Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Under Pressure: Campers Strive to Prepare for the Final Showcase by Jenay Ross

The first question that came to many of this year's GRAMMY® campers was "Why is camp only nine days this year?" Ever since the first year of GRAMMY Camp®, the length of Camp has fluctuated every year. It started as a nine-day Camp, was a two-week Camp last year, and now for the fifth year has reverted back to being nine days.

According to Kristen Madsen, the senior Vice President of the GRAMMY Foundation, the duration of camp was reduced with economic distress and budget concerns in mind. With today's economy, people have found it hard enough to pay for a simple gallon of gas, let alone a full-blown summer camp. With such tight budgets, for both the families of campers and the GRAMMY Foundation, the shorter camp is more wallet friendly during these hard economic times.

With less time for the kids to prepare for the final showcase this Saturday at the GRAMMY Foundation Museum, mixed feelings have consumed everyone who is working to be a part of it. Some are really feeling the pressure of having to crank out finished songs at light speed in order to be performance ready. Just recently the singer/songwriters and musical combos were informed on who would be performing and recording. Many are doing both and are collaborating on several songs. That means there are only about one and a half days for them to prepare and wrap their minds around performance mode.

Fifteen-year-old Ben LoPiccolo, who is in the Electronic Music Production track, unfortunately attends a school in Rhode Island that has cut most of their music programs. GRAMMY Camp has become the only place for him to lay out all his creativity. He has so many ideas, but so little time to get all of them recorded and produced. He stated, "There are not enough hours in a day." At the moment, LoPiccolo is working on about five or six recordings with three different groups.

For the singer/songwriters, the pressure to write songs at a rapid pace is somewhat stressful. Camper Ryan Jarvis feels like the time at Camp to get everything done is squished together and Katie Gavin sometimes feels like the lyrics might not be as genuine as they would be if they had a bit more time to think everything out. Keyboardist Grahm Bailey feels like it has also been really difficult for the instrumentalist to process everything they have learned and wishes Camp was at least a couple days longer to absorb everything.

Although the schedule for all the kids is completely filled up, many are still inspired by the environment they are in. Jillian Grutta, a second year Camper from Idaho, said, "There's so much creative flow," and sees the pressure as a "really good motivator." The music industry is all about being on time and getting things done by certain deadlines. With that in mind, Vincent Camerano understands that this year's camp forces the campers to "open their eyes to what the industry is like."

Since classes typically run from 9am to 11pm, free time in between is very limited. When there is free time, most of the kids usually continue to work on their projects. This kind of dedication shows they aren't here to waste any time sitting around. Some are so dedicated that they find themselves falling asleep while working. There have been a couple cases where people have fallen asleep while playing pianos and drum sets. Christine Jamra, a singer/songwriter, was so tired that she fell asleep in a practice room and was left in there by accident before lunch time one day. Jamra says, "I was so tired, I just curled up in one of the practice rooms and fell asleep." Even though it seems like Mr. Sandman has sprinkled his sleepy dust on everyone, things are getting done and the passion for music is still a driving force.

As each track is preparing for the final showcase, everyone believes that they are capable of putting on a good show even as the end of Camp is sneaking up. The GRAMMY Foundation and the Recording Academy have complete trust in the kids to get things done. Kristen Madsen stated, "They will get done what they came here to do."

The duration of next year's Camp will be determined based off current budgets and other pending factors. Just like previous years, a survey will be given to this year's Campers, where they will be able to give their input on what they thought about Camp. The survey will help the administration with improving GRAMMY Camp for future years and will also be a part of deciding on how long Camp will be. As someone who has experienced both the two-week camp and the nine-day camp, I think it would be nice to have a little bit more breathing room with an expansion of a couple of days for next year's Camp.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Future of Music by Dana Lee Payne

Recently I interviewed two Campers, Annie Dingwall and Jahaan Sweet. I took the time to ask them a couple questions about their musical background because I wanted to know where they began with music, what brought them here, and where they are going. As you would imagine, there are many Campers here who come with many different stories about how they discovered music and how it's been working throughout their lives. The Music Journalism class just wanted to capture some of that information to display that unique musical diversity.

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Practice Always Makes Perfect by Dana Lee Payne

This afternoon I decided to take a walk with a few Campers and follow them to the recording studio. We have an upcoming showcase going on tomorrow night. Many of the Campers have been scrambling to get all their practice in before recording and before the showcase. I happened to be with two of the Campers who had finished all their practicing, and felt ready to get into the studio and record.

The two Campers I was with were Taylor Harvey, singer/songwriter, and Jahaan Sweet, keyboards. Together they composed a song called “Steinway and Sons.” As soon as we got into the studio the audio engineers were already in there preparing the place. The three engineers that were there were Alexandra Rose Reiger, Jeffery Falinger, and Jonathan Kinsey. All of them handled themselves very professionally and took charge.

The session by Sweet and Harvey went well, although there were a couple of times they had to do retakes. But in the end it all sounded great. The lyrics were very deep and passionate. Taylor seems to be a very poetic songwriter and I definitely admire her work. Jahaan is literally “sweet” on the keys as well. He plays with much passion. I enjoyed myself in the studio watching how the music comes together, and I know that tomorrow will really be an excellent show.

Michael Sarver is The People's Idol by Dertrick Winn Jr.



Even though I’m not a super huge follower of the American Idol movement, I have to admit to being excited to hear that the Music Journalism Campers would get a chance to interview some of the last season’s finalists. I wasn’t sure who I was going to interview, but I was prepared to sit down and talk with any of the 10 finalists. While my fellow music journalists were exchanging introductions with their newly assigned interviewees, I turned to see Michael Sarver be “assigned” to me as the one I would interview. I smiled in satisfaction as I faced him and shook his hand. For some reason I had a special feeling about this interview.

I watched Michael Sarver’s first American Idol audition at the beginning of the season, and was impressed by his singing skills. Despite the impression you get from his tall bulk figure, he’s actually a really nice guy.

We sat and talked for a while about his music career and his success in American Idol. When I asked him about when he first got into singing, he gave me this story about how when he was a kid, his life was very hard, or as he put it, “living hell." At around this time, he found singing as an outlet to sooth the pain. His mother heard him sing for the first time and responded, “Well that sounds good. Sounds really good,” And that encouraged him to sing more and more. “Music goes straight to the soul. You can make somebody happy, sad, mad, glad, ticked off, just by a song, and the simple fact that music is so powerful, that’s why I embraced it, and it’s become such a big part of my life and here we are now," he said.

He talked just a little more about his experiences as a child, which helped me to better understand his musical interests and influences. His favorite music is gospel music, and he has a strong Christian faith that keeps him always looking at the better side of things. “I listened to a lot of gospel music when I was younger because I grew up around the church," he says. "Michael English has been a big inspiration to me. Steven Curtis Chapman was an inspiration, The Wynans, all those guys. But, moving out of Christian and into secular where I was most inspired to dream, I would say Michael Jackson was number one in my whole life that inspired me to think bigger, to see what music can do for people. We’ve watched Michael Jackson touch people’s lives from here to the other side of the world and all the way back again through his music. We got to discover how great it could be, because it he was freaking amazing.”

Since all of the American Idol finalists were all preparing to perform at the American Idols Live tour, I asked Michael what was the most satisfying thing he took from performing live in front of a huge audience. “The fans. The response. The screaming…screaming they love you and things like that," he says. "The bond created through music with these people. It’s the universal language that connects us all. There’s this relationship that’s already built between you and the crowd. And it’s priceless when what you do makes someone’s life better. It’s priceless when what you do makes someone smile. I get a lot out of the show. I get a lot of gratification and validation from the people because they are the people who make us who we are. Without the people, we wouldn’t be here.”

GRAMMY Camp® Open Mic Night by Dana Lee Payne

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GRAMMY Campers gathered at USC's Ground Zero Cafe on the first night of this year's Camp to show off their diverse musical skills. Here are some of the highlights, in order of appearance:

Robby Johnson
Combo - Alex Sill, guitar; Travis Werling, bass; Justin Klunk, saxophone
Ryan Jarvis
Lea Marie Golde
Dertrick Winn Jr.

Piano Idol Matt Giraud by Sarah Tither-Kaplan

A line of American Idol superfans snaked around the side of the Staples Center on Thursday waiting for a meet and greet with the top 10 finalists of season eight. On any other day, I would have been in that line, sporting a “Lambert Lover” t-shirt and fitting right in among the crowd of “Team Kris” pre-teens, and Danny Gokey devoted soccer moms; however, my job at the 2009 American Idol Summer Tour was to venture, yet again, into the world of journalism with my fellow GRAMMY Camp® Music Journalism track members.

After being escorted through Staples Center’s VIP entrance, my fellow campers and I hurriedly reviewed the questions we had prepared for the Idols, trying our best to keep our nervous excitement at bay. One by one, seven of the top 10 finalists were led into our own private press room and each of the campers got a chance to put our newfound professional reporter skills to work. One of the last Idols to make his way over to us was fifth-place finisher Matt Giraud - one of the few Idols to have previously released original material, two CDs, 2003's Perspective and 2006's Mind Body and Soul. The smiley singer offered a charming humility and self-effacing sense of humor during our interview that made it clear why even Simon Cowell was willing to make him the first Idol ever to be given a second chance on the show and “saved” from elimination in the top seven round and ultimately make it all the way into the top five.

A few hours after our interview, “piano man” Matt took the Staples Center stage and delighted the audience with his captivating energy and musicianship, which included a Black Crowes-inspired cover of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle” and a duet of dueling pianos with Scott MacIntyre.

Sarah Tither-Kaplan: Has anything surprised you about this tour so far?
Matt Giraud: "So far everything’s been going pretty smoothly. [But] we’ve had a few big laughs -- my fly was down for ten minutes on stage, one night I forgot my microphone, so just a few embarrassing things. But you work it all out and everything’s coming together."

STK: In what ways is the experience of performing live as part of this huge tour different from the made for TV Idol performances, and what is it like to perform in front of the massive crowds every night?
MG: "The crowds have been amazing, really responsive; I’m actually way more comfortable now than I was before. You would think it would be more nerve-wracking, but I love it. This is the thing that I’m supposed to do, it’s what I’m meant to do, just giggin’. I was never the best TV star, I didn’t have like the sexy eyes, I tried to have Adam teach me, I just couldn’t get it. I love doing this every night, and not having judges or cameras is great."

STK: How does it inspire you as an artist to be able to work so closely with such a diverse group of talent?
MG: "It’s a very talented bunch, and we all want to have the good set, the set that moves you out of your seat. We’re not really competing, but you don’t want to be the weak link. We all just try to bring it. Personally I just try to think of interesting things I can put in my set to get a response out of people, and be entertaining, more than just a singer and a piano player. I try to put some comedy in there and try to connect with the audience."

STK: If you could create your own tour with anyone on it, who would you bring out and what would you call it?
MG: "I’d love to have One Republic, or the Fray, I’d love to play with one of those guys, I’d call it “The Piano Men Strike Back” and I’d wear a Darth Vader helmet on stage."

Bubbly Allison Iraheta Takes Over The Stage by Khaya Carter


Last night's American Idol Live concert was explosive! Many of the former contestants performed some of my favorite songs, such as "Hey Jude" by the Beatles, "Beggin" by Frankie Valli, and one of my all-time favorites, "Barracuda" by Heart.

I loved all the performers, but my favorite performances were Adam Lambert and Allison Iraheta. They killed it as the two of them both had massive stage presence.

A couple of hours before the show the Music Journalism track got to meet and interview some of the former Idols backstage at Staples Center. I chose Allison and she proved to be really cool and have a bubbly personality. She smiled a lot and was really playful with the other Idols. When one of the other campers finished their interview with Lil Rounds they came in front of us and took a picutre. Allison was playing saying, "Don't come over and ruin my interview, go away go away," prompting laughter from both of the obvious friends who had walked into the room together.

Talking to Allison we found we shared some things in common, like our favorite female artist Pink and Janis Joplin. The interview may have been short, but it was a pleasure.

American Idol's Megan Joy Is All Set by Jenay Ross

With the American Idol Live Tour passing through Los Angeles, yesterday those of us in the Music Journalism track traveled via yellow cab to the Staples Center to have one-on-one interviews with seven American Idol contestants from this year’s past season. I was fortunate enough to interview 22-year-old Megan Joy from Utah, who was full of life when she walked into the room where we were holding our interviews, with her hair in curlers.

Joy was never going to audition for American Idol, but with pressure from her family and friends, she couldn’t escape the auditions. "I didn't want to do it at all, but my friends and family made me audition," she says. “I didn’t think it was in the cards for me." She never thought she had a chance of making it through the auditions, let alone making it to the top ten. Her favorite week was when she finally made it to the top ten because it guaranteed her spot on the American Idol Tour. “I was all set,” she explained while she comfortably leaned against the wall next to us.

For Joy, the best part about being on the show was being up on stage with a live audience in front of her. When asked about what it was like living with the other contestants, her face lit up and she said she truly enjoyed it since everyone was “awesome and a lot of fun,” with no drama at all. Throughout her time spent on the show, she learned that there will always be people there to tear her down, but she now knows how to rise above the criticism. With that tool, she has become stronger as a person and a performer.

The American Idol Live Tour is her first tour ever and playing in her hometown three nights before the L.A. show made her really excited to perform. Meeting her fans that are super “stoked” to see her gives her much pleasure in what she does. She says hearing her fans chant her name at every show is a little overwhelming for her, but it makes her appreciate everything that has happened so far. After touring ends, she plans on working on her own album that will have a jazz, hip-hop, and blue grass feel to it.

Whole Lotta Lambert by Nick Arnold


Adam Lambert was the runner-up from this season of American Idol. During his time on the show, Adam performed many famous rock hits that wowed audiences and judges alike. His range and vocal quality was the likes of no rock singers before him on the show. Adam has garnered respect and praise from huge rock stars like KISS and Queen from his performances on the Idol stage, and will hopefully establish himself and remain a powerful rock icon. Our GRAMMY Camp® Music Journalism group was invited down to the Staples Center to interview some of the Idol finalists one on one. We were not designated our finalist beforehand, so when Adam walked into the room, I fell out of my chair because I was so excited and shocked.

Nick Arnold: What has American Idol taught you about the music industry?
Adam Lambert: "It's really complicated! I think it's taught me a lot about the marketing side of it, because there's so much more than just me. You would need a whole notebook to write it all down. It's nuts! But it's cool, it makes sense when you think about it from an outside perspective when they start to explain it."

NA: Yeah, they've had people from the business coming in this week and telling us how everyone plays a part, and it can't just be the artist.
AL: "It takes a HUGE team to make everything work. It's like gears in a watch: every piece has to be going for anything to happen."

NA: That's a great way to put it! How is being out on the road different from being on TV?
AL: "Well, the audiences are bigger, obviously, and it's MUCH more tiring. During the show, the day of was really the one day you had to be on, like sing full out, and the day you recorded your iTunes song was the only other work day of the week. So once those were done, you could kind of take it easy, but now we have stuff going on every night, but we get like two days off per week. I also have to sing five songs, so it's not just 90 seconds like on the show.

NA: Sounds much more difficult!
AL: "Yeah, it's hard, but it's cool when we get on stage and everybody is screaming and cheering for us. It's makes it really worth all the work, you know?"

NA: Do you like doing your own five songs in the show better than just one?
AL: "Yeah, it's a lot more rewarding, I really get to put on a show. I feel like on the show people are left wanting more a lot."

NA: Has your singing style changed since your experiences with Idol?
AL: "Well, I'm not going quite as high as I did on the show, because I've got to save my voice so it's not strained on the tour. But for the most part I'm still singing the same. I'm opening with Led Zeppelin. I'm doing "Whole Lotta Love," and I'm doing a Muse song as my second song.

NA: Which one?
AL: "Starlight."

NA: Oh, awesome!
AL: "Yeah, so it's some stuff I didn't do on the show, and I'm doing a David Bowie medley. It's really cool."

NA: Nice!
AL: "Yeah, and we did electronic production with this, so it's a lot more modern. It's really awesome sounding."

NA: Awesome! Well, I can't wait! I really liked how on the show you put your own twists on songs, like, I know you did "Ring of Fire," but you made it sound like a whole new song! If I didn't know Johnny Cash did it first, I would've thought it was an Adam Lambert original.
AL: "Thank you man, I appreciate it! Yeah, I really messed around with that one, and I wanted it to sound really psychedelic and mysterious."

NA: What do you guys do for fun on the road?
AL: "We're just really silly, we're just a bunch of goofballs. I mean it's funny, like there was a Twitter picture that Matt or Danny posted the other day that was hilarious! We're just being big goofs backstage playing around."

NA: Yeah, some of the other Idols were saying you guys like to poke fun at each other.
AL: "Yeah! We're like a big family!"

Interview With Scott MacIntyre by Ellie Perleberg

GRAMMY Camp® Journalists got the chance to interview some of the Top 10 American Idol season eight contestants at the Staples Center in Los Angeles before the Idols Live concert. Scott Macintyre, age 23 from Scottsdale, Arizona, was the “Top 8” contestant of the show and told me about his plans for the tonight’s show and his career post-Idol.

Ellie: Are you excited for tonight?
Scott: "Absolutely, it’s gonna be a crazy show because all the industry is out here, probably a lot of celebrities. I don’t know exactly who’s coming but it’s always kind of the intensity…this and New York are the most intense shows of the tour. It’s kind of crazy but I’m looking forward to it. I’m originally from Redondo Beach, south of L.A., so it’s great to be back in California. I’m excited."

Ellie: I’ve heard that the contestants bond pretty quickly. What’s it like backstage with the American Idols?
Scott: "We all imitate each other, to a very far extent. Everyone’s rubbed off on everyone else. We’re kind of the only group in a while, from what I’ve heard from the producers of the television show, that’s actually talked to each other and made fun of each other literally as we’re walking on stage. So normally you’d kind of be in your concentration bubble trying to get ready, which we did, but there’s always a lot going on. We had a good time."

Ellie: Does that help keep you from getting nervous?
Scott: "I think it can, especially on the television show, it’s very different from the live show. On the TV show, we’re all timed down to the second so on a commercial break I’d go on and sit down at the piano and literally count down the seconds. There’s no stopping, there’s no room to just take a breath and say, ‘Relax, breathe now, start the song.’ The cameras won’t wait for you. It’s a similar situation here but there’s a lot more leeway and I think having so many people in the room with you takes a lot of the pressure off."

Ellie: How do you like performing live versus television?
Scott: "There’s a lot to be said for the show just because it goes out to millions of people, but I would perform for 10,000 people live over thirty million people through a camera any day. It’s just a totally different experience for me. It’s not so much about television and about drama and about production, it’s really about the music. It’s just as important to connect with the person in the front row as it is to the very back of the stadium so it’s great for me because I can just work my way around, work the different sections of the stadium. It’s not so much about the small camera lens that’s pointed at you."

Ellie: What are your plans for after the American Idols Live tour?
Scott: "Actually, I have a lot of plans. The first thing is, I was really excited to be able to start work on my album as soon as I left the show. So that will be coming out after the tour this fall. It’s going to be all original music and lyrics. I’ve also been approached by a book publisher to write a book. Actually a pretty renowned publisher that most people would recognize their work, so the book could take a number of different angles on my life, but that’s something I’ll have to think about and sort out in the coming weeks and months and figure out what I want to do about that. The other thing is that I’ve been a songwriter for my entire life and I’ve worked at it year after year and obviously I do it professionally now where, when I was a kid I was just starting, but I always had that creative side to me. I’ve actually been approached by some major music publishers as far as representing me to write for other artists and bands. That’s definitely going to be an exciting part of what I do from this point forth. I’ve always kind of done that; I’ve written for myself, obviously, but I’ve written music in genres as diverse as punk rock, R&B, country, and then my own stuff is kind of the singer/songwriter pop/rock. I’ve gotten very good at keeping each genre separate, because if your country song starts sounding like your punk song, you’re in trouble. So, it’s going to be very exciting. I’m looking at my options right now but I would love to co-write with some of the people that are out there. That’s very exciting for me that there is that new choice. I have a lot to think about, but right now I’m just enjoying it. I’m trying to use all my spare time to talk to those people and follow up, figure out what I’m doing after the tour because there’s a lot to do but at the same time I’m just enjoying the moment. I’m so grateful to be here, it’s a dream come true. It’s everything I ever hoped it would be and I’m very aware that not many people get to start by touring stadiums. I had done some touring as an independent musician and recording artist before the show, on a smaller level, so it’s pretty amazing."

Ellie: If you could co-write with anyone, who would it be?
Scott: "I would be open to a lot of different options because there are a lot of writers that are not artists, people that write for the likes of Beyonce and things like that. I would really love to co-write with some artists out there such as John Mayer and Gavin DeGraw; I really respect what they’ve written and how they’ve performed it and they’ve actually influenced me, those two specifically, in a big way, as far as how I present my ideas in a song. I’d love to perform with them if we ever stumble across that circumstance, but writing with them would just be incredible, especially John Mayer. I feel like he has so much to say in his music and I love the way he does it, it’s very concise. Bruce Hornsby is another one that comes to mind, from a different era. I sang some of his music on the show and he wrote me a nice note after and I wrote him back, so he seems like a nice guy. I’ve loved his music over the years as well. When I was about 15 or 16 years old and I was just starting to write pop music and to sing more seriously, someone goes, ‘You know, your piano solos sound like Bruce Hornsby.’ I had no idea who he was so I went home and my parents looked him up and my brother gave me a CD of his for my birthday and that became one of my other big influences. So you never know, I’d love to write with a lot of different people, but we’ll see where it goes. If people want to hear what I’ve written and what’s coming up on the CD, I have a lot of original music on my My Space."

http://www.Myspace.com/ScottMacintyre

Meeting The Well-Rounded Lil Rounds by Dana Lee Payne


Today those of us in the Music Journalism Track at GRAMMY Camp® were surprised with the opportunity to go to the American Idol Tour. Not only did we get to go to Staples Center to watch the top ten Idol finalists perform we also got to interview seven of the 10 finalists. We each separately interviewed an Idol, and I spoke with Lil Rounds. Lil Rounds is from Memphis, Tennessee and I wanted to know what was life was like being on this huge successful tour. I also asked her questions about her future goals, before watching her play to tens of thousands of fans. Her performance last night was off the hook and I hope that she continues to pursue her dream and becomes very successful. Great job, Lil Rounds!

Dana: Prior to Idol, were you involved in the music industry, or did you participate in any musical events that showed your vocal talent or play any instrument?
Lil: “Well, basically as a child I was around music anyway, but the most of what I did really was in church. We had something called the Sunshine Band and I was the leader of it. I loved singing as a child anyway; I’ve done a couple things in choirs, but I never really did anything else outside of that.”

Dana: What has been the highlight of this tour? Like, what has been your favorite moment so far?
Lil: “My favorite moment, I would say, was doing the Utah show a couple of days ago. At the time I finished my set I had over half of the arena on their feet. It made me really excited and I was like ‘Wow, I did something right tonight.’ It seems like everything has been really good on tour. We love when the fans come out and support. They seem to really be enjoying it and showing love.”

Dana: I know that you guys are around each other a lot; do you guys ever feed off each other’s energy, help each other, inspire each other, or support one another?
Lil: “Yeah, definitely, we have to be there for each other. There will be times where I’m not doing so hot. I try and get my stuff together but we do get tired and things. But with everybody helping each other out and just showing love it works out. We really look forward to everything just going better.”

Dana: What had your experience been like on the road? How has it been being far from your family?
Lil: “This experience is going really great, but I have been missing the children. They’re going to meet me out next week at the Arizona show. I’m keeping up with them as much as I can before they start school for the first time, but it will be okay. I’m making sure they take lots of pictures and video tape a lot.”

Dana: Do you plan on having a record or album out anytime soon?
Lil: “I’m hoping that I’ll find out during tour about the different people who are looking to work with me and I’m hoping to land a record deal and have an album out by the beginning of next year. So I’m looking forward to that by the end of the tour.”

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mark Isham: Making Music For Movies by Nick Arnold

Mark Isham is a GRAMMY®-winning film composer whose works include Never Cry Wolf, Crash, The Black Dahlia, and Of Mice and Men. Before he was a world-renowned film scorer, he played trumpet and saxophone with many artists and groups. Mark was participating in a GRAMMY Camp® panel this week, and I chose him because I was a large fan of his work in the movie and music industries.

Nick Arnold: How has your work as a musician influenced your work scoring movies?
Mark Isham: I think, as a trumpet player, I know what a great melody is. I know how much fun and how inspiring it is to play a great melody, and the power of it. As a composer, then, I am compelled and inspired to want to do that. I don't just say, "Oh, I just need a melody." It's got to be one that people will enjoy playing as much as they will listening.

NA: That's really cool! How did you transition from a musician to a film scorer?
MI: Well, it was almost by chance.

NA: Oh, really?
MI: Yeah, I was writing a lot of music for my own records and record project, but I also had a great interest in electronic music that was more almost classical. A film director heard some of that and said, "Would you consider scoring a film?" And, well, I said I would consider it. (Laughs) That became the first film score I ever made, and I really enjoyed it.

NA: Sounds like it's led to good things! What is the process of scoring a film?
MI: Basically, I see the film, then I discuss with the creative people, which is usually helmed by the director, picture editor, music editor, and sometimes a producer. You know, a small team of people who are "shepherding" the film through it's making. I listen to their ideas. You're a sponge at that point, just taking in everything about the film, learning about what it wants to say. You're listening to other types of music, maybe from other kinds of sources up against the film to see what works, and then you go away and come back. Then a couple weeks later, I'll come back with my own opinions on how I'd like to work and what I'd like to offer, and then we do the actual recordings based on what everybody agrees on. We just go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, until everyone's happy.

NA: Sounds like a very complicated system!
MI: It is, it does take some time.

NA: Oh, I'd imagine! How did Group 87 come together and why was it so short lived?
MI: (Laughs) You're not old enough to know about Group 87.

NA: Well I've listened through lots of your different projects, and I found it very interesting and entertaining.
MI: Group 87 was a bunch of us who went to high school together and discovered we had the same [interest] in music.

NA: I'm very familiar with Terry Bozzio [drummer for Group 87, Missing Persons and other works], and I thought that he and you were a great combination.
MI: Oh yeah, I love Terry. Right around the [the beginning] of the group, Terry was finishing up with Zappa, and was thinking about doing Missing Persons. I had written all of this music and presented it to a record company, and I was offered a deal. Terry said, "Well, I don't want to be in the band, but I'll play on the record," because he knew that he was gonna do Missing Persons in the next year. Peter [Maunu], Patrick [O'Hearn], and I formed the band, but Terry played on it. Why was it so short lived? I think we made every mistake that a young band can make. You know, we made the record we wanted to make, we didn't listen to the record company, (laughs), but we didn't have the solutions of how to overcome the problems that making a record like that would have. There's nothing wrong with making a record that isn't commercial, but you have to be willing to confront the problems that a record like that has, and do something about it.

NA: Have you kept in touch with other members of the band?
MI: Oh, yeah! Peter's still one of my best friends. I don't see Patrick much, he's moved back east, and I haven't seen Terry in a while either.

NA: I think he's been doing lots of drum clinics and stuff like that.
MI: Yeah, he's everywhere (laughs).

NA: He's jumping all over the place nowadays. Well, thank you for your time! It's been an honor and very insightful!
MI: Oh, it was my pleasure, you are very welcome!

A Passion For Production by Sarah Tither-Kaplan

Fela Ross, 15-year-old Electronic Music Production GRAMMY Camper, has been playing, writing, recording, and producing music throughout the majority of his life. Last year he decided to take his work to the next level, and thanks to his mother’s serendipitous discovery of a GRAMMY Camp® flyer, Fela became one of the youngest participants in the fifth annual GRAMMY Camp.

With wisdom beyond his years, Fela pursues his musical passions with enthusiasm and discipline. And by constantly broadening his knowledge and refining his skills, he’s been able to experiment and excel in almost every aspect of creating music.

Busy preparing for recording GRAMMY Camp’s final recording and showcase, Fela pulled himself out of the electronic music production room for a few minutes to talk to us about the his “strange” passion for music and his first week at GRAMMY Camp.

Sarah Tither-Kaplan: What are you involved in at GRAMMY Camp and what other musical realms do you pursue?
Fela Ross: I’m in music production, I’m a multi-instrumentalist, I’m a songwriter, and I’m into dance and stuff like that.

STK: Most kids your age would rather spend time just being kids than practicing and maintaining such a clear focus on such a demanding discipline. Why do you think music has such a strong hold on your life?
FR: They say you should always do what you love, and I feel like this is what I was made for. Since I was four, this is what I love; I have that passion born inside of me.

STK: Where do you want to go with your music in the future?
FR: I want to go with this as far as I am meant to go with this. Who knows, I might just rule the road. I just want to reach people through music in a different way that’s never been done. There are a lot of artists that take the clichéd road. I just want to take the road that’s never been taken before and reach everywhere. I want to spread my message to where everyone can relate and everyone can be touched by it. But it’s not always about a message, sometimes you really love this song, and you want the world to dance to it, and you want the world to see the dedication you’ve put into the track. It could either be “One Love,” by Bob Marley, or just “I want to rock and roll, and party all night" (by Kiss).

STK: What is your approach to production and why does it appeal to you?
FR: When we produce, we have to get [the track] from the basics, like drum and bass, to where it can be in a stage setting. We have to pull all these people together -- the singers, the songwriters, and we know how the audience is going to react, we have to mix all these different fields and artistry, as the producer. But it gets awkward to display your skill as a producer outside of the studio, like I’m in a band and I don’t display the whole music production thing in that setting. I produce my own band’s music. It goes hand in hand being in a band and production, and it’s all arrangement and composition. I started singing at seven, my mom’s a singer, I started writing songs at seven, playing keys at nine, trumpet at 10. I’m 15 now and I started producing when I was 10. It’s something that appealed to me, I just researched, and it came natural to me; the first time I got on a program it was just instinct.

Following Your Heart Into The Music Business by Ellie Perleberg

Five industry professionals came to talk with GRAMMY Campers on the evening of Wednesday, July 15 to teach us about many important but rarely talked about facets of music business.

Megan Westerby, social networking coordinator of the Recording Academy, got a round of applause for reminding students that "everyone is watching all the time." It's a phrase she sees come true every day when working with nearly every department in the Recording Academy to represent the organization on sites like My Space, Facebook, and Twitter.

"The internet is the dangerous elephant in the room," said Westerby. "Be aware of how you're being positioned on the internet and who is positioning you."

Though it can be a tricky job, she loves working with digital media in the music industry. "The best part of the internet is that you get the opportunity to talk directly to your fans."

David Lessof was a lawyer at Capitol Records for nine years before moving to L.A. for the indie label New West Records. As a music lawyer, he negotiates deals with artists, producers, mixers, etc. about things like how much they're paid and how many records they make.

Lessoff explained that his, "This is your break, take it" moment that made him move from a job in New York at a major label to an indie in L.A. was inspired by Steve Jobs' quote, "Stay hungry, stay foolish."

At Capitol, Lessoff's experiences with the artists were "very limited and defined." He moved to New West Records and says it's "so much more rewarding to go to work now."

Susan Rosenbluth works as a talent buyer for AEG Live. She was recently involved in the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals. Her job is to talk to talent agents to negotiate deals and set up tickets and advertisements.

Rosenbluth educated students in the positive and negative aspects of bad record sales by pointing out "bands that sell less albums do more tours."

Amy Blackman says it's not in her "genetic nature" to work for someone. She got her master's degree in Anthropology from Columbia University in New York and now works as a band manager in Los Angeles. Not knowing what to do with her degree, she was "subtly sabotaging job interviews" until getting an internship at a record company and finally finding a career that she enjoys. "This job sustains and defines me. I really can't see myself doing anything else."

As a band manager, Blackman is "the gatekeeper between the band and the rest of the world." Her job includes handling merchandise, travel, internal issues, interpersonal relationships, and more.

Scott Francis is a Music Publisher at Warner Chapel Music, a company that owns the rights to the "Happy Birthday" song and music by Katy Perry, Timbabland, and Led Zeppelin.

Francis stressed to students to do what they love no matter what. "No decision is a bad decision. If you learn from it then it was worth going through. My best decision was to follow my heart."

All the panelists agreed that was their wisest move.

An Innocent Interview by Dertrick Winn Jr.


Seventeen-year-old Innocent [Tswamuno] is in the Electronic Music Production track. I was in the music area of USC’s PIC room when I saw him in one of the piano rooms playing. My original intention was to just go in and hang out with him, until I realized it was the perfect setting for an insightful interview. I entered the room in the middle of his tune. Trying not to seem rude I sat down, waited a minute and requested an interview. He didn’t look up. He gracefully ended his tune, turned to face me and said, “Sure man, that’s cool.”

Innocent was born in in the country of Zimbabwe, in the continent of Africa. He grew up with poor living conditions and hard times that most of the country was going through in the mid-'90s, where music was the primary healing for all the pain. At the age of eight years old, young “Inno” taught himself how to play keys on a keyboard that his father brought home one day. “I don’t know where he got the money,” says Innocent, “But one day he brought home this keyboard, and I started to play with it, started to teach myself how to play.” Innocent is an excellent piano player, and I couldn’t believe it when he told me he had never taken professional lessons/instruction before. “Every day I’d come home and practice. I would do my work and practice for an hour or until bed time.”

I asked Innocent about his inspirations or influences in music. He mentioned moving to the U.S. and listenening to David Benoit, a credited jazz pianist, who was the first musician to receive the American Jazz Awards Lifetime Achievement Award. However, his first answer was, “My mom was my inspiration. She would always sing to me. My dad wasn’t really musical, and I guess since he was the man of the house he was always moving around, trying to hustle and make ends meet. We didn’t spend much time together since he was away, so my mom was the one who inspired me."

When Innocent’s older brother moved to Connecticut, he began sending Innocent CDs of American music. That’s when he was introduced to the style of R&B, rap, hip-hop, jazz, and others. “Back then I didn’t have a CD player, so I would go to my friends house and listen to the CDs there."

Innocent moved to America two years ago and is already speaking and reading in English just fine. He remembers when he first came the U.S, and he jokes around about how the only thing he could say at first was, "Hi." He is a very outgoing person, and doesn’t find it hard to fit in with the other campers, he is often singing and joking during down time at camp, and fellow campers enjoy his company.

One-on-One With Jason Castro by Nick Arnold

This past Sunday, July 12, American Idol finalist Jason Castro came and visited GRAMMY Camp®. He told us his musical history: getting a drum kit, starting a band, tkaing up singing and guitar, all the way up to his experience through American Idol. He told us he hoped AI would just be a starting point for his career, and not all he would be known for. After he played a few songs for us (including a brand new original tune, called "Sweet Medicine"), I was lucky enough to sit down with the up and coming solo artist.

Nick Arnold: I was wondering if being on American Idol (and the whole experience of it) has changed the way that you write music, and maybe even how you listen to music?
Jason Castro: Definitely! Well, I think what started the change-- I mean both those questions, was that I grew up playing drums. Then I got opened up to all sorts of other things when I started playing guitar, I started listening more to songs. That all kinda changed my perspective. And as far as changes in songwriting, after the show I've been trying to collaborate with songwriters, and people who are professional songwriters. It's helped me see a lot of new things and kinda get better at a lot of things. It's like practicing with somebody who knows what they're doing, it's the same as any other instrument. Like if I play guitar, I learn faster if I'm taught by someone who knows how to do it.

NA: Yeah, so they kinda help hone your skills?
JC: Yeah! So it's been a really intense learning and developing zone. And I don't think I would have gotten that opportunity if I didn't go on the show, so it's really been pretty great for me.

NA: And now do you hear new things in songs going back and listening to them after getting tips from the professionals?
JC: Yeah, I hear a lot of details, but now I like to listen and I'm more conscious of things, like, "What makes this song so great?"

NA: Oh, that's cool!
JC: Yeah, like before I might've said "Oh, this song sucks, those drums are too easy!," but now I really listen because I'm so fascinated by melodies, and how some catch your ear and others don't. And it's great to understand how people put their own spin on things. Like somebody might've said the same line, but they say it in a way that's so original!

NA: Right, so making a song your own, and being unique.
JC: Yeah, so I really listen for those concepts a lot more now.

NA: Thank you for your time Jason, it's been great talking to you!
JC: No problem, it was my pleasure.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rob Knox Definitely Not Dead And Gone by Dana Lee Payne

The well-known producer Rob Knox came to GRAMMY Camp® today to give some of the campers his advice on what to do to heighten their career in the music industry and he also shared some of his own experiences of how he got to where he is now. Rob has produced many different songs, such as “Dead and Gone” by T.I. and Justin Timberlake, “Lottery” by Chris Brown, and “Mannequin” by Britney Spears. These are just a few of the many great songs he has helped create. His production partner is Justin Timberlake and they love going in the studio making great tracks with different artists.

I asked Rob if he had the chance to go to GRAMMY Camp growing up would he take the opportunity to go and who would he want to talk to. He said, “Yes, I would have went and I think that would have been very cool. I would have liked to talk to Dr. Dre and Jay-Z because they were very big at that time.” Then I asked him how he came up with the concept of “Dead and Gone,” and he responded by saying, “Basically Justin and I were in the studio talking about it and we thought that instead of making a dance record that everyone was expecting, let’s just flip it. This idea created ‘Dead and Gone’ because at that time T.I. was going through his trials and the death of his homeboy. So that’s how the song came about.” Rob has definitely created some great music and I think it’s safe to say that he will not be dead and gone any time soon.

GRAMMY Camp® Storytellers by Dertrick Winn Jr.

On July 13, we concluded our second full day of GRAMMY Camp® '09 with the Artist Story Panel. Eddie G, Mark Isham, Blake Lewis, Michael Lington, Lenka, and returning as the host, Lisa Foxx, all shared their knowledge and wisdom gained from their personal experiences in the music industry.

Eddie G is the music producer behind the productions in the hit Disney movie series High School Musical, and the hit television series Hannah Montana. I recognized him immediately. His casual dress and colorful shoes seemed to scream contemporary music producer. Eddie encouraged the panelists to be “authentic” and original, and be true to themselves in order to find themselves happy in music. Eddie reaches out to any young artists who are able and willing to become his understudy or otherwise learn from him during his time in his recording studio.

Sitting on the far end of the row was Mark Isham, who was the most experienced, and carried himself as if he knew so. He gave the impression of a wise man who has done many works of greatness, yet, was in general a humble soul. Isham is also a music producer but with a different taste not so similar to Eddie G. Isham was a student of classical music and when he was very young he learned how to play trumpet, violin, and piano. When his family moved to San Francisco, he found himself in the '60s rock scene, and got performance gigs with local rock bands. Since then he has won five GRAMMYs, as well as five Emmy Awards, and an Academy Award, as well as a number of significant others honors.

Most familiar amongst all the panelists was Blake Lewis, a former American Idol finalist. He is a vocalist, keyboardist, guitarist, drummer, and beat boxer. He kept the audience laughing with small remarks and sound effects that proved him to be a great character. “I love noise,” Blake explained to us. “In school I was the nerdy kid in class making all the sound effects.” He tells us the story of how he was inspired by another local artist who did beat boxing for an a capella group. He was amazed to see someone making noise as an art form of music and was surprised to see how successful their performances were, so he practiced beat boxing and started his own acapella group.

The two international artists, Michael Lington and Lenka, gave the most diversity to the panel. Michael Lington from Copenhagen, Denmark is a smooth jazz saxophonist, and a recipient of a number of international jazz music awards. Lenka is an international Australian pop singer, pianist and TV actress, and she has just commenced a concert tour in Asia.

All the panelists were living proof of two thing: hard work pays off, and following your dreams is always the right way to go.

Looking in on GRAMMY Camp® by Dana Lee Payne

Yesterday during the free time period we were given, I decided to interview two campers who were lounging in the computer lab about their experiences at GRAMMY Camp® and if they liked some of the guest artists who have come so far. Their names were Jeffrey Fralinger, from Ocean City, NJ, and Anik Bhattacharya, from Sugarland, TX. Here is what they said…

Dana: How did you find out about GRAMMY Camp?

Jeffrey: “My teacher is a voting member of NARAS and he sent me an email about sending students to GRAMMY Camp.”
Anik: “My vocal coach has a lot of contacts in Hollywood and he found out about this and told me that I should try out. Initially, I tried out for the Jazz ensemble and I almost made it, but instead I got put into the Singer/Songwriter track.”

Dana: Are you enjoying yourself so far?

Jeffrey: “Yeah actually, everything seems pretty cool.”
Anik: “It’s really tough because in Singer/Songwriter you have to write two songs in nine days and to have two really good songs we have to write like five. To help have really good lyrics we collaborate and the first process is actually collaborating, really. In the course we share our tracks that we have and get feedback.”

Dana: What did you think about Jason Castro?

Anik: “I think he was professional and he is really good at what he does. Personality wise he seems really good and I liked his performance. He’s pretty funny and he shared his experiences."

Dana: So did he give you any good advice?

Anik: “Yeah, I mean everybody’s life story is different but lots of people can give you ideas on what you should do.”

GRAMMY Campers Get Ready For Their Close-Up by Sarah Tither-Kaplan

At 4:30 a.m., I awoke to the obnoxious sound of my alarm clock buzzing in my Trojan Hall dorm room. On any other day, I would have taken advantage of my snooze button; however, I had to get ready for my close up. KTLA channel 5 had come to the USC campus to film a live segment on the GRAMMY Camp® experience.

The sun hadn’t even come out yet by the time my fellow Music Journalism track members Nick Arnold and Khaya Carter piled onto the cart that would drive us across campus to meet KTLA’s crew for our interviews. As soon as we arrived, newscaster Allie MacKay introduced herself and started asking us questions about our roles as camp journalists. Allie’s enthusiasm and rapid fire quips gave us a much needed energy boost as we prepared to go live.

It was strange to experience being the interviewee after having spent the last few days conducting interviews with every guest artist, speaker, and even some of the Campers. I was really surprised to find that as nerve wracking as it is having to come up with thought-provoking, to-the-point, and engaging questions as an interviewer, it’s almost as hard to come up with clear, concise, and interesting responses. Getting the perspective of the interviewee will ultimately help our approaches to interviewing. And as much fun as it was to get our five minutes and thirty two seconds of fame, getting to feel what it’s like to be in the hot seat and watch a professional newscaster at work was equally as informative.

Even after our segment was over, we decided to stick around to watch the GRAMMY Camp audio engineering students getting interviewed, and with the cameras no longer pointed at us, we made sure to pay close attention to what it takes to make a television interview run smoothly.

With the pressure of millions of viewers, ever changing schedule, and no room for editing, broadcast journalism is decidedly one of the most exciting facets of the industry, and it was definitely worth losing an hour or four of sleep to be a part of it.

GRAMMY Camp® '09 So Fine by Dertrick Winn Jr.

I was all fired up. I had planned for Vince and I to go up and perform at the GRAMMY Camp® Open Mic night, just so he could keep beat and I could rap, but as it turns out, he had also committed to playing drums with some other instrumentalists in the slot right before me. I thought, "Well, he is up there, but maybe I’ll just wait and let them do their thing." But as Vince gave me a nod and later a confirming wave, I felt the spirit of performance stir up in me, as I left my seat and made it up to the stage.

Now aroused by the adreneline, I was wide awake. I wasn’t really sure what I would do or say, but I knew whatever I did, it would be something to remember. So the music began, and I rushed to come up with something to get the crowd to participate. And it came out “GRAMMY CAMP O9! GRAMMY CAMP SO FINE!” I got everyone to repeat it at least twice, and by then I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to begin with. So it was on.

I don’t really remember much of what I said, I just remember jumping around and shouting lyrics to a cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon.” I realized about 30 seconds into my performance that I was drowned out by the music, and that the audience could hardly hear a word that I was saying. I didn’t really care though, I was so hype. I’ve always felt very comfortable on stage and I was having fun regardless. By the time the band laid the song to rest, I was out of breath and my voice was all raspy and dry, but it was the best feeling in the world. I was happy to hear a loud applause at the end. It made me really glad to be back at GRAMMY Camp.

Lenka Stays True to Herself by Jenay Ross

Outside of the Booth lecture hall, where she had just contributed to the artist stories panel at this year's GRAMMY Camp®, I had a chance to have a one-on-one interview with singer/song-writer, Lenka. She may be small in size, but her personality and talent is huge. Originally from Australia, she started off as an actress and was the vocalist and keyboardist for the band Decoder Ring. When she felt like she needed a bit more control in dealing with her career, she moved to California to begin life as a solo artist.

Lenka’s music and lyrics are heavily influenced by nature, her surroundings, and nostalgic childhood memories. She may be all grown up, but she is truly a kid at heart. Her music is like her therapy because she is usually inspired by angst and lets it all out through a song. She joked, “I’m like a therapist.” Writing and creating makes her feel better and she hopes that she helps her fans get through their own tough times.

When asked about who her mentor was, she explained that she never really found one. From afar, she considered Bjork to be an artist who inspired her, but not a mentor like other artists may have. As she worked her way through growing as an artist, she has learned to be completely herself and doesn’t worry too much about trying to prove herself.

Sometimes she wishes had a nine to five job to obtain the comfort of a normal job. Given that her busy schedule can become overwhelmingly stressful, she jokingly said, “I sometimes crave I studied science instead.” On her positive days, it brings her back to knowing she is doing what she ultimately loves to do.

GRAMMY Campers Explore The Mix of Music And Games by Khaya Carter

Visiting the L.A. headquarters of EA Games was very cool and exciting. As soon as we walked in we were amazed by how the decor's set up and the awesome layout. The first thing that caught my eye was the huge fish tank with a bench seat on it. Who wouldn't want one of those in their house?! The building definitly earned a lot of "Oohs" and "Awws."

I also learned a lot about the symmetry between music and games. I know video games have soundtracks but I didn't realize how much music played a part in the company. Many games had very successful soundtracks.

And what I found interesting was that Green Day enjoyed renewed popularity when their song "American Idiot" was featured on one of the Madden video game. It just goes to show you can make it in the biz from any number of things, including getting your song featured on a video game.

Greg Watermann: The Mann Behind the Lens by Nick Arnold


Today the Music Journalism class had one of our scheduled Master Classes. Basically, what that is, is that each course at GRAMMY Camp® has a professional from that field come in and tells them about their career, teaches them how to succeed, and is open for Q&A at the end.

For our Music Journalism course, we had Greg Watermann, a rock star photographer based in L.A. talk about photo journalism. Greg was friendly and open to questions while still being serious during his speech. He was a tall, lanky man dressed in black jeans, black shoes, black sunglasses, and black Chuck Taylor hi-tops. During his career, he has worked with many popular groups and artists, most notably Marilyn Manson, Mudvayne, Linkin Park, and System of A Down. He almost exclusively works with rock musicians, and he has a shooting style all his own.

"I don't use any lights when I'm shooting. I don't have any guys helping me, so I can just walk in and do my work without sticking out so much. All I come with to any show or backstage gig is my bag over my shoulder with my lenses, camera, and spare batteries and memory cards. I don't want artists I work with to be conscious of me while I'm working, so my shots can be completely candid and be a snapshot of the band in their natural zone."

Greg stressed to us that we have to be preparing for our future starting now. He suggested that we find as talented a band we know who will let us interview or photograph them, and archive all our material in portfolios. "You've got to start somewhere, and from there, you'll get attention from people who can help you work your way up to where you want to be."

According to Greg, connections and relationships are equally as valuable as your talent in the music industry. The more people in the business you know, the more connections you have, and the more opportunities that will be open to you.

Greg said that once we had established a nice repertoire of artists that we should find ones we can connect with personally. "You have to be passionate about your work and your associates. Only when you can put your full attention and effort into your work can you achieve your full potential and produce the most valuable products."

After our lecture from Greg, we were lucky enough to have him accompany us to dinner in the USC cafeteria. When there, Greg enjoyed the fine cuisine of the University dining hall so much so that he was willing to answer a few more questions that would be exlusively answered for the GRAMMY Camp Blog.

Nick Arnold: I am fairly familiar with your catalog of formal portraits of artists, and I was wondering about a few of your more popular ones. More specifically, the one of Slayer standing on a balcony in front of a glowing red room. What effects did you use in that photo? How often do you distort or alter your pictures?

Greg Watermann: I actually did not use any effects on that portrait, and in fact, I never use any alterations in my photography.

NA: Oh wow! That's really a lot of dedication to keeping your photots real!

GW: Yeah, I want all my photos to be as close as possible to what it looks like to the naked eye.

NA: So how did you get that red glow in the background without using tinting?

GW: Well, when you take a picture a little before the sun sets, the sun has an orange tinge to it, and it shows up in the photo. Shortly after the sun goes down past the horizon there is a very light blue color that spreads all around for a small time before it gets to dark to shoot. I took that picture outside of a room that happened to have a red lightbulb in it, so I told the guys to turn it on and I'd shoot them in front of it.

NA: Well that's an amazing shot for no effects! The red and blue really contrast beautifully.

GW: Oh, thanks.

Greg revealed that out of the artists he has not photographed with yet, he would most like to work with Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor. "Nine Inch Nails' saved my life. I listened to 'Pretty Hate Machine' [NIN's debut album] literally a hundred times during high-school. They helped me through lots of tough times in my life."

Greg enlightened us all with his personal experiences and tips that had been important to him in his lifetime so far. I think everyone in the class took away some unique lessons that we will apply during our time in the music business. Although Greg was a photographer, his message can be applied to all aspects of the music business.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An Interview With The Ricky Minor Singers by Dana Lee Payne

After the GRAMMY Campers had a chance to perform with Ricky Minor and the band, I had a brief interview with Taylor Harvey, Lea Marie, and Christine Jamra, who are all in the Singer/Songwriter track, about their feelings towards their performance and what it was like being up there with Ricky Minor.

Dana: How did you feel playing with Ricky Minor?

Taylor: “He’s such a nice guy and really helped calm my nerves.”

Lea Marie: “It was such an incredible experience and it’s a once in the lifetime kind of thing unless you become extremely famous.”

Christine: “Well, what I loved about it is that right before we played he just [fist] pounded me and it was really cool to look over and see him just rocking out on the bass."

Dana: Do you feel like you learned anything from this experience like in practice or rehearsal?

Taylor: “Yeah, I mean it’s just about having fun in the end and just making do with what you have where you’re at and just doing the best you can.”

Christine: “I’ve learned to have fun even when you’re in rocky situations.”

Lea Marie: “I’ve learned that I can learn a song in five minutes and be okay.” (Laughs)

Grammy Campers® Enter The Video Game World Of EA by Sarah Tither-Kaplan

The GRAMMY Campers® got to tour EA Los Angeles and discover new realms of opportunity in the music industry.

As Campers walked around the EA Los Angeles headquarters marveling at the 3-D models of Medal of Honor landscapes, the concepts for new game worlds, and learning about the basic processes of creating video games, most were momentarily distracted from thinking about preparing for careers in the music industry. Campers discussed their favorite “first person shooters,” their most memorable “level-ups,” and the embarrassing fact that even accomplished musicians such as themselves have been “powned” (defeated) by EA’s Rock Band.

However, as soon as campers were led to the small corner of the building that houses EA’s music department and EA’s “Artwerk” record label, featuring artists such as Datarock, Junkie XL, and Matt and Kim, they found a reason to be a little more optimistic about their futures in the industry. The EA tour guide discussed the integral role that musicians play in game development. Composers are needed to create “interstitial music” for game play and songs from every genre of music can be chosen to enhance the gaming experience and even used as the theme for industry top sellers. Many of the otherwise unknown artists whose songs have been featured in video games are able to gain notoriety and the support of dedicated and diverse fan bases once their work becomes the soundtrack to a game.

Even though finding a way “in” for most aspiring musicians is by no means a cakewalk, GRAMMY Campers were fortunate enough to learn that careers in music can be made in even the most unexpected places.

Greg Watermann Speaks to Music Journalists About Shooting by Jenay Ross

Ever since last year’s GRAMMY Camp®, I have longed for a guest speaker to come in to talk about photography, and this year I got my wish. Rock star photographer, Greg Watermann, came to speak to our Music Journalism track and enlightened us with a different side of documenting events and other special moments in time.

Now known as the guy who stands around at shows, wearing all black and with a camera in his hand, Watermann first began taking photos at a young age of seven. As time progressed, he became interested in fashion photography and became “people’s private slave,” while he interned at several magazines. Moving away from fashion photography and realizing he had no musical talent , he decided music photography would allow him to be a part of the music industry. Eventually he landed jobs with Rolling Stone and Spin magazine.

Since then, he has toured with a mass amount of bands and even provided the photos in a book about Linkin Park. He believes a friendly relationship is one of the most important aspects of music photography and journalism. Watermann also explained, “It’s useful to have direct relationships with the artists,” instead of going through middle men. Another point he made was to never cross the line that could destroy a working relationship with any artist. A goal any photographer should have is to be called back by whoever they took photos of.

Because of his “delicate balance” between business and friendship, he has been able to gain a strong enough status of having all-access for photographing some bands, such as System of a Down. His relationship with SOAD has even allowed him to be on stage while they perform live. Recently he worked on a four-minute video made of solely photographs and an audio mash-up of a 22-song set. He was kind enough to show it to us, as we watched with amazement.

As an extremely successful photographer, Watermann still continues to practice taking photos, even if it’s just shooting photos around his neighborhood. He’s glad he is able to make a living off of doing what he has always wanted to do. He values every single photo he takes as his own “little children,” and hates having to throw any of them out. For the photos that he doesn’t get rid of, he makes sure they are 100% high-quality or he will not send it to the band or artist to use.

With how advance technology has become, Watermann explained that with cameras being digital, camera phones, and high-speed internet, anyone can take photos and post them for everyone to see. “That’s my job going down the toilet,” he stated. He believes that with so many people with the same generic photos submitted to all different kinds of media outlets, a modern day photographer needs to begin with connecting with at least one band in order to ultimately establish relationships with other artists.

Q&A With Blake Lewis by Dana Lee Payne

Yesterday evening I got the opportunity to interview Blake Lewis. He appeared on American Idol and was well known as the beat boxing guy. Since being on Idol, Blake has released his first pop-rock solo album called Audio Day Dream, and is currently about to release his second solo album, Heartbreak on Vinyl. Below is the conversation we had about his new album and his view on GRAMMY Camp®.

Dana: How is your new album Heartbreak on Vinyl different from your first album?

Blake: “It’s kind of more in your face. It’s more danceable. It’s set up more as a dance record rather than the pop-rock, and it's got good melodies. It has the vocal presence of my first record.”

Dana: What did you get from the many songwriters and producers that you worked with for the new album?

Blake: “I’ve learned a lot everyday. I’ve been writing for two years and I love collaborating with people. I love getting into a room and throwing out ideas, then finding different melodies and it's good to me because I'm such a perfectionist. Collaborating with new producers and songwriters, the flow is just there.”

Dana: And they help with your creativity and stuff?

Blake: “Yeah, and they enhance it almost. The vibes are right.”

Dana: If, when you were growing up, you were able to go to GRAMMY Camp who would you have wanted to talk to ?

Blake: (Laughs) Quincy Jones, he is a producer. Michael Jackson, R.I.P, Ella Fitzgerald, Sting for songwriting, Bono because he is a great entertainer and songwriter as well, and Duran Duran. This is everyone that has blessed me in my life.”

Dana: So I know that you’ve done the Mobile GRAMMY Tour and you came to GRAMMY Camp today, what is your relationship with NARAS?

Blake: “I got asked to host the GRAMMY Celebration Tour which was amazing and it was fun to perform with all these other amazing performers. I’ve always been interested in the GRAMMY’s. I said, 'Who are the people behind the GRAMMY’s and where do they come together?' To me, it’s really special; there are great people and it is really fun.”

Hanging With The Village Ghost by Ellie Perleberg

Building Manager Tina Morris and CEO Jeff Greenberg guided 24 excited GRAMMY Camp® students through The Village Studios in Santa Monica on Tuesday, July 14.

Founded in 1968 by Geordie Hormel with only one room (affectionately known as "Studio A") built specially for Steely Dan, the Village Studios complex contains four community studios and nine that are private to artists like John Mayer and Robbie Robertson. The various studios have been utilized by an array of artists, from Oasis to Jet, Wolfmother to Smashing Pumpkins, and Spinal Tap to Barbara Streisand. At the time of our tour, the Los Angeles band Wake Up Lucid was recording tracks in the room that was created specifically for Fleetwood Mac.

As the single-file line of students made their way into Studio A, a few people had to pause and gasp at the analog recording equipment and its glorious two-inch tape. Morris noticed the students' fascination and was excited to tell us, "Analog is still alive!" Their collection of vintage gear also includes five plate reverbs and an echo chamber.

The studios themselves are beautiful. The lights are low and the tapestries hanging on the walls smell like years' worth of incense and stories. The whole building has warmth to it and the perfect vibe for creativity. Even rumors of a Village ghost couldn’t stifle it.

The rumored ghost is said to be a bassist who used to bother people until a concrete wall was built between studios A and C and fewer people witness him. Some say he still roams the halls at night, drinks the booze, and fixes bad bass tracks.

The comforting creative quality is one that you would assume musicians love when you hear the long list of bands who’ve worked at The Village.

“I love the history that’s always being made here,” said Greenberg.

From the studio tour, Morris led us to “The Shop,” where items to be repaired are kept, and “The Graveyard,” where broken equipment is stored behind an amusing landmark.

“Anything behind Frankenstein is dead,” said Morris.

The Village tour wrapped up with students sitting on the stage of the live-recording auditorium and being photographed by Greenberg as he told campers that he wanted to see them again in the future.

“I expect to see you here as a star, okay?”

Monday, July 13, 2009

Jason Castro Shows GRAMMY Campers He’s More Than an American Idol Contestant by Jenay Ross


While everyone sat in the Booth lecture hall waiting for American Idol contestant Jason Castro, the atmosphere was a mix of excitement, confusion, and sleepiness after a long day of work. Most of the Campers knew Castro as the “guy on American Idol with the dreads,” but after a casual Q&A session with Castro, everyone could see he was much more than just a guy from American Idol.

Despite starting the night out with mic difficulties and admitting to be an awkward and “shy boy,” Castro told his musical life story with so much ease that it felt like we were talking to friend. He began with speaking about playing drums in a band and coming to the conclusion that playing music was what he wanted to do with his life, whether it be touring the world or playing in his living room.

As he played local shows with his band, he also learned how to play the guitar and would go to a nearby park to practice so no one would be able to hear him just in case he wasn’t any good. When time to go to college came around, he decided to quit his band to go to college in order to make his parents happy. Sadly, he basically lost most of his friends since his friends were his band.

When American Idol auditions made their way to his hometown, Castro decided to take a leap of faith and auditioned. He had only sung about five times in public before his Idol audition, but figured he had nothing to lose. After making it on the show, he had to learn how to perform things in a short amount of time. Concerning the process of preparing for Idol performances, Castro expressed, “It’s like a blur, a strange thing.” To Camper Lea Marie Golde, who auditioned for last year’s Idol, he suggested never giving up and trying out again for next year’s show.

Although he didn’t win American Idol, he stated, “I never envisioned myself winning.” He never really wanted to win, but was more into getting some recognition. Castro sees himself as not just a singer, but an artist. He doesn’t want to rush music; he wants to “go with the flow.” He believes that music is about being in the right place at the right time and Idol helped with launching his career. When asked if he wants to move away from always being associated with American Idol, he smiled and said, “It’s my new life goal.”

GRAMMY Camp® Mini-Concert Shows Off Sheryl Crow, Miles Davis by Sarah Tither-Kaplan

GRAMMY Camp® 2009’s mini-concert began on Sunday night just as singer/songwriter and former American Idol finalist Jason Castro was leaving the stage to head to the GRAMMY Camp press room. As Campers in the Music Journalism track conducted their interviews with Castro, Campers in Instrumental and Singer/Songwriter tracks got their first chance to perform songs that they had been given just a few days to learn, and only a few hours to rehearse, in front of GRAMMY Camp students and faculty.

While GRAMMY Camp instruction and master classes encourage campers to hone their skills as musicians, the mini-concert series allows campers to develop their talents as performers. Having to deal with technical difficulties during performance is a reality that anyone involved in live shows has to face. GRAMMY Camp Singer/Songwriters Jillian Grutta and Faith Hahn found it initially unnerving to have to sing without monitors during their rendition of “Leave the Pieces” by the Wreckers; however, the talented young singers remembered every artists' mantra, “The show must go on,” and infused their individual styles and energy into the piece while maintaining great chemistry with the rest of the band and each other.

Instrumental performance instructor and faculty coordinator Jason Goldman’s jazz combo played jazz classic “All Blues” from Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. With many campers interested more in rock and R&B this year, Goldman encouraged musicians to “work on their jazz” in order to “make all their music sound better” and appreciate the roots of popular music today.

The surprise favorite of the night was Sheryl Crow’s “Steve McQueen,” performed by a combo led by guitar track instructor Matthew VanDoran. Vocalists on the song, Halle Charlton, Christine Jamra, and Katie Gavin were so in sync during the rehearsal process and performance that they even “accidentally” wore matching outfits. Jahaan Sweet (keyboards) and Aaron Childs (guitar) improvised solos that married funky rock and roll to the pop-country tune. Most GRAMMY Campers professed to not even listening to country music, which inspired Goldman to inform them that it’s the second highest grossing genre of music in the United States and shouldn’t be ignored in terms of career opportunity in the industry. Pleasantly surprised by the “fantastic groove” created by the combo, Goldman and the rest of GRAMMY camp clapped and danced along to the performance.

With the first performance completed, and some constructive criticism and advice from faculty, GRAMMY Camp musicians and Singer/Songrwriters are ready to start preparing for the big showcase at the end of the week.

The Long Road to GRAMMY Camp® by Khaya Carter

My first day of GRAMMY Camp® was very hectic and stressful but exciting. To start off, I was to eager to sleep as I only slept two hours before leaving. Soon after I was on the road to BWI. About 8:45 is when I arrived at the airport; I was pumped with energy and excitement and ready to board my plane and venture out onto my new beginning but I had missed my flight. She gave me a stand-by boarding pass for the next flight to LAX, and though it wasn't guaranteed that I was on flight, faith pulled through and whoever missed their flight left me a nice seat in first class. The people I met on the plane and talked to made me feel like I was right at home, though I was a a little scared because I've never rode on a plane alone. My luggage took forever to come but one of the friendly camp counselors kept me company till my bags came and we set off in the car to USC, where I finally arrived around two in the morning.

The next morning I woke up feeling a little lonely due to my flight issues, but as the day progressed I got more comfortable and less stand-offish. I was nervous about interviewing Gavin Rossdale but I took a chill pill and relaxed. By my second interview with Jason Castro I was on a roll. I had a great time interviewing them and it was a true delight. Despite my delays the first day I wouldnt change a thing about it.

Gavin Rossdale Educates GRAMMY Camp® by Ellie Perleberg

From co-founding the popular alt-rock band Bush to creating a solo album styled in an entirely different genre, it's evident that Gavin Rossdale has the ability to change and evolve with his music, because he's clearly got no plans of stopping.

"I'll spend my whole life trying to write the perfect song," the entertaining and witty Rossdale said at the GRAMMY Camp® Q & A on Sunday. The Booth Room was filled with all the students and counselors who got the chance to ask questions about various music career tracks, but most of his advice was in the singer/songwriter category.

In reference to his songwriting, he said, "I want to work on getting to the heart of what I'm trying to say," an interesting goal from the man whose song "Glycerine" with Bush still gets relatively steady radio play since it's release in 1994.

"I don't know what happened to my band," said Rossdale. "We should have fought for it more. We allowed it, in a really 'English' way, to just dissipate."

As someone who says he writes his songs like his "world is on fire," it's not surprising that he's moved on to a solo career since the breakup of the band and releasing his album "Wanderlust" in June 2008.

His success in the industry and his musicianship in general made him a great guest artist for GRAMMY Camp. Even as a performer that many might consider to be "mainstream" Rossdale said, "I don't really have an emotional connection to the mainstream artists," and added that the "underground" music has always fed the industry. But on the other hand, he said, "the commercial side is part of the naturalness of who you are."

Rossdale said one of the main things for musicians to remember is that "it's really important to know who you are, to not be a cookie cutter or flavor of the moment." He is an artist that's found success by doing just that.

Rossdale mentioned that he had been thinking over the past few days about what to say to inspire GRAMMY Camp students. A point that he kept coming back to was "You have to define what it means to you to 'make it.' Keep in your heart and mind what you want to do. So much of music is about just following your instincts."

Jason Castro Serenades GRAMMY Camp® by Dana Lee Payne

As the sweet serenade of Jason Castro filled the theatre room at USC last night, I thought about how human he is and how he really can connect with his audience. Many people around me were intensely listening and watching as he sang with his guitar. It was after the question and answer portion of the night when Jason brought up his guitar and performed three songs for all of the 80+ GRAMMY Campers®.

The first song Jason sang, off of his new album, is called “Sweet Medicine.” He said that this track was written for a special someone who he is “madly in love” with. This song had a very soft melody to it. As he performed the song with his eyes were shut, just him and his guitar, it gave the crowd a deep personal feeling for the piece.

Following that intimate performance he became very shy and said that he felt “more comfortable with a band.” The next song he sang was one of the first songs he had sang on American Idol called “Daydream” by The Lovin’ Spoonful, and with this song included a band of four Campers. In this song, Jason seemed to really be feeling the piano playing by Jahaan Sweet. The concluding song to his performance was the number one hit on iTUNES, “Hallelujah."

Jason’s whole performance was excellent. He came across as a genuine person who is all about making good music. It’s good to see a new artist come into his own and try to establish himself in the industry. I personally enjoyed Jason’s performance and I hope his album becomes very successful. Go ahead Jason and do your thing!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Katie Gavin Creates Her Own Trail by Jenay Ross

For bubbly 16-year-old Illinois native Katie Gavin, GRAMMY Camp® wasn’t in her original summer plans. One of her friends was a GRAMMY Camper a few years ago and inspired her to apply. When the deadline to submit camper applications came near, she decided to give it a try.

As a first-year GRAMMY Camper, Gavin fell in love with Camp from the very start. The passionate vibe of the people here has become her favorite part about it, seeing that “everyone is into it.” Being in this inspirational environment filled with kids that hold the same goal as her, she knows this is the place for her. Her own passion lies in songwriting, singing, and playing her acoustic guitar. She has only been playing guitar for about one and a half years, but no one would ever guess it by watching her perform.

At the first open mic night, she was able to go on the small Ground Zero coffee shop stage, with her guitar at hand, and perform her original song, “Falling.” Gavin expressed, “It was the scariest thing,” but once she saw what a hit her song was with the campers, she was glad she got over her fear. Anyone watching her can see the passion on her face and can feel the emotion spewing from her as she sings about her life experiences.

Gavin finds inspiration in almost anything. She chooses to live her life and allows a “trail of garbage” to follow her until she eventually expresses everything through a song. While at camp, Gavin hopes to find a better understanding of where she is headed with her life and looks forward to learning and gaining new connections with people.

Aside from playing on her own or with a musical theater group, she is also interested in writing. She writes for her school’s newspaper and is a part of a student writer show called Lagniappe. If she wasn't in the Singer/Songwriter track, she would choose to be in the Music Journalism track. Although she does love to write, playing music remains her one true love.

Some of her favorite bands include Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, The Shins, and Dirty Projectors. As she looks up to those bands, she continues to grow and develop as her own person and artist. She isn’t concerned with gaining star status. She doesn’t care about selling out arenas and becoming a huge celebrity, all she wants to do is simply write songs, play, and perform.

GRAMMY Camp® Open Mic Anything But Typical by Sarah Tither-Kaplan

GRAMMY Camp® 2009’s open mic night is certainly not your typical first night of camp experience. GRAMMY campers abandon old-school s’mores making, generic sing-alongs, and even mundane ghost stories for something a little more exciting - a parade of musical prodigies performing covers, original songs, and even experimenting with GRAMMY-quality jazz improvisation.

Acccomplished composers, arrangers, and musicians in their own right, the GRAMMY Camp faculty members pulled together a jazz combo warm-up act that opened the night with impeccable and spontaneous saxophone, piano, bass, and guitar solos that inspired a full house of applause and shouts of approval from GRAMMY Campers packed in USC’s Ground Zero café. One unfamiliar with the caliber of GRAMMY Camper musicianship may think that the faculty combo set the bar too high for high-schoolers to even reach. But GRAMMY Campers prove that they will not be outdone by even the most seasoned of industry professionals. Jaws dropped all over Ground Zero as Singer/Songwriter track camper Katie Gavin took the stage and played her original song “Fallen”- a song, a voice, even a stage presence reminiscent of a combination of PJ Harvey, Regina Spektor, and Adele, yet completely unique and radio ready.

GRAMMY Camp musicians, including Grahm Bailey (keyboards), Justin Klunk (saxophone), and Aaron Childs (guitar)- not at all phased by the prospect of taking the stage after the faculty jazz combo - jumped on stage and offered GRAMMY Camp a delectable jazz piece that gave even the professionals a run for their money.

The undisputed favorite performance of the night came from 14-year-old Grant Taylor. One of the youngest GRAMMY Campers of 2009, Taylor may at first glance seem like a bright-eyed young teen whose guitar is almost as big as he is — so it’s understandable Campers were pleasantly floored when Grant rocked the life into a cover of James Taylor classic “Steamroller,” singing with the howl of rock legends and shredding an acoustic guitar solo.

The bar of musicianship and performance quality at GRAMMY Camp 2009 was set, raised, and leapt over on opening night open-mic, and all before the campers’ 11 o’clock bedtime.

GRAMMY Camp® '09's Opening Night Open Mic by Dana Lee Payne

Last night at the Ground Zero cafe there were many talented campers who went on stage to perform for the Open Mic night. When I first walked into the venue, it had a cool vibe to it. The place had dimmed lights, comfy couches, bar stools, and big televisions. Everybody was sitting around relaxing and getting to know one another as it took a little while for the show to begin. The opening act was six faculty members of the Camp all playing different instruments. They played close to a seven -eight-minute set, and they sounded great, with both good rhythm and a strong beat. After their performance many different campers came up, one after another displaying their different talents.

There were two acts that I especially liked. One was a performance by a girl named Taylor Harvey, who is a singer/songwriter, and she sang a song she wrote called “Flutter." Her style was crazy cool and her vocal talent was on point. I really enjoyed her performance. The other act that I enjoyed was by fellow Music Journalism student Dertrick Winn and his band. Dertrick got on stage and rapped while his band played a nice melody behind him. He has some real impressive skills.

A Packed First Day at GRAMMY Camp® by Dertrick Winn Jr.

After a long night of final preparations, I was heading to the airport in the early morning air to take the flight to L.A. and be a part of GRAMMY Camp® once again. This would make my second time flying, but first time by myself. I wasn’t really nervous, just tired, and the only thing on my mind at the time was dozing off as soon the plane was up. Seconds after I closed my eyes though, my mind began to race about all the new and exciting things to expect from GRAMMY Camp this year. I thought about all the cool stuff and people I met last year, and how there would be a whole new batch of people to connect with and the new adventures and experiences planned ahead. I smiled to myself as I remembered the good times at USC, the live jam sessions, the Starry Night gala, the interviews with the up and coming Hollywood stars, as well as interviews from the star GRAMMY Campers. It hardly feels like it’s been a whole year since it all happened, and now I’m just two hours away from doing it all over again. Only this year, I return a veteran of the GRAMMY Camp experience.

I was greeted at the LAX airport by a familiar face, one of the GRAMMY Camp staff members, and was joined by a few new faces who looked almost as tired as I was. On the bus I got the chance to catch up with some old friends, and learn more about the new guys who made up the majority of the GRAMMY Camp 09 population.

We got off the bus and entered the gates of the USC campus. I got a quick glance at the two camera men filiming us for a documentary to my right. I laughed. I could hear the narration in my head. “We met young GRAMMY Campers blah blah at the front gate. Blah blah they all looked very excited blah blah chatting blah blah future of music blah”. It tickled me to think of myself being a part of documentary that I wasn’t making, but was in, and being a part of a a generalized narration.

So we entered the campus and piled into the common area of the Trojan Hall, 80+ of us, luggage and all. As I gripped my bags, I quickly recalled the flight of stairs to climb in order to reach the Trojan dorms and prepared my nerves for some hauling and groaning, not so much from me, but from those guys who, you could say, over-packed.

After setting up in my dorm room. I prepared for open mic night. It was great. The small coffe house was crowded with campers, and the performers were all very talented. I even got to perform myself. Afterwards , me and a couple of friends gathered around the piano in the common area, and spent the last hour of camp activities jamming to familiar tunes, and sharing hometown memories. It was great to be around fellow musicians, who understood and shared your love for music. By bed time there was so much to think about, I could hardly sleep. I couldn’t wait to wake up and see what wonders the next day held.

Arriving at GRAMMY Camp® by Ellie Perleberg

As the plane came closer and closer to the Los Angeles soil, an exhilerating buzz ran through the veins of myself and my closest friend, Jessica Turner. In just four short hours, our world had gone from "St. Francis, Minnesota: population seven-thousand" to "Los Angeles: center of the entertainment industry."

GRAMMY Camp® gives young adults the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about all aspects of the music industry from professionals. It's something we'd heard stories about and never thought we'd get the chance to live out. But here we are now, in the middle of everything.

The counselors who met us at the airport were fun, personable, energetic, and as excited about camp as we were. The entire staff has that same enthusiasm about the project. (But maybe that's just the way people are in Los Angeles?)

It took a few hours to get everyone together and out of the airport. As soon as we arrived at USC, everything started moving a hundred miles an hour. There were eighty-three new names and faces to remember, room numbers, keys, rules, teachers, schedules, activities...overwhelming to say the least. This is such an incredible experience, though. There's no other way to go about something this huge.

Saturday night's Open Mic at Ground Zero was a great way to get to know all the students. There were a few people who made my jaw drop when I heard their music. It was the perfect way to wrap up the excitement that is the first day, because now I can't wait to get to know the minds behind the impressive songs.