GRAMMY Career Day Celebrates 20th Anniversary
Expanded seminars and panels inspire and educate while underscoring importance of keeping music in schools
A consistent home for GRAMMY Career Day in Los Angeles, the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music again hosted this year's event on Monday. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the GRAMMY Foundation's national program, top music-industry professionals inspired more than 1,300 greater-Los Angeles high school students by giving candid perspectives on the inner workings of the music business. The Career Day program is visiting several cities nationwide this year, supported by a three-year commitment from Gibson Baldwin Music Education.
Recording Academy VIPs, media representatives and industry pros were first treated to jazz stylings by a trio of students from the Gibson/Baldwin GRAMMY Jazz Ensembles playing renditions of standards, some with original arrangements. Meanwhile, Motown songwriting great Lamont Dozier informally conversed about creativity, expressing his view that it is within and all around, and the choice always exists to tap into it.
Before the students attended the event's panels, Recording Academy West Regional Director Lizzy Moore acknowledged the professional participants for "making a commitment to the future of our next music community." Kristen Madsen, Senior Vice President of the GRAMMY Foundation, spoke of the significance of media attention on Career Day: "to remind people of the importance of keeping music in our schools." Madsen also said the event would "open up a thirst for learning and teaching."
Panels represented a spectrum of careers in the music business. Artists, producers, music journalists, label executives, and professionals working in law, music supervision and several other areas talked about their own career path and what it takes to attain and sustain success.
At the panel moderated by Recording Academy Vice Chairman Jimmy Jam, attendees learned how producer Mike Clink got his start by answering phones at the world-renowned Record Plant recording studio. Sitting next to Clink, songwriter/producer Sean Garrett talked about his late mother keeping him focused on thinking ahead and doing the right thing. Garrett said, "With success comes a lot of bumps and hurdles," and he advised the students to appreciate their parents and what they can teach them about life.
Industry executive G. Roberson, a key player in hip-hop's mainstream penetration, said that early on he couldn't produce, sing or rap, but he knew he could pick hits. He related his story of setting up parties every weekend to showcase Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter while Roberson was a college student knowing that Carter would be "the next big thing." Afterward, Carter gave Roberson his start in the business, steering Roberson into radio promotion.
Jam pointed out that each person's journey to success is different, and stressed that a college education provides an environment to meet people and develop opportunities. He encouraged the audience's teenage girls, saying, "We need to see more females in the industry." Then he introduced Fantasia, GRAMMY nominee and 2004 American Idol winner. Fantasia confided that though she had "failed at a lot of things," she never gave up.
Jam presented rapper/producer Kanye West, who made a major impact at the 47th GRAMMY Awards with multiple wins and nominations, by saying West started out by having the right qualities: "inquisitive yet knowing" and being able to "listen as good as he could tell it." West underscored the necessity of putting together a good team. "Be a good judge of character," he counseled. Jam lauded West for his "absolutely brilliant collaboration" with renowned film composer/producer Jon Brion, a bold, out-of-the-box pairing that many initially questioned but which yielded hits for West.
"It's about not being scared to travel where no one has traveled before," Garrett said. In keeping with that idea, Jam invited audience members onstage to demonstrate their vocal talents. One 12th-grader, Sharon Odiakosa of Narbonne High School, not only jumped at her chance, but also took the stage during the American Idol Junior session, one of the seminars following the panel.
The American Idol Junior session was conducted by Randy Jackson with Fantasia and popular keyboardist/songwriter Greg Phillinganes on piano. Thirteen student singers worked the room, with Fantasia providing backup vocals and abundant hugs of encouragement. The seminar was a rousing success, ending in a spontaneous group sing-along of "Lean On Me."
Other seminars included: Anatomy Of Breaking A Solo Artist; Front And Center With Earth, Wind & Fire; The Jazz Experiment; Sounds From The Underground; Women In Music; and additional sessions on music journalism, music for video games, music in film and using Pro Tools. Career Day culminated with a concert by the 29-piece Gibson/Baldwin GRAMMY Jazz Ensembles.