS
|Casie Adams||Martinsburg High School||Martinsburg||West Virginia|
|Bruce Adams||Sam Houston High School||San Antonio||Texas|
|Miguel Aguiar||Southwest High School||San Antonio||Texas|
|Derek Alexander||Orville Bright Elementary School||Chicago||Illinois|
|Dawn Amthor||Wallkill Senior High School||Wallkill||New York|
|Jonathan Anderson||University High School (Volusia)||Orange City||Florida|
|Christopher Andrews||Hephzibah High School||Hephzibah||Georgia|
|Jeanne Andrews||Pauline J. Petway Elementary School||Vineland||New Jersey|
|Justin Antos||Dwight D. Eisenhower High School||Blue Island||Illinois|
|Javier Arau||New York Jazz Academy||New York||New York|
|Andrea Armour||Christian County Middle School||Hopkinsville||Kentucky|
|Timothy Arnold||Orono High School||Long Lake||Minnesota|
|Shawn Athey||Veterans Memorial High School||Corpus Christi||Texas|
|Elizabeth Baker||Mary Martin Elementary||Weatherford||Texas|
|Jeremy Bartunek||Greenbriar School||Northbrook||Illinois|
|Adem Birson||New York University||New York||New York|
|Benjamen Blasko||Lipscomb University||Nashville||Tennessee|
|Amanda Blevins||Tri-Valley High School||Dresden||Ohio|
|Susan Boddie||Valdosta State University||Valdosta||Georgia|
|Adrain Bonner||Lancaster High School||Lancaster||Texas|
|Cherie Bowe||Pascagoula High School||Pascagoula||Mississippi|
|Andrew Bowerly||Tenino High School||Tenino||Washington|
|George Bradshaw||Dover Area High School||Dover||Pennsylvania|
|Gwendolyn Brazier||Lathrop High School||Fairbanks||Alaska|
|Steve Browne||Nashville Community High School||Nashville||Illinois|
|Matthew Brusseau||Davie County High School||Mocksville||North Carolina|
|Ryan Bulgarelli||Loyalsock Township High School||Williamsport||Pennsylvania|
|Cathryn Burt||East Newton High School||Granby||Missouri|
|James Byrn, Jr.||Maconaquah High School||Bunker Hill||Indiana|
|Mary Catherine Campbell||Seven Pines Elementary||Sandston||Virginia|
|Helen Capehart||Bridgeport High School||Bridgeport||Texas|
|Marcos Carreras||Conservatory of The Arts||Springfield||Massachusetts|
|Michael "Patrick" Carte||Scott High School||Madison||West Virginia|
|Curtis Carver||Harlem High School||Harlem||Georgia|
|Roger Chagnon III||Westfield Academy and Central School||Westfield||New York|
|Kristopher Chandler||Gautier High School||Gautier||Mississippi|
|Jeff Chang||Decatur High School||Federal Way||Washington|
|Krista Clay||West Branch High School||Beloit||Ohio|
|Travis Coakley||William Carey University||Hattiesburg||Mississippi|
|Vanessa Cobb||Montgomery Central High School||Cunningham||Tennessee|
|Mark Collins||John S. Battle High School||Bristol||Virginia|
|Trish Conover||Community Middle School||Plainsboro||New Jersey|
|John Contreras||Pueblo High School||Tucson||Arizona|
|Kyle Cook||Western Branch Middle School||Chesapeake||Virginia|
|Travis Cook||Plymouth Christian Academy||Canton||Michigan|
|Daniel Cook||University of North Texas||Denton||Texas|
|Andrew Cote||Merrimack College||North Andover||Massachusetts|
|Drew Cowell||Belleville East High School||Belleville||Illinois|
|Cory Craig||Benton Intermediate School||Benton||Louisiana|
|Matthew Cunningham||Brockton High School||Brockton||Massachusetts|
|Shannon Curtis||Zimmerman Middle High School||Zimmerman||Minnesota|
|Isaac Daniel||Stax Music Academy||Memphis||Tennessee|
|Jim Daughters||Southeast Missouri State University||Cape Girardeau||Missouri|
|Marci DeAmbrose||Lincoln Southwest High School||Lincoln||Nebraska|
|Jackie Deen||Pottsboro High School||Pottsboro||Texas|
|Matthew Denman||Classen School of Advanced Studies||Oklahoma City||Oklahoma|
|Ryan Diefenderfer||Paradise Valley High School||Phoenix||Arizona|
|Jennifer DiVasto||Pennridge High School||Perkasie||Pennsylvania|
|Antoine Dolberry||P.S. 103x Hector Fontanez||Bronx||New York|
|George Dragoo||Stevens High School||Rapid City||South Dakota|
|Marisa Drake||Patuxent High School||Lusby||Maryland|
|Kathleen Dudley||Andrew Cooke Magnet School||Waukegan||Illinois|
|Jonathan Eising||James Hubert Blake High School||Silver Spring||Maryland|
|Jonathan Eldridge||Weston High School||Weston||Massachusetts|
|Carol Evans||Gwynedd Mercy University||Gwynedd Valley||Pennsylvania|
|Anthony Ferreira||Suffield High||West Suffield||Connecticut|
|Tamara Frazier||North Valleys High School||Reno||Nevada|
|J.D. Frizzell||Briarcrest Christian School||Eads||Tennessee|
|Chesteron Frye||St. Helena College & Career Academy||Greensburg||Louisiana|
|Nicholas Garofalo||Chattahoochee High School||Johns Creek||Georgia|
|Matt Gerry||Salina South Middle School||Salina||Kansas|
|Anna Girling||Sebastopol Attendance Center||Sebastopol||Mississippi|
|Vivian Gonzalez||Miami Arts Studio 6-12 @ Zelda Glazer||Miami||Florida|
|Johnathan Gore||Sandy Run K8 School||Swansea||South Carolina|
|Serena Gorham||Weare Middle School||Weare||New Hampshire|
|Kylie Griffin||Dozier Elementary||Erath||Louisiana|
|Jess Gronberg||Hawkes Bluff Elementary||Davie||Florida|
|Alan Guckian||Manor High School||Manor||Texas|
|Nathaniel Gunter||Greer High School||Greer||South Carolina|
|Amy Hannequin||Bethel Middle School||Bethel||Connecticut|
|Crystal Harding||Ypsilanti Community High School||Ypsilanti||Michigan|
|Diana Harrigan||Bloom High School||Chicago Heights||Illinois|
|Toye Harris||Miami High School||Miami||Oklahoma|
|Chris Hayslette||Bridgeport Middle School||Bridgeport||West Virginia|
|Colette Hebert||Ella Fitzgerald Academy||Yonkers||New York|
|Martha Heise||Seventh Street Elementary School||Oil City||Pennsylvania|
|Jonathan Helmick||Slippery Rock University||Slippery Rock||Pennsylvania|
|Corey Hermens||Grant County High School||Dry Ridge||Kentucky|
|Joel Hill||Velma Jackson High School and Shirley D. Simmons Middle School||Camden||Mississippi|
|Autumn Danielle Hodges||Clarksville- Kraus Middle School||Clarksville||Arkansas|
|Elaine Holmes||Comsewogue High School||Port Jefferson Station||New York|
|Gene Hundley||Swainsboro Middle School||Swainsboro||Georgia|
|Victor Iapalucci||Philip Barbour High School||Philippi||West Virginia|
|Devin James||Salem High School||Conyers||Georgia|
|Heidi Jaye||Daniel Webster Elementary School||New Rochelle||New York|
|Luke Johnson||Ingalls Elementary||Ingalls||Kansas|
|Jamie Jones||Manzano Day School||Albuquerque||New Mexico|
|Tyler Jones||Thompson Middle School||Alabaster||Alabama|
|Daniel Joosten||Edgerton High School||Edgerton||Wisconsin|
|Brett Keith||Northern Bedford County Middle/High School||Loysburg||Pennsylvania|
|Deonte Kennedy||Craigmont High School||Memphis||Tennessee|
|Matthew Kilby||Fort Dorchester HS||North Charleston||South Carolina|
|Lou Kitchner||Bedford Middle School||Westport||Connecticut|
|Michael Kiyoi||San Marcos High School||Santa Barbara||California|
|Kate Klotz||Monarch High School||Louisville||Colorado|
|Heidi Kohler||Clarence Middle School||Clarence||New York|
|Michael Lapomardo||Shrewsbury High School||Shrewsbury||Massachusetts|
|Michael Lee||Jericho Middle School||Jericho||New York|
|Morgan Lentino||Otter Creek Elementary||Elgin||Illinois|
|Joshua Light||Soddy-Daisy HS||Soddy-Daisy||Tennessee|
|Lisa Linde||Newton South High school||Newton||Massachusetts|
|Wes Lowe||The King's Academy||West Palm Beach||Florida|
|Cole Lundquist||Gloucester High School||Gloucester||Massachusetts|
|Robert Mamminga||St. Francis High School||Wheaton||Illinois|
|Peter Manzi||Carlsbad High School||Carlsbad||California|
|Samuel Maran||Lake High School||Millbury||Ohio|
|Jayson Martinez||Arts High School||Newark||New Jersey|
|Kevin McDonald||Wellesley High School||Wellesley||Massachusetts|
|Jill Melchitzky||Northwestern Middle School||Albion||Pennsylvania|
|Larrian Menifee||Ball High School||Galveston||Texas|
|Kimberly Mettert||East Noble Middle School||Kendallville||Indiana|
|Natalie Moore||Sullivan High School||Sullivan||Missouri|
|Mario Morales||Granbury High School||Granbury||Texas|
|Coty Raven Morris||Portland State University||Portland||Oregon|
|Brian Nabors||Shelby High School||Shelby||Ohio|
|Jenny Neff||The University of the Arts||Philadelphia||Pennsylvania|
|Cassandra Nelson||Mountaineer Middle||Morgantown||West Virginia|
|Trevor Nicholas||Senn Arts at Nicholas Senn High School||Chicago||Illinois|
|Adam Nobile||Big Spring High School||Newville||Pennsylvania|
|Sam Noyce||Thomas Jefferson Jr. High School||Kearns||Utah|
|Tim O'Donnell||Ephrata High School||Ephrata||Washington|
|John Panella||Cottondale High School||Cottondale||Florida|
|James Patterson||Kingstree High School||Kingstree||South Carolina|
|Shakia Paylor||City Neighbors High School||Baltimore||Maryland|
|Fernando Penaloza||Savanna High School||Anaheim||California|
|Kathy Perconti||Wayne Central High School||Ontario Center||New York|
|Jordan Peters||Dr. E Alma Flagg School||Newark||New Jersey|
|Catherine Plichta||Theatre Arts Production Company School||Bronx||New York|
|Felix Ponce||Back of the Yards College Preparatory High School||Chicago||Illinois|
|David Pope||Baldwin Wallace University||Berea||Ohio|
|Ær Queen||Braddock Elementary School||Annandale||Virginia|
|Brian Querry||Charles A. Huston Middle School||Lower Burrell||Pennsylvania|
|Rebecca Raber||University of Mary||Bismarck||North Dakota|
|Marc Ratner||Mineola High School||Garden City Park||New York|
|Lance Rauh||Patriot Oaks Academy||St Johns||Florida|
|Hoza Redditt||MSA East Academy||St. Gabriel||Louisiana|
|Heather Rentz||St. Mark Westpark||Cleveland||Ohio|
|Aaron Rex||Mason Middle School||Mason||Ohio|
|Angela Rex||Riverside Middle School||Greer||South Carolina|
|Chris Richard||Rogers Heritage High School||Rogers||Arkansas|
|Sarah Riechers||Thurgood Marshall Elementary School||Manassas||Virginia|
|Stephanie Robertson||Ponchatoula High School||Ponchatoula||Louisiana|
|Bethany Robinson||Noblesville High School||Noblesville||Indiana|
|Keith Robinson||Jefferson Avenue Elementary||Seguin||Texas|
|Alberto Rodriguez||Mount Vernon High School||Alexandria||Virginia|
|Chad Rose||Sheridan High School||Sheridan||Wyoming|
|Stewart Rosen||Walter Reed Middle School||North Hollywood||California|
|Shawn Royer||Marian University||Indianapolis||Indiana|
|Dayshawn Russell||North Iberville Elementary||Rosedale||Louisiana|
|Hannah Ryan||University of Virginia's College at Wise||Wise||Virginia|
|Kyle Ryan||Turkey Hill School||Orange||Connecticut|
|Ashley Sands||Kennedy Secondary School||Fergus Falls||Minnesota|
|Mark Santos||Santa Ana High School||Santa Ana||California|
|Danni Schmitt||Roland Park Elementary/Middle School||Baltimore||Maryland|
|Kevin Schoenbach||Oswego High School||Oswego||Illinois|
|Eric Schultz||Coastal Carolina University||Conway||South Carolina|
|Jessica Schwartz||Denham Springs High School||Denham Springs||Louisiana|
|Josh Settlemyre||R.J. Reynolds High School||Winston-Salem||North Carolina|
|Jason Shiuan||Saratoga High School||Saratoga||California|
|Katie Silcott||Olentangy Shanahan Middle School||Lewis Center||Ohio|
|Kerra Simmons||Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts||Fort Worth||Texas|
|Joani Slawson||Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy||Melbourne||Florida|
|Timothy Patrick Sloan Sr.||Albright Middle School||Houston||Texas|
|Jessie Smith||Yes Prep Public Schools||Houston||Texas|
|Cathryn Smith||Coleman High School||Coleman||Texas|
|Patrick Smith||Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School||New Haven||Connecticut|
|Tony Spano||Culver City High School||Culver City||California|
|Wes Sparkes||Eagleview Middle School||Colorado Springs||Colorado|
|Julian Spires||Meade Middle School||Fort Meade||Maryland|
|Shannon Stem||University Academy||Panama City||Florida|
|Harold Stephan||Stuyvesant High School||New York||New York|
|Cassandra Sulbaran||Braintree High School||Braintree||Massachusetts|
|Lynn Sweet||Mount Anthony Union High School||Bennington||Vermont|
|Agnes Tech||Indian Prairie Elementary School||Crystal Lake||Illinois|
|Chris Toomey||Mineola High School||Garden City Park||New York|
|Tom Torrento||Grosse Pointe North High School||Grosse Pointe Woods||Michigan|
|Jessica Torres||Elmont Memorial Jr. Sr. High School||Elmont||New York|
|Michelle Trinidad||Sacred Heart School||Bronx||New York|
|Alice Tsui||New Bridges Elementary||Brooklyn||New York|
|Jordan Tupper||Episcopal School of Baton Rouge||Baton Rouge||Louisiana|
|Martin Urbach||Harvest Collegiate High School||New York City||New York|
|Johny Vargas||Pueblo High School||Tucson||Arizona|
|Amy Villanova||Canyon Crest Academy||San Diego||California|
|Valerie Vinnard||Webster Elementary||Long Beach||California|
|Kenneth Walker||Ralls High School||Ralls||Texas|
|Kathy Wallace||Willard Elementary||Winchester||Indiana|
|Jennifer Walter||University of North Carolina at Greensboro||Greensboro||North Carolina|
|John Ware||Stovall Middle School||Houston||Texas|
|Brandon Weeks||North Polk High School||Alleman||Iowa|
|Lisa Werner||St. Bruno Parish School||Dousman||Wisconsin|
|Scott Weyman||Solanco High School||Quarryville||Pennsylvania|
|Elizabeth White||Holcomb RIII||Holcomb||Missouri|
|Tyler Wigglesworth||West Covina High School||West Covina||California|
|Derrick Williams||Vista Heights Middle School||Moreno Valley||California|
|Paula Williams||The Ron Clark Academy||Atlanta||Georgia|
|Sandi Wilson||Franklin School of Innovation||Asheville||North Carolina|
|Matthew Wiltshire||Lewiston High School||Lewiston||Maine|
|Damion Womack||The Montgomery Academy||Montgomery||Alabama|
|Tammy Yi||Chapman University||Orange||California|
|Nicholas Young||Altus High School||Altus||Oklahoma|
|Jason Younts||Samuel V. Champion High School||Boerne||Texas|
|DeAnna Zecchin||Indian River High School||Dagsboro||Delaware|
2024 MUSIC EDUCATOR AWARD LEGACY APPLICANTS
|Phil Aguglia||Kenmore East High School||Tonawanda||New York|
|Heather Akers||Central Middle School||Dover||Delaware|
|Eric Allen||Western Middle School for the Arts||Louisville||Kentucky|
|Calandria Allen||Zachary Community Schools||Zachary||Louisiana|
|Abigail Alwin||Clague Middle School||Ann Arbor Public Schools||Michigan|
|David Amos||Heritage Middle School||Painesville||Ohio|
|Luke Aumann||Appleton North High School||Appleton||Wisconsin|
|Elizabeth Baker||Ilima Intermediate School||Ewa Beach||Hawaiʻi|
|Andre Barnes||Science Park High School||Newark||New Jersey|
|Conesha Barron||Lanier High School||Jackson||Mississippi|
|Lyndra Bastian||Creekside Middle School and Woodstock High School||Woodstock||Illinois|
|William Bennett||Cane Bay High School||Summerville||South Carolina|
|Heather Bice||Ridgeview High School||Orange Park||Florida|
|Charlie Bradberry||Iowa Park High School||Iowa Park||Texas|
|Justin Britt||Kingston Public Schools||Kingston||Oklahoma|
|Shantavia Burchette||East Side High School||Newark||New Jersey|
|John Burn||Homestead High School||Cupertino||California|
|Alexander Busby||Oviedo High School||Oviedo||Florida|
|Aaron Bush||Foxborough High School||Foxborough||Massachusetts|
|Meg Byrne||Pleasant Valley High School||Bettendorf||Iowa|
|Philip Carter||O'Fallon Township High School||O'Fallon||Illinois|
|Elizabeth Carter||Snowden School||Memphis||Tennessee|
|Francis Cathlina||University of Memphis||Memphis||Tennessee|
|Tiffany Chiang||Mark Twain I.S. 239||Brooklyn||New York|
|Ernesta Chicklowski||Roosevelt Elementary||Tampa||Florida|
|Michael Coelho||Ipswich Middle School and Ipswich High School||Ipswich||Massachusetts|
|Christine Cumberledge||Central Junior High School||Euless||Texas|
|Heather Dipasquale||Todd County Middle School||Elkton||Kentucky|
|Jack A. Eaddy, Jr.||Western Carolina University||Cullowhee||North Carolina|
|Dominique Eade||New England Conservatory of Music||Boston||Massachusetts|
|Cuauhtemoc Escobedo||Eckstein Middle School||Seattle||Washington|
|Jasmine Faulkner||Polaris Expeditionary Learning School||Fort Collins||Colorado|
|Daniel James Felton||Tartan High School||Oakdale||Minnesota|
|Nicholas Fernandez||Bentonville Schools||Bentonville||Arkansas|
|Cathryn Fowler||Health Careers High School||San Antonio||Texas|
|Marisa Frank||Explore! Community School||Nashville||Tennessee|
|Jasmine Fripp||KIPP Nashville Collegiate High School||Nashville||Tennessee|
|Jacob Garcia||Tennyson Middle School||Waco||Texas|
|Jorge L. Garcia||Elias Herrera Middle School||Laredo||Texas|
|Tina Gibson||Jefferson County Traditional Middle School||Louisville||Kentucky|
|Alex Gittelman||Haverford Middle School||Havertown||Pennsylvania|
|Guillermo Gonzalez||James A. Garfield High School||Los Angeles||California|
|Mansa Gory||Denzel Washington School of the Arts||Mount Vernon||New York|
|Deanna Grandstaff||Cecil Intermediate School||McDonald||Pennsylvania|
|Amanda Hanzlik||E.O. Smith High School||Storrs||Connecticut|
|Marvin Haywood||John Ehret High School||Marrero||Louisiana|
|Kristin Howell||Syosset High School||Syosset||New York|
|Emmanuel Hudson||Booker T. Washington High School||Shreveport||Louisiana|
|Karla Hulne||Blair-Taylor Middle/High School||Blair||Wisconsin|
|Mia Ibrahim||Health Opportunities High School||Bronx||New York|
|Luis Ingels||Candor Elementary School||Candor||New York|
|Justin Janer||Pinewood School Middle Campus||Los Altos||California|
|Daryl Jessen||Dakota Valley School||North Sioux City||South Dakota|
|De'Evin Johnson||Duncanville High School||Duncanville||Texas|
|Amir Jones||Harvey High School||Painesville||Ohio|
|Allison Kline||Blue Mountain Area School||Orwigsburg||Pennsylvania|
|Kenneth Kosterman||Rockwall-Heath High School||Heath||Texas|
|Joshua Krohn||Brent Elementary School||Washington||District of Columbia|
|Sarah Labovitz||Arkansas State University||Jonesboro||Arkansas|
|Heather Leppard||Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA)||Los Angeles||California|
|Hope Lewis||Charles O. Dickerson HS||Trumansburg||New York|
|Meredith Lord||Burncoat High School||Worcester||Massachusetts|
|Brendon Lucas||Nyack High School||Nyack||New York|
|Christian Lucas||Mariners Christian School||Costa Mesa||California|
|Alison McCarrey||Romig Middle School||Anchorage||Alaska|
|Angie McDaniel||Forest Creek Elementary||Round Rock||Texas|
|Ashleigh McDaniel Spatz||Burgess Peterson Academy||Atlanta||Georgia|
|Matthew McKagan||Lindero Canyon Middle School||Agoura Hills||California|
|Brian McMath||Northwest Guilford High School||Greensboro||North Carolina|
|Phillip McMullen||Silver Creek Central Schools||Silver Creek||New York|
|Tracy Meldrum||Verrado High School||Buckeye||Arizona|
|Xochilt Melendez Munguia||Gainesville Middle School for the Arts and Sciences||Gainesville||Virginia|
|Kris Milby||Greenup County High School||Greenup||Kentucky|
|Dana Monteiro||Frederick Douglass Academy||New York||New York|
|Shelby Montgomery||George Jenkins High School||Lakeland||Florida|
|David Moore||Inspire Charter Academy||Baton Rouge||Louisiana|
|Ryan Moseley||Appoquinimink High School||Middletown||Delaware|
|David Moss||West Hopkins School||Nebo||Kentucky|
|Deborah Muhlenbruck-Fleischer||Gunderson Middle School||Las Vegas||Nevada|
|Vicki Nichols||Grandview Elementary||Grandview||Texas|
|Jeremy Overbeck||Century High School||Bismarck||North Dakota|
|John Pachence||Penn State Abington||Abington||Pennsylvania|
|Jennifer Page||Niles North High School||Skokie||Illinois|
|Matthew Pitts||Robert JC Rice Elementary School||Gilbert||Arizona|
|Courtney Powers||Muhammad Ali School 23||Passaic||New Jersey|
|Natalie Pratt||Brentwood High School||Brentwood||Tennessee|
|William Rank||Oak Prairie Junior High School||Lockport||Illinois|
|Brett Rankin||Wilde Lake High School||Columbia||Maryland|
|Annie Ray||Annandale High School||Annandale||Virginia|
|Tracy Resseguie||Staley High School||Kansas City||Missouri|
|Giovanni Santos||La Sierra University||Riverside||California|
|Ruth Schwartz||Chugiak High School and Mirror Lake Middle School||Chugiak||Alaska|
|Laura Shapovalov||Walden III Middle and High School||Racine||Wisconsin|
|James Sheffer||Medford Memorial Middle School and Haines Sixth Grade Center||Medford||New Jersey|
|Matthew Shephard||Meridian Early College High School||Sanford||Michigan|
|Dylan Sims||York Middle School||York||South Carolina|
|Thomas Slater||Chestnut Oaks Middle School||Sumter||South Carolina|
|Michele Slone||Urbana Elementary and Jr. High School||Urbana||Ohio|
|Tony Small||St. Vincent Pallotti Arts Academy||Laurel||Maryland|
|Andrew Smith||Charlotte Central School||Charlotte||Vermont|
|Wayne Splettstoeszer||Torrington High School||Torrington||Connecticut|
|Elizabeth Steege||Cass High School||Racine||Wisconsin|
|Lawrence Stoffel||California State University, Northridge||Los Angeles||California|
|Tyler Swick||Robert and Sandy Ellis Elementary||Henderson||Nevada|
|Elizabeth Taylor||La Crosse Elementary School||La Crosse||Virginia|
|Cami Tedoldi||Foxborough High School||Foxborough||Massachusetts|
|Kylie Teston||Leonardtown High School||Leonardtown||Maryland|
|Jonathan Todd||Palisades High School||Charlotte||North Carolina|
|Matthew Trevino||Roan Forest Elementary||San Antonio||Texas|
|Alexis True||Thomas Downey High School||Modesto||California|
|Gregory Urban||Dunedin Highland Middle School||Dunedin||Florida|
|Jon Usher||Hidden Springs Elementary||Moreno Valley||California|
|Michael Vasquez||Charles L. Kuentz Jr. Elementary||Helotes||Texas|
|Aaron Vogel||Mountain Ridge High School||Glendale||Arizona|
|Bryen Warfield||Homestead High School||Fort Wayne||Indiana|
|Sarah Wehmeier Aparicio||Waukesha South High School||Waukesha||Wisconsin|
|Christopher White||Hickory Ridge High School||Harrisburg||North Carolina|
|Tammy White||Kiser Middle School||Greensboro||North Carolina|
|Tyron Williams||New Visions Charter High School for the Humanities IV||Far Rockaway||New York|
|Krista Williams||Floretta P. Carson Visual and Performing Arts Academy||Mobile||Alabama|
|Kelly Winovich||Northgate Middle/Senior High School||Pittsburgh||Pennsylvania|
|Hayley Winslow||Snow Canyon Middle School||Saint George||Utah|
Working For Students: How Music Industry Professionals Find Fulfillment In Education
Photo: Rebecca Sapp
5 Things We Learned From GRAMMY Museum's New The Power Of Song Exhibit, A Celebration Of Songwriters From Tom Petty To Taylor Swift
Nile Rodgers, Jimmy Jam, Smokey Robinson and more provide deep insights into their hit collaborations and creative process at GRAMMY Museum's The Power of Song: A Songwriters Hall of Fame Exhibit, open from April 26 through Sept. 4.
Since its founding in 1969, the Songwriters Hall of Fame has been celebrating the great songwriters and composers of our time. In 2010, it found a physical home at Downtown Los Angeles' GRAMMY Museum.
Now, the GRAMMY Museum is adding to that legacy with a special expanded exhibit, which dives deep into the history of songwriting and recorded music in the United States — as well as the Songwriters Hall of Fame and its inductees' role in it. Whether you're a songwriter or musician who loves the creative process, a history nerd, or simply a music lover, this exhibit is for you.
When you enter The Power Of Song, you'll hear the voices of legendary Songwriter Hall of Fame inductees and GRAMMY winners — including Nile Rodgers, Carole King, Diane Warren, Smokey Robinson and Jimmy Jam — discussing their creative process and some of the biggest songs they've written. Take a seat on the couch to absorb all their wisdom in the deeply informative and inspiring original short film.
Turn to the right, and you'll find a timeline across the entire wall, explaining the origins and key points around songwriting and recorded music in the U.S. On the other wall, pop on the headphones provided to enjoy a video of memorable Hall of Fame ceremony performances. One interactive video interface near the entrance allows you to hear "song highlights," and another allows you to explore the entire Songwriters Hall of Fame database.
The exhibit is filled with a treasure trove of handwritten song lyrics from Taylor Swift, Cyndi Lauper, Tom Petty and many more, as well as iconic artifacts, including Daft Punk's helmets, a classy Nile Rodgers GRAMMY look, and guitars from Bill Withers, Tom Petty, John Mellencamp and Toby Keith.
Below, take a look at five things we learned from The Power Of Song: A Songwriters Hall Of Fame Exhibit, which will be at the GRAMMY Museum from April 26 through Sept. 4.
Daft Punk Rerecorded "Get Lucky" To Fit Nile Rodgers' Funky Guitar
Legendary funk pioneer and superproducer Nile Rodgers is the current Chairman of the SHOF and has an active presence at the exhibit. One case features the disco-esque lime green Dior tuxedo Rodgers wore to the 2023 GRAMMY Awards, along with the shiny metallic helmets of French dance duo Daft Punk, who collaborated with Rodgers on their GRAMMY-winning 2013 album, Random Access Memories.
Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo of Daft Punk and Rodgers had forged a friendship and been wanting to collab for years prior to 2013's Record Of The Year-winning smash "Get Lucky." When they finally connected and Bangalter and de Homem-Christo played the CHIC founder the demo for "Get Lucky," he asked to hear it again with everything muted except the drum track, so he could create the perfect guitar lick for it.
Bangalter and de Homem-Christo decided to essentially re-record the whole song to fit Rodgers' guitar, which joyously drives the track — and carried it to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, Daft Punk's first Top 5 hit.
Photo: Rebecca Sapp
Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis Set Up Their Studio The "Wrong" Way Because Of Prince
In the exhibit film, Jimmy Jam tells several stories about working with — and learning from — Prince. He recalls how he and Terry Lewis watched Prince work and record everything "in the red," so they set up their Minneapolis studio to follow his lead. A sound engineer told them it was too loud, but that ended up being the sound that artists like Janet Jackson and Usher came to them for. It was a "happy mistake," as Jam put it, that helped their legendary careers as a powerhouse production duo take off.
Prince's dogmatic, tireless work ethic also rubbed off on the powerhouse pair. One rehearsal, the Purple One kept pressing Jam to do more, which resulted in him playing two instruments, singing and hitting the choreography from behind his keyboard. "He saw that I could do more than I thought I could; he saw me better than I saw myself," he reflected.
"God Bless America" Composer Irving Berlin Didn't Read Music
In his 50 year-career, Irving Berlin wrote over 1000 songs, many of which defined American popular music for the better part of the 20th century. Along with penning "God Bless America," "White Christmas," "Puttin' on the Ritz," and "There's No Business Like Show Business" (among many other classics), he wrote 17 full Broadway musical scores and contributed songs to six more plays.
Berlin also wrote scores for early Hollywood musicals starring the likes of Ginger Rodgers, Fred Astaire, Marilyn Monroe, and Bing Crosby. He made a lasting, indelible mark on music, theater, film and American culture writ large.
Rather astonishingly, the widely celebrated American Tin Pan Alley-era composer was self-taught and didn't read sheet music. His family immigrated to New York from Imperial Russia when he was 5 years old, and when he was just 13, his father died, so he busked on the streets and worked as a singing waiter to help his family out.
In 1907, at 19, he had his first song published, and just four years later penned his first international hit, "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Berlin had a natural musicality and played music by ear in the key of F-sharp, with the help of his trusted upright transposing piano, a rare instrument that had a mechanism allowing him to shift into different keys. His "trick piano," as he called it, where many of his unforgettable songs first came to life, is on display at the exhibit.
Read More: GRAMMY Rewind: Smokey Robinson Accepts A GRAMMY On Behalf Of The Temptations In 1973
Smokey Robinson Didn't Expect "My Girl" To Become A Timeless Hit
Smokey Robinson was an important part of Motown's hit-making factory as a singer, songwriter and producer. In the exhibit film, he discusses "My Girl," one of his classic tunes, which he wrote and produced for the Temptations in 1965.
"I had no idea it would become what it would become," he said.
He says that people often ask him why he didn't record the unforgettable song with his group the Miracles instead of "giving it away" to the Temptations, but he never regretted his decision. Instead, he's honored to have created music that stands the test of time and means so much to so many people.
Robinson joked that the Temptations' then-lead singer David Ruffin's gruff voice scared girls into going out with him. Really, he loved Ruffin's voice, and thought he'd sound great singing a sweet love song like "My Girl." Safe to say he was right.
After World War II, Pop Music Changed Forever
Prior to World War II, American music operated as a singular mainstream market, and New York's Tin Pan Alley songwriters competed to make the next pop or Broadway hit. In a post-World War II America, especially when the early Baby Boomer generation became teenagers and young adults in the '60s and '70s, tastes changed and new styles of pop and pop songwriting emerged. As rock shook up popular culture, Tin Pan Alley gave way to a new era of young songwriters, many who worked out of just two buildings in midtown Manhattan, 1619 Broadway (the Brill Building) and 1650 Broadway.
In this richly creative and collaborative environment, powerhouse songwriting duos began to emerge and reshape pop music, challenging and balancing each other — and creating a ton of hits in the process. The hit-making duos of this diversified pop era included Burt Bacharach and Hal David (Dionne Warrick's "That's What Friends Are For"), Carole King and Gerry Goffin (Little Eva's "The Loco-Motion"), Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'") and Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich (the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and the Crystals' "Then He Kissed Me," both in collaboration with Phil Spector). In fact, there are far too many classics penned by these four prolific songwriter duos to list here.
While there are still songwriters that pen big hit after hit for pop stars (Max Martin is still at it, as is his protege Oscar Görres), the dynamics in the industry have continued to shift with singers taking on more creative power themselves. Today's pop stars — including Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa and Taylor Swift — have found success co-writing with their own trusted teams of songwriters and producers. But as this new exhibit shows, it doesn't matter who is behind the pen — the power of song is mighty.
Meet Tobias Jesso Jr., The First-Ever GRAMMY Winner For Songwriter Of The Year
Photo: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Remembering Harry Belafonte’s Monumental Legacy: A Life In Music, A Passion For Activism
American icon Harry Belafonte passed away on April 25 at age 96. Throughout his legendary musical and acting career, Belafonte broke barriers and demonstrated a commendable commitment to equality.
An American icon whose outsize influence spanned generations and blazed trails, Harry Belafonte’s death at the age of 96 marks the end of a legendary life and career that shone in not only music, but social issues and the culture at large.
A two-time GRAMMY winner and 11-time career nominee, Belafonte's impact on the Recording Academy has lasted as long as the organization itself. The artist earned a nomination at the first-ever GRAMMY Awards in 1959 for Best Rhythm & Blues Performance (for his album Belafonte Sings the Blues). He’d win three years later for Best Performance- Folk for "Swing Dat Hammer." His other win came in the form of a GRAMMY for Best Folk Recording for An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000, and three of his recordings are in the GRAMMY Hall of Fame.
"Harry Belafonte has made an immeasurable impact on the music community, our country and our world,” says Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy. "Through his music and his activism in the civil rights movement, Belafonte has used his voice to break racial barriers in America since the ‘50s. It’s been an honor to celebrate his influence on our society throughout his impactful career."
Over nearly a century of life, Belafonte left a significant impact that has resonated with common audiences and up to the highest echelons of arts and politics. As news of his passing spread across the world, remembrances, praise and thanks appeared on social media.
Quincy Jones, one of many luminaries celebrating Belafonte's legacy today, remembered, "From our time coming up, struggling to make it in New York in the '50s with our brother Sidney Poitier, to our work on 'We Are The World' & everything in between, you were the standard bearer for what it meant to be an artist and activist."
"He inspired me so much personally," said John Legend, recalling Belafonte’s immense impact. "I learned at his feet basically about all of the great work he’s done over the years, and if you think about what it means to be an artist and an activist he was literally the epitome of what that was." Former President Barack Obama heralded Belafonte as a "barrier-breaking legend" who transformed "the arts while also standing up for civil rights. And he did it all with his signature smile and style."
A Trailblazing Artist Who Never Simply Toed The Line
In a 1998 "American Masters" interview for PBS, Belafonte mused about his life and legacy, noting, "One way or another, the essence of life is, in fact, the journey itself."
If that’s the case, Belafonte’s momentous path from his humble Harlem, New York youth to a successful club act, singing star and champion of equality amounts to an astonishing rise that no other Black artist had ever experienced before. His velvety voice and penchant for singing earworm songs along with a relaxed style endeared him to his initial '50s-era audiences.
Yet Belafonte was no mere one-note easy-listening act; he helped popularize calypso, was essential in bringing folk music to the mainstream, and also successfully recorded blues and even novelty songs. Sometimes his music was bombastic ("Jump in the Line (Shake, Señora)"), while on other occasions deftly understated ("A Hole in the Bucket"). Early hit "Matilda" begins with Belafonte happily whistling. "Hey! Ma-Til-Da," he cooly croons.
Influenced by his nightclub act, Belafonte's 1956 album Calypso was the first LP to sell one million copies — a stunning achievement for a genre not widely heard before. (As a result, the Library of Congress later added it to the National Recording Registry of significant American work.) Calypso was marketed as "not just another presentation of island songs," and its liner notes can be read as a reflection of the often complex role race and fame played in Belafonte's life.
Calypso's "songs [are] ranging in mood from brassy gaiety to wistful sadness, from tender love to heroic largeness," its liner notes read at the time, helping sell a fresh genre to a new audience. "And through it all runs the irrepressible rhythms of a people who have not lost the ability to laugh at themselves."
Throughout his career, Belafonte deftly navigated the line between mainstream hits and songs with a deeper meaning. When it came to recording "The Banana Boat Song" — the instantly recognizable sing-along party tune from Calypso, which originated as a traditional Jamaican folk song — Belafonte told "American Masters" that the song was a "conscious choice." Singing its memorable "Day-o!" refrain was "beautiful, powerful" and "a classic work song that spoke about struggles of the people who were underpaid and the victims of colonialism. In the song, it talked about our aspirations for a better way of life."
Aside from his singing career, Belafonte also dominated Broadway. In 1954, he won a Tony Award for his role in "John Murray Anderson’s Almanac," a musical revue. He also dabbled in film, from his 1953 debut to Spike Lee’s 2018 movie BlacKkKlansman.
He remained humble, if not slightly casual, about his success. "I had no problem being thrust into the world of stardom because I never thought about it," Belafonte told ABC News in 1981. "Nowhere in my boyhood dreams was I thinking one day I’d be in Hollywood, one day I’d be on Broadway, one day I’d be making an album that was successful. I was quite content, as most Blacks were in that period, to practice my artform and hopefully find a constituency somewhere in the world because the larger dream eluded all of us."
A Lifetime Of Activism
As his fame grew, Belafonte’s penchant for activism collided with a fast-changing America that was confronting the oppression of the '50s and reacting to the turbulence of the '60s. As a result, Belafonte's impressive musical legacy will forever be intertwined with his passion for activism.
Belafonte rubbed shoulders with the titans of his time: He attended John F. Kennedy’s inaugural gala (an invitation extended by Frank Sinatra), received inspiration from artist and activist Paul Robeson, he became a face of the civil rights movement alongside close friend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In fact, it was Dr. King who initiated the meeting with Belafonte. "He was coming to New York to speak to the religious community, the ecumenical community at the Abyssinian Baptist Church," Belafonte recalled to "PBS Newshour" in 2018 of their first encounter. "As a young Black artist on the rise [at the time], I began to make a bit of noise on my own terms. I began to violate the codes of racial separation. I understood the evils of racism and rebelled from my youth. He was 24. I was 26."
That confab began a friendship that would help shape the civil rights movement at large. Belafonte participated in the Freedom Rides and March on Washington, and even hosted "The Tonight Show" for a week in 1968 where Dr. King was one of his guests. The singer took King’s assassination as an exhortation, and committed fully to the quest for equity; he remained a passionate activist for decades.
Musically, that passion included an urge to help the plight of people in war-stricken Africa; his idea for a benefit single resulted in "We Are the World." The smash swept the GRAMMYs in 1986, winning Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal and Best Music Video, Short Form. In recent years he founded the social justice organization Sankofa, released the book My Song: A Memoir and was the subject of the documentary Sing Your Song. Last year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"(He was a) shining example of how to use your platform to make change in the world," said Questlove on Instagram. "If there is one lesson we can learn from him it is, ‘What can I do to help mankind?’"
He added, "Thank you Harry Belafonte!"
From Aretha Franklin To Public Enemy, Here's How Artists Have Amplified Social Justice Movements Through Music