Sunday, July 18, 2010

GRAMMY Camp® Shows The Future Of Music By Dertrick Winn

GRAMMY Camp® may build to its final showcase, but the music starts from the very beginning of the week, kicking off with an open mic night and mini-concert. Here's a look at some of the music that got the 2010 Camp started.

-Special thanks to Sony for the donation of the video cameras.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Where Music Is Born At GRAMMY Camp® By Shawn Handy

There’s music going on all the time here at GRAMMY Camp®. From the halls of the P.I.C building all the way to the studio, here's a video look at how songs come to life at Camp.

-Special thanks to Sony for the donation of the video cameras.

Drummer Dave Krusen Makes His Own Success By Julian Ring

I recently had the chance to ask former Pearl Jam drummer Dave Krusen a few questions about his drumming career and his experience with GRAMMY Camp®. Krusen had some interesting things to share about his influences, heroes, and how working with Campers is a two-way relationship.

Julian Ring: I know that you’ve played with many different bands during your career. Do you feel that playing all of these different styles within rock music has made you a better drummer?
Dave Krusen: Yeah, definitely. It’s made me look at things differently, and I’ve had to learn a lot of different songs, and play with a lot of different people. Everybody has their own way of doing things, so yeah, it’s been good for me.

JR: You’re well-known for your work on Pearl Jam’s debut album, Ten. How does it feel to know that you played drums on one of the landmark albums of the 90s Seattle grunge explosion?
DK: It was definitely the right place at the right time, in that sense. It’s a really good feeling to have been in a band with those guys for even a short time, as I was. It was a real blessing in my life, and still continues to be a great thing. I’m honored to have been a part of it, for sure.

JR: Who would you cite as your major influences, both as a musician in general and as a drummer specifically?
DK: Well, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Police, bands like that. Those drummers, obviously. And Steve Jordan is one of my favorite drummers, a huge influence on me. Matt Cameron is a huge influence on me, definitely was when I played on Ten. Mick Fleetwood, Phil Rudd, Peter Criss, guys like that.

JR: If you had to make an ideal band with any musicians, who would you pick?
DK: I would say, if I had to narrow it down -- Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, John Lennon, and Duck Dunn.

JR: Now that you have visited GRAMMY Camp for a few years, what are your impressions of the campers? What quality do you most admire in the students?
DK: I most admire their enthusiasm. They all inspire me so much. I have learned something every time.

JR: How would you describe you experience with GRAMMY Camp as a whole?
DK: It has been great to see so many kids into music. They all seem very genuinely grateful for the experience.

JR: What, in your opinion, is the definition of success?
DK: I think success is doing what you love. We all decide what success is on our own, I hope.

In The Homestretch Of GRAMMY Camp® By Jenay Ross

The 2010 GRAMMY Camp® Showcase is quickly approaching, but the Campers are not buckling under pressure. They are quite calm actually. Exhausted, but calm. In PIC, where the practice rooms are located, musicians and Singer/Songwriters can be seen laying on the floor catching up on sleep. Their sleepiness isn’t keeping them from perfecting their songs though. People are ecstatic and ready to get up on stage.

At the beginning of the week, the instrumentalists divided into five combos and started work right away. Travis Werling, a bassist, loves his combo. “I couldn’t have asked for a better combo,” he said. During his combo’s writing process, they had a lot of creative differences, but it was overall a “good collaborative effort,” said Werling.

Gunner Rolf plays guitar and has been having a blast with his combo and Jason Goldman, their instructor. “Everything he [Goldman] says is so right. He may come off as insulting, but if you think about it, he’s right. I love working with Jason,” explained Rolf. He said the only challenge his combo faced was working on transitions and “little nuisances in the song.” They had a of couple times where they had a lot of tension between everyone, but there were also great times of relaxing and jamming together.

Most of the musicians have agreed that they love being in their combos. “Oh man, I love it. Everybody’s vibe is right. We all click,” said bass trombonist, Johnny Huggins. He shared a story with me about a time when they had some trouble deciding on what to write, so they got a football, played catch outside, went back inside, and wrote their song in 30 minutes. “I think our final product, like speaks for us. It has the personality of the band,” he said with a big smile. He feels like the hardest thing about Camp has been working with seven different Singer/Songwriters on seven different songs, at the same time. He said it’s like he’s expected to be in two places at one time, but he’s coping with it.

Last year, Singer/Songwriter Ellie Perleberg was in the Music Journalism track, but this year decided to switch. “It’s completely different,” she said. She has enjoyed having more interaction with the rest of the campers and her chance to collaborate with them. “I got like five of the girls to do like an acappella bridge. It was really cool, because I walked into the room with the band and I said ‘So I want this to sound like a classic country song. Five minutes, they had it nailed down,” she said excitedly.

The combos recently began recording in the on-campus studio. Recording in the studio has gone really well , besides the heat. These past couple of days in LA has been really hot, making rooms like the studio and the dorms a little uncomfortable. People are more focused on performing at The El Rey though. “I’m really excited, because it’s a really really famous stage and a lot of my heroes have played on that same stage, so it’s an honor,” said Werling.

GRAMMY® Campers Left With Lasting Memories At Fox Studios By Dertrick Winn

Welcome to Fox Studios, a 50-acre powerhouse of television and film productions; a place usually alive with busy actors and filmmakers. But this time around, actors are on vacation and filmmakers are making reservations to work at Fox on film projects scheduled five years into the future. It’s a shame we weren’t allowed to have cameras, for there was a large variety of visually stimulating artifacts to capture, from 200-foot murals and brightly painted buildings, to cactus plants and elephant shaped bushes, and that was before we even entered the studios.

The first stop on the tour of this massive community was the set of the critically acclaimed television show Lie To Me, one of Fox’s many television productions. It being the first building we saw after entering the premises, it was like entering another world, one much more dark and eerie than the beautiful open skies of Los Angeles. It was a narrow pathway of filled bookshelves and empty chairs . Very creepy, yet somehow fascinating. “Don’t touch anything,” says Robert Peterson, our gracious tour guide, and the directive manager of the Fox Studios in Los Angeles, who silently led us from one eerie set to another. Dead ahead was the set of Bones, a crime drama involving human remains and murder mysteries. Though fascination filled the room, fortunately, nobody touched anything.

The next part of the tour was introduced by a 96-channel audio mixer, complete with all the bells and whistles. Several Campers were amazed to see a fine piece of audio equipment, one which held a purpose for something far more fascinating. The small audio room opened up to a grand acoustic room where mics and headphones were strategically placed above black chairs positioned in the orchestral manner. This, the room of musicians soon realized, was a scoring stage. But not just any old scoring stage. We were standing on the stage where the billion dollar movie Avatar was scored, along with other award winning films, such as the Matrix trilogy, Wal-E and many more. Upon receiving this information the room was buzzing with excited whispers and hopes of a second visit.

Next was the Foley stage, which, to the unknowing observer, looks like a room full of junk: wooden pallets and crash test dummies on the floor. Mounds of old dishes and rags stacked high. A dirty fridge topped by opened cereal boxes? What use could this room possibly have to Fox Studios? Believe it or not, it’s one of the most important rooms in the film industry.

Named after Jack Foley, a cartoonist gone film industry icon, The Foley stage is the place where sounds are created and recorded to be used as the soundtrack of sound effects for an entire movie. Whether it be the sound of a pen dropping or a nine millimeter pistol firing, this Foley stage was equipped with everything you needed to create any earthly sound imaginable.

We took a quick detour through the wardrobe division, which was more like a warehouse of both new and reused garments, all that have been worn by the actors at the studios, and we exited through the woodshop, home of all the studios carving and woodcutting needs.

As we were escorted back to the buses, we were waved off by the Simpsons, vividly painted on the front of a huge building, right across from a colossal mural of Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell on the cover of the popular 1930s movie, The 7 Year Itch. The images seen at Fox Studios in Los Angeles will not soon be forgotten by the young GRAMMY® Campers.

GRAMMY Campers Prepare For Bigger Venue By Julian Ring

Campers got a surprise yesterday while visiting the Recording Academy. During the performance by Singer/Songwriters for the NARAS staff, David Sears announced to the audience that the location of the showcase was being changed. The Campers would be playing their final concert not at the GRAMMY Museum, but at the historic and famed El Rey Theatre. This piece of news got many people very excited about Sunday’s event.

“Last year was really great, but I couldn’t invite that many people because there wasn’t a lot of room,” explained Taylor Harvey, a returning Singer/Songwriter who fondly recalls her memories of the GRAMMY Museum. “It was my first professional performance, and since then I have improved so much. Now, I think it’s going to be more like a concert than a performance. I’m really excited to do this.”

One of the main differences between the GRAMMY Museum and the El Rey is the seating arrangement. At the museum, friends and family sit in comfortable chairs, which is standard for a smaller theater. When one enters the El Rey, however, they will immediately notice that the seating is a combination of “standing room” and seats. Harvey discussed her plans to adapt to this new arrangement. “I added a little part in one of my songs, if I get to sing it. I do a kind of speak back, where I try to get the audience to interact in there. So, yeah, I’m excited.”

Guitarist Zaccheus Taylor thinks differently, however. “All I can say is that if we had performed at the GRAMMY Museum, I would have given the same performance that I plan on giving on this larger stage," he says. "I’m going to try to draw in the crowd and give ‘em my best. If they’re going to be able to get in close to the stage, then it’s going to be a really relaxing environment. And they’ll be getting involved, too, so I think we’ll be able to interact with each other pretty well.”

While in the practice rooms, I sat down with all four returning drummers: Will Pinson, Brandon Woodward, Brandon Combs, and Sterling Laws. It was apparent that the group was very excited about playing at the El Rey. In fact, each musician had different reasons for this. Laws said that he anticipates a better show due to more space. Pinson, on the other hand, stated that he was satisfied with the space provided by the GRAMMY Museum. “It’s really small, but it was efficient for its size. It got the job done even though it was not what we thought it was going to be,” he said, though he later confirmed his great expectations for the El Rey show. Combs pointed out that “we’ll be able to say we shared the same stage as a lot of famous bands. It’ll be fun.” Laws also anticipates improved volume capabilities in the theater, which will allow the artists to “make it more sincere as to what the artists are playing.”

While the Campers I talked to all had high expectations for the El Rey performance, each had differing opinions about what gets them excited. Nevertheless, Sunday should prove to be a fantastic show.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Behind The Scenes At MTV By Susan Ewing

The home of hit shows such as Jersey Shore, The Hills, and Rob Dyrdek‘s Fantasy Factory (to name a few), is where the Music Journalism crew ventured on Friday morning. MTV Networks, located in a colorful building in Santa Monica, gladly allowed us to come in and give us their insights of the way MTV works.

Joe Cuello, the Vice President of Creative Music Integration at MTV showed us all to a conference room, lit by sky light, and explained some of the ways MTV works. Cuello explained that the creative music integration section’s job is related to that of music journalists. He said that it is their job to fit music into a MTV program to get the artists’ music exposed to the public, just as a music journalist writes articles on the artists and gets them published so the public can read about the artist.

To give us a better understanding of this, Cuello and his assistant, Christopher Hetzner, showed us five of the same clips from the MTV show, The Hills, but each clip had different songs, with every song creating a different emotion from the previous. Cuello went on to say that because it cost so much money to get an artist such as Lady Gaga or Lil Wayne that it’s the creative music integrator’s job to look for artists that are up and coming or have a very low-key auditioning process to find a artist who would allow them to use their music for a very low price or even free.

Later, a senior publicist, AJ Sarcione, also came and spoke to us about his job. He informed us that he was the guy music journalists and other publishers keep in contact with all the time. Sarcione said if a new show was coming out at MTV or if the theme of the VMAs was decided, there would be a press release a couple months before so the public could be aware. After absorbing all of that information, Cuello led us to see an editing lab, where after all filming, the tapes are sent, turned digital and edited to become a MTV program.

As we left, we discussed how it was a great opportunity to see that aspect of the industry and to learn about everything that goes into one MTV program.

GRAMMY® Campers Creating Their Own Network For The Future By Jenay Ross

During every panel and throughout several random discussions, the word “networking” pops up all over the place at GRAMMY Camp®. Networking can make or break a person’s career in the music business. Every single person, whether they are a faculty member, counselor, camper, or guest, is part of a network, and the Campers now know how to make connection with anyone who’s anyone. “It’s vital,” said singer-songwriter Alec Gaston.

Will Pinson, a multi-instrumentalist, plays saxophone, drums, and piano, and dabbles with the clarinet, flute, trumpet, trombone, and piccolo. Being tremendously musically diverse, he takes advantage of any opportunity he has to meet new people. “Networking is when you talk to someone you find a common ground with. You talk about what you do, abilities you have, and things you’ve done before and they tell you about what they’ve done,” said Pinson. If common ground is established, Campers try to stay in touch to work together and see if they can meet even more people through their new connections.

Making a connection with someone doesn’t have to be all about common ground though. “To me, it means going out and meeting all kinds of diverse people to get connections in any field you’re interested in,” said Stacy Ferreira from the Concert Promotion And Production track. It’s a good idea to talk to people in different fields, because then the campers won’t end up being limited to one certain aspect of the business. The only effort that goes into networking is keeping in contact with new acquaintances. Ferreira and the other Campers use Facebook, other online social network mediums, and phones to stay connected with people they meet.

Rudy Weimer, an Audio Engineer camper, said networking is about getting to know people and “sort of spreading yourself and your business.” He has been talking with people in different tracks, telling them about himself, his music, and his band. He’s also been handing out his business cards and getting the word out about what he does. “I know Shane [Silver] and I are going to try to work on stuff, so him and I for sure [are going to work together] and hopefully some others if they want to,” said Weimer.

“Networking was a word that kind of scared me honestly in the beginning, because it seemed a little overwhelming,” said emerging Singer/Songwriter Taylor Harvey. This is Harvey’s second year at GRAMMY Camp and since last year, she has worked with several LA-based GRAMMY Campers, such as Brandon Combs and Aaron Childs. “We’ve been gigging probably a couple times this past year which has been really cool,” she said. “I look forward to making those kinds of relationships again.” Ryan Jarvis, another Singer/Songwriter, has also stayed connected with people from past GRAMMY Camps. “Vince Camerano and Grahm Bailey are both on my new EP,” he mentioned. Alec Gaston added, “Ryan lives pretty close to where I do in the Chicago area, so I plan on collaborating with him.”

Prior to last year, Harvey had different goals before attending camp. “I didn’t even know whether I wanted to do music really and GRAMMY Camp decided, do music,” she confessed. This year Harvey is taking in everything with a different mindset. “Even though they are like the same panels, I look at them in totally different ways, because of where I am as an artist,” she said. She has been greatly inspired by other musicians and their music, and appreciates the professionals that have come to speak. “They actually believe you’ll be taking their spot in the next couple of years,” she said. Three days after camp ends, she’ll be back to playing shows. It has been her summer goal to land some gigs and she’ll soon be coming out with an album she’s wanted to finish. Once summer ends, she’ll be heading over to New York to attend Columbia University. “That’s really exciting trying to become a part of GRAMMY U over there, so I can have multiple bases and stuff,” she said.

Another certain aspect about GRAMMY Camp that the Campers love is how easy it is for everyone to create music. “I just think it’s really cool how it takes us about like three or four days to craft a really good song of our own. Then when you sit down with somebody else you can write a song in 10 minutes,” said Gaston. That is what Camp is all about; collaborating and networking in order to advance musical goals and dreams.

Walking In Rock Legends' Footsteps At The Village Recorder By Julian Ring

In one of the most anticipated field trips of GRAMMY Camp®, Campers had the opportunity to visit one of three recording studios in the Los Angeles Area. I was fortunate enough to be able go to The Village Recorder in Santa Monica. A world renowned studio, The Village has hosted such rock greats as Smashing Pumpkins, Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan, John Mayer, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and many others. Needless to say, I was very excited about what I would see while I was there.

From the outside, you couldn’t guess that you were looking at a recording studio. The Village was built in 1922 from the remains of an old Masonic temple. However, once inside, the scene changes completely. Gold and platinum records line the walls of the lobby, and the low ceiling, coupled with the atmospheric lighting, gives the place an ethereal feeling. The building still retains much of its Masonic architecture, but many of the most important areas are very modern.
We were then taken on a comprehensive tour of the building. As we visited the various studios, many Campers were amazed at the sheer size of some of the rooms. “This isolation booth is bigger than my bedroom!” exclaimed Electronic Music Producer Naomi Lee. Indeed, some spaces seemed as though they could fit three bands at once. One of the studios even featured moving ceiling slats to change the reflection of sound. I really got the impression that the facility was a top-notch place.

Speaking of impressions, several Campers explained how it felt to be in the presence of some of rock’s greatest recorded moments. “It’s surreal to be standing in the very room where so much musical magic happens,” said Sarah Lindstedt, a Singer/Songwriter and self-proclaimed John Mayer fan. When asked about being in Mayer’s personal studio, Lindstedt immediately responded with a flurry of answers. “I couldn’t really wrap my head around it. [I’m] looking at his chair, and thinking: this guy sat here, this guy wrote hits in this very seat. It had this mystical, eerie sense of magic about it.”

Audio Engineer Mitch Knabe had some insightful comments about his experience. “I’m loving the history here. It’s infectious. There’s just a feeling you get while you’re here. I’m jealous that I’m not working here.” He was very impressed with The Village’s use of analog recording equipment. “I came in here expecting everything to be new and high-tech, but there’s something nostalgic about them using analog. I saw everything they mixed on in the rooms; how they have certain vents in the ceiling that open up, echo chambers…all this stuff that’s not digital.”

All in all, our visit to The Village Recorder satisfied on many levels. Besides being in a studio that has seen more than its fair share of A-list artists, Campers were able to learn about what went into the making of their favorite records. Between writing a song and its final release on an album, the production team at the studio faces many unique challenges in creating a great recording. By visiting this amazing place, Campers gained a better understanding of the recording process.

GRAMMY® Campers Light A Fire Under Maroon 5 By Jenay Ross

Once the Artist Stories panel ended on Wednesday, the Music Journalists were allowed to remain in the Booth 100 building to interview Maroon 5's Adam Levine and Jesse Carmichael. As we waited in line with the rest of the media representatives and journalists, our anticipation increased. When we finally reached our turn, each of us was able to ask one question.

Julian Ring: Now that you guys have visited GRAMMY Camp® and seen all of these students who are obviously very talented, how do you feel about all of these kids that really look up to you guys as musical influences and inspiration?
Adam: We’ve been talking about it. It’s amazing. We feel like we’re no different. We started off this way, and we still feel this way. Like I said, we’re leaving here and going straight to band practice, and we’re going to work on the same ideas and the same things they’re working on here today. So, we feel very connected to them in a really pure way because it’s just what we do.
Jesse: I just want to say that I was really impressed with the music we heard from all the kids that played for us today. They were really talented. It’s crazy. It’s a little fire under us; we have to go back to the drawing board for our next tour.
Adam: We have to rework everything!

Susan Ewing: If GRAMMY Camp was around when you were younger, what artists would you have like to come and talk to you and give you some pointers and why?
Adam: I would have loved to sit and hear Pearl Jam talk to us or Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye or Lauryn Hill or Herbie Hancock or Tupac or the Beatles. It was millions of people all over the map that I would’ve loved to hear talk. It was amazing people out there who inspired us. Stevie would have been the main one because, well, Stevie can talk, he can really inspire you. And I’ve actually had the privilege to sit and talk with him and he delivers man, he’s one of the best people I’ve ever met.

Nick: A lot of the Singer/Songwriters have been working for a long while at making new material, but some of them are just starting to dabble in creating their own stuff. Is there any advice you would have for someone who wants to speed up the creative process and produce more material?
Adam: The creative process is really delicate. I think that you should be as creative as you can, but if you push yourself too hard, you can drive yourself crazy. I think you definitely need to have it still be fun, because when you’re having fun, that’s when you create the best things. I know this sounds so simple and elementary, but just make sure to keep it fun.
Jesse: And remember that there is inspiration everywhere all around you. Look around at writing on the wall, or somebody’s shirt, or open a book to a random page and there’s your first lyric. Never get stuck, just keep moving.

Jenay: In the panel, you were speaking about how the industry has kind of changed with music videos and image. What other ways have you seen it transform and what are your thoughts on it?
Adam: I think it’s in limbo right now. I think there are a lot of things actually happening and who knows when the dust is going to settle, where it’s going to fall, what’s going to happen. It’s obvious there’s been a shift from people going to a CD store and checking out new CDs and seeing what’s new in store to going online mostly on iTunes and checking it out there, which is just different. I don’t think it’s bad. It’s think it’s just different [and] it’s a really good thing when there’s change, even if something is going well. If it changes it changes. That’s kind of the nature of life and I think it’s a good thing the business is going through. It’s music. It’s never going away. So, that’s the good part about it.

Dertrick: How do you guys key the bond strong in the band to keep from breaking up?
Adam: It is like a family between us and you gotta work on it like a relationship and give people space when they need it. Little rips come up here and there and you gotta try and resolve the issues when they come up so that you don’t let things boil up to a point where they explode.
Jesse: I would say healthy communication is the key to a long band relationship. It’s key to have any healthy relationship actually.

A Chat With Recording Academy President Neil Portnow By Julian Ring

As part of the Guest Artist day at GRAMMY Camp®, the Music Journalism Campers recently had the opportunity to talk with Neil Portnow, President of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Each Camper had the chance to sit down face to face with Portnow and ask him one question and as we found out people might know NARAS best for the GRAMMY Awards, but there is so much more to the GRAMMYs than that, especially all the opportunities for students.

Julian Ring: As the director of NARAS, what do you feel is your most important responsibility within the music industry?
Neil Portnow: The Academy is, I would say, a thought leader in what happens within our business. We have many faces, we face consumers frequently, and obviously the GRAMMY® telecast, which has almost 27 million people this past year and 170 countries around the world. But the Academy, in terms of our initiatives, whether it’s the GRAMMY Foundation, whether it’s MusicCares™ helping music people, whether it’s the GRAMMY Museum, or whether it’s our advocacy work in Washington, which is crucial…we are viewed as thought leaders, and we’re also the one organization in the music industry that represents the broad community. Unlike organizations that represent just record companies, or just the music publishers, or just the recording musicians, or the unions, or…so on and so forth, our members (20,000 of them) represent the whole broad spectrum. I think that’s our main focus, to be the thought leaders, and to also put a good face on the music industry, and people that make it, to the outside world. Because sometimes, we take a bad rap and we don’t necessarily deserve it. We talk about all the good things that come from music.

Jenay Ross: What advice would you give students who want to join GRAMMY® U?
NP: GRAMMY University network is something relatively new for us. Probably coming around to our third, fourth year. We welcome all students who are pursuing a music career and are serious about it, to join. It would be easy for you to do and sign up and become a part of it.
Jenay Ross: And what kind of things would they do?
NP: GRAMMY University network, for one thing, is a membership. Just like the Academy that is 20,000 members, GRAMMY U has almost 4,000 students who are members. So when you join GRAMMY U you pay a small reduced fee, then you’re a member of the Academy. You get so many of the benefits that all of the members do: publications, exposure to our events, and then we produce some special events just for the GRAMMY U students on Campus, off Campus. So you can do just about everything that a member can do, except vote.

Susan Ewing: Starting out, what were your expectations? How far did you think you were actually going to go?
NP: I wasn’t sure. I had a couple ideas with what I wanted to do. I wanted to be in politics and run for office, and I was always into music. I started playing when I was seven. I honestly didn’t think I could make a living in music for sure, and although I had bands and I had a record deal, I went to college. I thought it would be good to have an education. I planned to go to law school and run for office. But I changed my mind. And then I got a little more involved in the business side of music as things moved on. And frankly I don’t think I could have predicted exactly where this was going to go. The best thing that I did was have an open mind about it, which is, “I don’t know for sure but I’m going to check this out, I’m going to meet as many people as I can, I’m willing to try something, experiment, see how it goes but also have something to fall back on if those things that are a dream didn’t happen.” I was lucky, it worked really well.

Shawn Handy: What is your advice for up-and-coming music entrepreneurs? I know you started off small to end up big, and I would like to become an entrepreneur myself. What’s your advice?
NP: First thing is you need to have passion and commitment. This is not easy with this career; there is a designated path. For example if you want to become a lawyer, you know you need to go to law school, but to become an entrepreneur you don’t know what’s going to happen. So you just have to have that drive. Also what was helpful for me is that I had friends around me that wanted to do the same stuff, so when I got right out of college with a guy who was in my band for many years who had a business head and another guy I met who was in the law school who had a sense of business, we brought them in because we had contracts. But it was so much better to have people supporting you because it’s better to have three heads as opposed to one.

Nick Arnold: You, along with the GRAMMY foundation and NARAS, have helped provide every student here with incredible, almost unfathomable, experiences and lessons which inspire them and open many opportunities for the future. How does it feel to know you are playing a vital role of launching the careers of potential future members of the music industry?
NP: I think I’m going to cry from that one. This work that we do here for the GRAMMY Foundation, like some of the work from our other charities, actually makes me sort of scratch my head sometimes and think to myself, “Gee, isn’t it extraordinary that someone is actually paying me to do this great work?” Having been a young person who grew up with music, who was always passionate about music, couldn’t get it out of my system, there was nothing else I could do. I tried going into politics and doing other things, but it always came back to the music. I didn’t have a guide; nobody in my family was in the business and there wasn’t a specific program in school. I kind of clawed my way through and found my way on my own. The fact that we can offer the guidance and the expertise and the exposure that we do in a program like this to a large number of young people who are passionate about music. And over the years, that number multiplies; so now we’re talking about hundreds of young people who’ve been through a GRAMMY Camp experience. It’s the most gratifying thing I can do. And to hear you say that, because you’ve experienced it first hand, really hits the point home. That’s a real life example of what we’re doing having a positive impact on someone who cares about a future in music. So we’re thrilled and delighted. For me, I can get a little emotional about it sometimes, because it’s the best thing we do.

Dertrick Winn: When people think of the name GRAMMY they immediately think of the GRAMMY Awards. Most people aren’t aware of the GRAMMY Foundation. Can you talk about some of the other programs that the GRAMMY Foundation has for kids who want to be in the music industry?
NP: We have a couple of foundations. We have the MusicCares Foundation that takes care of our own in the industry in times of need. We now have a GRAMMY Museum, which is a year old, and that’s another one of our wonderful projects besides the GRAMMY show. And we have the GRAMMY Foundation which you know well because you’ve been involved over the years. Our mission, aside from archiving and preserving our recorded history, is the ongoing importance of having young people be exposed to music and the arts in particular in the schools. So we do a number of programs. This is one of them, one of the new ones. We’re in our sixth year now with GRAMMY Camp, and GRAMMY Camp as you know brings in a number of students from all around the country to have an experience in 10 days unlike any other, to be with each other but also to have all the professions that the GRAMMY can bring to 10 days worth of study. But we also have a number of programs for schools. Our Signature School program is an important one because we give grants and money to high school music programs, and I think most people understand that music and funding for the arts in this particular time especially is very difficult and always reduced and, unfortunately, not a high priority, so we will pick out music departments all around the country and give them funds so that they can get the most basic things to carry on. It might be sheet music, it might be instruments, it might be hiring someone to come in and provide teaching services. Another one that’s really fun is Sound Checks. We will bring young people from high schools all around the country in their neighborhood to a sound check of a recording artist or a big star who’s performing in the area. So we’ve got Maroon 5 here, for example, and when they’re on the road, they call us and tell us, “Hey, we’re in Cleveland and we’ll arrange to get some kids there.” And what’s great about the Sound Check is young people get to see all the behind-the-scenes things that happen. And remember that it’s not just about being the lead singer on the stage; it might be about being a journalist, about being a manager, about being a lighting director, about being a sound engineer. All of these great career things, they can experience firsthand.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Maroon 5’s Adam Levine And Jesse Carmichael Pay Instrumentalists A Visit By Jenay Ross And Julian Ring

“If I was going to submit a demo to a record label right now, I’d have a blank white case with big black letters on the cover that say, ‘LISTEN,’” said Adam Levine, vocalist of Maroon 5. This was just one example of the humor that members of Maroon 5infused in their discussion with the instrumental students of GRAMMY Camp®. Levine and Jesse Carmichael visited students in the instrumental performance career track on Tuesday morning to discuss their background as artists. In addition, they provided the Campers with valuable advice about how to be good, proactive musicians.

During their hour-long talk with the various combos, Levine and Carmichael covered everything from getting local shows to finding a great manager (hint: it’s all about trust), and every detail in between. While Adam revealed that he had little formal training as a musician, Jesse is quite learned in music theory and technique. “It would have been a nice tool to have,” said Levine, but both agreed with Carmichael’s statement about music being “very instinctive.” The band was also keen to stress the availability of such online tools as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube. “I sound like an old man, but I didn’t have the You Tube,” said Levine in an old man voice. Levine described the Campers’ peers in high school as a “built in audience” for them to advertise their music. Jesse also added that in the beginning, musicians almost always start without any fans or money. However, it is possible to gain both of these with diligence and hard work. “We had to hustle to sell tickets,” said Levine.

On the musicianship side of things, the band gave many thoughtful insights into what makes a great player. “Simplicity is hardest thing to master,” said Levine. “The greatest musician learns it all, but does something that makes them unique,” said Levine, “Simplicity always wins.”

The biggest surprise was not the inside information provided by the band, but what came after. Towards the end of the discussion, Camp faculty member Jason Goldman suggested that a few of the combos perform songs they had been working on. Adam and Jesse enthusiastically agreed, and so an impromptu mini-showcase was sparked. Three combos got up in front of the band to play an original song. Their guests seemed very impressed with the students’ talent.

The musicians learned some invaluable lessons from Maroon 5’s Levine and Carmichael. “The most important thing is love what you do,” Carmichael stressed. Bringing in successful musicians allowed the campers to see the concepts they are taught put into place right in front of their eyes. It was an experience none of them will forget.

A Q&A With Colbie Caillat By Susan Ewing

As the Artist Stories Panel came to a close in USC's Booth 100 and all the Campers from different tracks headed to lunch, the Music Journalists stayed behind to get a little more out of the panelists. With other press from such outlets as CNN and AP waiting patiently in a single-file line to get an interview, each Music Journalist had time for only one question each. GRAMMY® Winner Colbie Caillat was very friendly and answered each of the questions with honesty.

Julian Ring: I was wondering how has the fact that you have a father who is a producer inspired you to get into the music business?
Colbie Caillat: I don’t know if it did at the beginning because I just loved singing. I heard Lauryn Hill when I was 11 years old, and I knew from then on that I wanted to be a singer when I grew up. But, because I wanted to be a singer, my dad told me how important it was to learn how to play an instrument, and become a songwriter and an artist. So, by being in the studio with him, and hearing the work he had done, and hearing him teach me how song structure worked…what a verse, a chorus, and what a bridge was, and how you’re supposed to go there to make the song change, and then go back to the chorus. He taught me a lot about music, and really, because of him, I started writing songs and playing guitar.

Susan Ewing: Are there any artists at all that you want to collaborate with and you feel you could have that comfort level with?
Caillat: I’ve been telling people I want to work with Common. I love hip hop and R&B and I’ve done collaborations with people who are in the same music format like acoustic pop. I love Common and I’ve met with him and I told him I want to work with him and I hope someday I’ll get to do that because I think we could come up with some cool melodies together and he could be very rhythmic with his rapping.

Nick Arnold: As an artist who broke through in the past decade, you’ve witnessed the greatest rate of change in the history of the music industry. What advice would you give to these new singer-songwriters and musicians who are trying to break through?
Caillat: Social networking is a good way if you’re a songwriter. If you’re a musician or songwriter, put all of your songs up on You Tube, MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, any of those. Start asking your fans which songs they like the most, and get their advice on which songs to choose. Start pairing yourself with a business, because there are so many aspects of it that are challenging and difficult, and once you learn them and have them down you can really evolve from there. Practice whatever craft you’re passionate about, and build everything around it.

Jenay Ross: In the panel, you were talking about how you use to be shy. What advice would you give singer-songwriters who are shy and are trying to break through that?
Caillat: Lots of things. First of all, it takes a while, so it’s not going to happen overnight. I’m still a little nervous, but nowhere near what I was in the beginning. So, when you’re on stage, you’re in the process of having to perform in front of someone. Take deep breaths. Remember to smile and remember they’re there to hear you and it’s about music enjoyment and also I’m going to work with a stage coach and someone that can work with me through why I get nervous. So, do whatever it takes to work your way through that mentally and write notes. And someone else told me to stand in front of a mirror and say like ten good things about yourself and try to build up your confidence that way.

Dertrick Winn: You gained a lot of popularity through MySpace and You Tube. Did you plan to gain success off of your online social networks?
Caillat: No, None of it. I was writing songs and recording songs for fun in the studio and I wasn’t ever planning on going to record labels and I wasn’t playing shows and I just didn’t know what I was going to do with it. My friend put songs on my MySpace for me and he told me about it and after six months I had grown a fan base. I didn’t know about social networking at the time. I didn’t know what It was going to turn into. It’s unbelievable to me but it works and it’s helped so many people, musicians and artists get to where they’re at. Everyone.

Serj Tankian's Art Without Borders By Nick Arnold

On Tuesday evening, Campers from the Music Journalism track took a field trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art for a private listening party to preview Serj Tankian’s upcoming album Imperfect Harmonies (due out September 7th). The museum was featuring an exhibit with the work of Armenian artist, Arshile Gorky. During the event, we were loaned iPod Shuffles and headphones loaded with his new record. Once we had completed listening to the entire album, Serj was kind enough to answer a question from each of the music journalists about his new music and his career.

Nick Arnold: During your career you’ve bridged and incorporated many different styles of music into your work. Of the genres you’ve worked with, which do you identify with the most?
Serj Tankian: Wow. Well, obviously I’m kind of known for rock more than anything else, because I’ve been doing that for a while. It kind of comes easy to me to arrange and write for rock arrangements and instrumentation. However, I am interested in exploring different things as well, and going out of my comfort zone and trying new things, whether it is electronic stuff or orchestral stuff or jazz things. In reality, I’ve been doing it on my own for years, because I have a lot of unreleased tracks of many different genres. My thing has always been that I’ve never really committed to one genre. I’ve never been really in love with only one genre; I just love music. Music to me has two genres: good and bad. Good is when it moves you, when you feel something when you listen to it and bad [music] is when you don’t. So, irrespective of what we call genres or specialization, I really leave that for promotional and radio companies to handle. But for me, it’s just all music and the more you mix it up, the more interesting it gets in some ways. So I’m looking forward to experiencing and exploring other musical avenues and types and colors.

Julian Ring: I noticed that on the album, almost every single track had an orchestral background on it. What’s the story behind you inspiration to use that?
ST: A couple of years ago, I did a show with the Auckland Philharmonic in New Zealand, and that kind of led me to be a lot more comfortable with the orchestral palette and writing for ensemble pieces. When I was doing this record, my two disparate influences were electronic and orchestral, and my goal was to put them together in an organic fashion so that they worked. And so the rock kind of became the bridge in between the live instrumentation coupled with cool jazz moments.

Jenay Ross: How does Arshile Gorky inspire you?
ST: What inspires me about him is the type of pain that he lived, the type of life that he had, the way he expressed it through his art. A lot of artists aren’t necessarily happy people, because they’re living a lot of heavy moments in their lives.

Dertrick Winn: How have your studies at CSU influenced your music today?
ST: You know it’s funny because I didn’t really play music until I went to the university but I didn’t study music at the university, I got a bachelor’s degree in marketing. At the time I started playing music and it was a way of kind of relieving my mind, freeing up my mind and doing something, a form of meditation if you will. I started really getting into it at that time. I’m not sure if studies affect music because I’ve never studied music, although I write ensemble pieces and what not. That’s an interesting question, I don’t know. There are a lot of kids that play music when they’re really young and they know that’s what they want to do their whole life. I wasn’t one of those kids. I started when I was 19 or 20 and by the time I was 23 or 24 that’s when I knew that music was my calling, my vision. So in some ways I had to experience many other things in life and then come and do what I’m supposed to do. And that was good for me in some ways: this whole wide area of experience in life, in things that I’ve done.

Susan Ewing: What was your inspiration to have your private listening party here at MOCA?
ST: About a month and a half ago, the MOCA invited me to do a musical creation to the opening of the Arshile Gorky exhibit. And so I brought a couple of musician friends over and we had this really cool opening and it was a couple 1000 MOCA members that were here and drinks. It was a beautiful event. That made me think, "Hey, we should do something there." And when we were thinking about doing the listening party I wanted to do something with headphones. So people could be by themselves with the music and hear it in the sequences that it’s designed in. So we just put the two together.

Shawn Handy: What motivated you to create the song "Borders Are?"
ST: Well, without giving all the lyrical intents away because I like people to internalize for themselves, the idea is what life would be like without borders. Those borders don’t have to be national borders, they can be the limitations of your own mind, or ego, or your own fears. But what would life be without borders? I guess that’s what it about.

Electronic Equipment Only The Best For GRAMMY® Campers By Julian Ring

The amazing faculty and the talent of their students aren’t the only thing universally agreed upon by GRAMMY® Campers. As soon as they arrived, Campers immediately noticed the quality of the electronic and studio equipment provided to them at the University of Southern California. From laptops to video cameras, mixing interfaces to audio software, the GRAMMY Foundation and its sponsors allow students to utilize these hi-tech tools in order to study and implement the lessons learned in their career tracks.

Cyrus Shaki-Khan admits that he’s relatively new to the world of Electronic Music Production. “I really started maybe three months before we had to submit the audition tapes," he says. "I have demo versions of Ableton and Logic, and I work with a controller about half the size of the one we use in here, with no knobs or anything.” Because of this fact, I was surprised at Shaki-Khan’s proficiency with ProTools in such a short amount of time. He agreed that the provided equipment helps his creative process. “It definitely saves me a lot of time," he says. "It’s really amazing to have all of this.” Interestingly, he was not surprised that this technology was here. “I looked at the websites, and I saw the pictures. It’s what I expected.”

I spoke to another Electronic Music Production student by the name of Eric Boone. Boone’s background with audio technology differs in a few ways from that of Shaki-Kahn’s. “I have a little experience. I kind of just taught myself how to use this kind of software," he says. "I mean, they’re pretty much all the same. But this is the first time I’ve ever worked with something of this scale. It’s so high tech.” Like Shaki-Khan, though, Boone is delighted to be able to use such advanced software. “It definitely adds a much easier way to get all my ideas out there. I’m really happy with the things I’ve been able to create. They gave us all new keyboards just for this camp. I didn’t expect that at all. I thought we’d just have PCs and old keyboards, but no, they’ve got these wonderful Macs and new keyboards. I didn’t expect this.”

Ben Glasser from Audio Engineering has had plenty of experience in his field. However, he was blown away when he arrived at GRAMMY Camp®. “With the other camps I’ve done, they’ve had okay equipment, but a lot of stuff wouldn’t work,” Glasser commented. “But the audio engineering here is fantastic. There’s ProTools, there are three different types of mixing boards in the studios…it’s beyond expectations.” He also stated that the hands-on experience provided to him at Camp “helps me get the full knowledge of what an actual studio would be like. I can go into any type of studio and have a basic knowledge of everything.”

While Campers may have had a whole range of expectations about what their Camp experience would be like, not many anticipated the caliber of the electronic tools that would be at their disposal. Across multiple career tracks, students agree that their creative potential is amplified by their ability to use equipment they would not otherwise have access to.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How I Told Monique Coleman 'Gimme Mo' By Shawn Handy

As my fellow journalists waited patiently to speak with Neil Portnow (President of the Recording Academy) to arrive for our one on one interviews I took the initiative to network. Networking is a key element I knew and GRAMMY Camp® has taught us more about building relationships. I had the opportunity to meet with Monique Coleman of High School Musical. I said to myself, “She looks important, I must network with her.” “Hello, my name is Shawn Handy. May I have a moment of your time?” From that moment I saw a huge smile and eyes widening and her mouth opened and said , “O.M.G. I love this, I love your attitude. Can I interview you for my show I am doing on teens?”

The conversation started off with me telling Monique how I am an aspiring hip-hop artist whose music is different from the usual hip-hop scene. As I told Monique my vision and goals I could see by the smile she was impressed by my presentation that I carried for myself.

I am truly blessed that Monique took the interest into me to interview me. Some questions that were asked were “What type of music do you do and just tell us about yourself?” “I am a 17-year-old Philadelphia native who is interested in becoming a ‘rapper. ‘” But then I said, “I apologize for telling you that I am a rapper I would like to prefer to be labeled an MC. The reason for that is because I feel as though that anyone can be titled a ‘rapper,’ but only true artists who really love their art and keep it real at all times are MCs.”

After I did the interview and also did a quick video talking about myself and promoting myself Monique told me, “Is it ok if I use this for my blog?” I answered with energy, “Yes!”

Learn To Listen With Lamont Dozier By Dertrick Winn

Perhaps one of the most exciting panels at GRAMMY Camp® is the Artist Story gathering, where popular and musically successful recording artists share stories of their success and what inspires them to continue doing music. I had the special privilege to sit in on a learning session exclusively for the Singer/Songwriter track of GRAMMY Camp. It was held in what GRAMIMY Campers refer to as “booth," sort of like the commons area of GRAMMY Camp. Speaking to the campers today was Colbie Caillat, a self-made internet sensation, and Lamont Dozier, dubbed by many the number one Songwriter in the world, mediated by the Singer/Songwriter track instructor, Chris Sampson. “Booth” holds about 100 chairs, seats usually filled by the entire GRAMMY Camp company, but with only 18 of these seats occupied for this particular occasion, it was the perfect setting for an intimate chat with the future of music.

All 15 of the young Singer/Songwriters listened attentively as the two panelists shared their views and preferences on the creative process of songwriting and the significance of artist collaboration. “It is hard to work with someone you don’t really know,” said Caillat. "But it is important to learn how people think.” Lamont Dozier nods in agreement; he’s had more than a fair share of artist collaborations. He recalls times working with the Holland Brothers when he was part of the singing group Dozier-Holland-Dozier, with which he wrote a handful of number one hits. He explains to the Campers that not only did they help each other write songs and toss around ideas for music, but they shared life views and exchanged philosophies in the process. “Listening is an art form in itself. When you analyze your songs and break them down, they should have a meaning," he said. So one might ask oneself, how does a songwriter with over 54 number one hits deal with what other songwriters call writers block? In his own words; “There’s no such thing as writer’s block. If I get writer’s block it’s because I just got lazy or didn’t want to follow the process of writing a song…I just keep writing until something materializes.” Dozier know’s what it’s like to be young in the music industry, for he signed with Atlantic Records when he was only 15 years of age.

After a brief q-and-a session with the Singer/Songwriters and listening to them perform some of their original material, Dozier left GRAMMY Camp with this final message: “Have a good work ethic. You have to work seven days a week. If you’re putting anything else before the music, if you’re really serious about making it a profession, you have to put in seven days a week. And I’m always thinking music first of all. I have other extensions of my life, but music is always first, because from that I’ve learned about writing, I’ve learned to watch and listen to what goes around the world. And I gather bits and pieces from the world to enhance or keep my knowledge about things current. To be a good writer, you have to know about what’s going on in the world.”

GRAMMY® Campers Get Into Jamming By Nick Arnold

On Sunday evening, the instrumental combos collaborated with the Singer/Songwriters to perform a short setlist for the annual mini concert. The groups performed covers of five songs by popular artists, from the recent country-pop song “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift, to rock classic “Under the Bridge” from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, back to the jazzy tune “How High the Moon” by the great Ella Fitzgerald. Each performance was entertaining, captivating, and very impressive for a group of high school students who had such a short time to learn a new song with musicians they’d never played with. I caught up with several of the musicians from the mini concert to see how they felt it went over.

For the returning Campers, the concert was a welcomed return. Guitarist Gunnar Rolfs and drummer Will Pinson both felt the performance went over with ease.

“Last year I was way nervous, so I wasn’t very comfortable performing," Rolfs said. "This year I knew what to expect, and this year I only had one song to learn, last year I think I had to play three. This year I was more laid back and confident." “I think we improved on some of the things that didn’t go as well last year," added Pinson. "The song choices were a lot better, and I think that I performed with musicians with better abilities than last year.”

As for the brand new GRAMMY Campers, they seemed a bit anxious at first, but they quickly discovered the joys of jamming with new instrumentalists. Guitarist Cody Tripp and bassist John Bassel both started having once they got to know their fellow musicians and the songs they were covering.

“It was a blast playing because I love learning new material. I’m usually not nervous, but I’d never really done a really legit jazz tune before. I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty nervous," Tripp said. "But it was fun, I love playing with new people. Everybody’s so fun to play with here, so it’s been a blast playing with new people."

“It was fun performing with new people! I mean, we’ve been having a lot of cool jam sessions, and maybe we’ll be able to turn those ideas into songs," Bassel added. "My main issue with our song was that I’d never really played jazz like that before. In my jazz band the teacher usually played the song and I’d get the bassline by ear. But this time they just handed us a chart and a CD with the music on it. I couldn’t really hear the bass very well on the CD, because it was a lot lower down in the mix.”

The musicians are as excited to perform as in previous years, if not more thrilled than before to be working with other talented instrumentalists. Their work will culminate in the final showcase on Sunday night, when they will present the original pieces of music they’ve been working on and refining all week.

"I’m really excited for the showcase," Rolfs said. "I’m also excited to start learning the singer-songwriters’ material, their original stuff should be cool."

Serj Tankian Welcomes Music Journalism Campers Into His Private Listening Party At MOCA By Jenay Ross

On Tuesday, the other Music Journalists and I were able to venture off the USC campus for a highly anticipated field trip. Serj Tankian, a solo artist and the lead singer of System of a Down, held a private listening party at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in downtown Los Angeles for his upcoming studio solo album, “Imperfect Harmonies.” As we took our first steps into MOCA, we were already impressed. The first thing that caught our eyes was the three huge posters of the “Imperfect Harmonies” cover art. The front cover was a photo of Tankian standing with one foot in a grassy field and the other foot in a scene of a city’s destruction, with his arms up high and wide open, almost saying “welcome” to us.

It’s not very common for musicians to have listening parties in art museums, but as soon as I started walking through the gallery of the featured artist, Arshile Gorky, it was obvious why Tankian chose MOCA as the location for his event. Gorky was an Armenian artist who moved to America in the 1920s and Tankian holds his Armenian heritage very close to his heart.

Gorky had fallen into a deep depression and committed suicide in 1948, but his work still continues to have a worldwide influence. His gallery was filled with abstract expressionism pieces that illustrated his emotions from throughout his life. I could almost feel his angst and pain as I walked around to observe each piece while listening to “Imperfect” through provided iPod shuffles and headphones. Most of his work was oil paintings with neutral colors and splashes of bright colors, but there were these specific graphite and crayon sketches that caught my eye. The description said they were a “study for agony,” and the franticness of the scribbles and color splotches easily represented that.

The piano and orchestra elements of “Imperfect” emphasized the distress Gorky wanted to express. A particular line from one of Tankian’s new songs was, “Strangling myself in my silence,” which caught my attention. It made me think about how some people, and maybe in Tankian and Gorky’s case, the Armenian people, are afraid to speak up for themselves, forcing them to feel stuck and controlled. After listening to Tankian’s new album and walking through MOCA, I felt a new appreciation and understanding of the pain and suffering people have had to endure.

Hitmaker Christopher "Tricky" Stewart Meets With Electronic Music Production By Shawn Handy

As part of the annual guest artist day at GRAMMY Camp®, renowned producer Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, whose resume of hits includes Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," Britney Spears's "Me Against the Music," Mýa’s “Case Of The Ex," and Rihanna’s “Umbrella," sat in with the Electronic Music Production track.

Afterwards he headed over to the Jeanette MacDonald Recital Hall with the rest of the Camp's visiting professionals for some one on one interview time. In our interview I asked "Tricky" advice for up and coming artists whose music might be slightly different from the norm and are sometimes forced to switch their style in order to become successful. "It's always important to stay true to yourself, but at the same time since creativity is subject to an opinion once you decide to make it your profession that's the biggest thing," he responded. "This is a business, so as long as your creativity is endorsed whatever they inspire you to be creatively is also commercially viable then you will be fine."

From Tricky’s huge catalog of songs that he has had the pleasure of working on I asked what was his favorite of them all, one that he thought had the potential to be considered a hit. "I felt great about the song I worked on Usher's last album called 'Moving Mountains.' It didn’t do what it was supposed to do," he said. "I was surprised by that, but when you say stand by a record... it's easy to stand by a hit, but I took it as record that I love that probably wasn’t a hit. And 'Moving Mountains' was probably that song for me."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

GRAMMY® Campers Share A Lot In Common By Shawn Handy

Regardless of their career track, GRAMMY Campers share a lot in common; a love of music, a passion for their track, and dreams of one day going home and being professionals in their field. I caught up with Campers from four different tracks – Music Production, Drums, Guitar, and Concert Promotion – and found that whatever their interests, there are unquestioned common bonds.

What’s your name?
Colin Callahan.

What career track are you doing?
Music Production.

Is this your first year at GRAMMY Camp®?

How do you like it so far?
I like it a lot, learning a lot of new things and working with a lot of cool people. Its awesome to be here.

How long have you been singing?
Since kindergarten but I have been producing since three years ago.

Was it always easy for you to produce and sing?
Well, the singing came natural but the producing aspect I learned on my own and taught myself and also had mentors.

I’m sure there are people that produce and also sing, what do you think motivates you to keep doing it?
It’s just my passion and what I love doing.

Have you found the first two days of GRAMMY Camp beneficial so far?
Oh yeah. I learned a lot of new things such as Pro Tools, which I never knew anything about Pro Tools.

What about networking? I know that there are a bunch of awesome people here so have you been connecting or staying to yourself?
Yeah, I have been talking to a lot of people. It’s so good to meet people from all over the country and to hear their story.

What’s your name?
Will Pinson.

What career track are you doing?

So, is this your first year in GRAMMY Camp?
No. This is my second year.

What career track did you do last year?

Would you try to do it again next year?
Most likely, but every year I audition for different tracks, like last year I auditioned for Audio Engineer, Electronic Music Production, and Music Journalism then I did piano and drums, and this year I did the sax instead of piano.

Where do you see yourself after GRAMMY Camp?
Basically I’m going back on the road. I just got off a tour with my band in Charlotte. We went around to Raleigh, then back to Charlotte. We went up to New York for a little bit but when I go back we will go to New Orleans to tour down there.

How did you guys get hooked up with a tour?
I have friends that are alumni from my school that knew about my high school jazz band and offered to get us gigs. We thought we would just get two gigs but it turned out to 15, its all over the States too.

Will you try to attend to GRAMMY Camp next year?
Of course. The only time I will stop coming to GRAMMY Camp is when they say, “Will, you can’t come back.”

What’s your name?
Taina Spicer.

What career track are you here for?
I’m here for Guitar.

Any other track you’re interested in?
Drums maybe, but I don’t really play I just think they’re fun and I want to learn.

This is your first year here at GRAMMY Camp, how do you like it?
It’s cool. I didn’t really know what to expect when I came here but I came so far.

What are you plans after GRAMMY Camp with your career track?
I don’t really know what my plan is after, but I just want to make as many connections as I can after.

Is this the first place you would say you professionally started performing?
I played shows at coffee house.

Where are you from and is there a lot of talent there?
New Jersey, and yes it’s between New York and Philly so yeah there’s a lot of talent.

Do you have a band or are you by yourself
No. I’m by myself.

What’s your name?
Stacy Ferreira.

What career track are you doing here at GRAMMY Camp?
Concert Promotion and Production.

You want to put big shows together?
Yeah, yeah.

Is this your first year here?
No, this is my second year.

So, you kind of know the ins and outs of GRAMMY Camp?
Yeah, I know what happens and what goes on.

So what made you want to do Concert Promotion? I know you didn’t just wake up one day and said you wanted to do it.
In seventh grade, my friend gave me tickets to a concert she didn’t want to go to so I went and I liked it. And more then performing I like to see behind the scenes what happens with music.

Do you have any music talents yourself?
Yeah, I play the piano and clarinet?

Where are you from?
Scottsdale, Arizona.

Are there are a lot of showcases there?
There are a lot of concerts and things that have the music industry tied into them.

Would you like to one day and go back and promote those concerts?
Yeah, eventually I would.

Music Journalism Students Get Advice From The Best By Jenay Ross and Susan Ewing

As part of GRAMMY Camp® each track gets to meet with professionals working in their fields. Music Journalism so far has met with Emmy-nominated new media maven Shira Lazar, who has her own "On The Scene" column for and has contributed to CNN and Fox News Channel, among others, and rock photographer Kristin Burns.

Kristin Burns walked into our music journalism track, clad in all black, except for her bright red heart-shaped sunglasses casually placed on top of her head. We were lucky enough to sit and listen to her speak about her life as a music photographer.

Burns' interest in photography began in middle school and high school when she took photos every day. Then she attended and graduated from Art Center College of Design. “Art school kicks your butt,” she said laughing, “but it really prepares you.” At ACCD, she initially focused on art history and then realized photography was her calling. “I’m obsessed with photography,” she said. When asked about why she focuses on music photography, she described music as something that fuels, energizes, and calms her. “I love the way it makes me feel,” she expressed.

After graduation, she became really stressed about burdensome loans and bills, which made her work harder, or in her words, “hustle” more. “It’s hard to make a living as an artist,” said Burns. Her tips for staying on top of everything included being diverse, professional, open minded, and not like anyone else. Networking and “any tiny, tiny connection can help” with expanding a person’s opportunities for work also.

She talked a lot about how gaining trust from people through mutual contacts and friends is a great skill to have. Burns said it has been “tricky” earning trust from the artists she’s worked with, such as Billy Corgan and the rest of her long client list. When she had photos of Corgan and Jessica Simpson that suggested they were dating, she turned away the insane amount of money people were willing to pay for her photos. “My friendship with Billy is worth a million dollars,” she explained. Finding a balance between business and friendship is essential.

Shira Lazar reported to us how blogging and broadcasting works. She stated it was always great to start where you can and work your way to bigger things, mentioning internships she did herself in college at MTV and how she always made herself helpful and available to her employers. Lazar mentioned some of her greater experiences such as hosting the 72-hour live ustream special on during GRAMMY® week, and being the first one to get an interview with the curent You Tube hit, the "Double Rainbow Man."

One of Lazar’s main points was to take advantage of getting interns and your name out there while you’re still a student because people will actually listen to you and respect your go-getter attitude. She explained to us that there will always be a low point in whatever you do but don’t give up because of it because it will always lead to something higher. She also spoke to us about how being able to do it all will really help in your success in the journalism world because companies are not only looking for good writers, they want someone who could write, interview and film in order to get the story out quicker and get it more exposure in the public. It’s a diverse world of journalism and Shira Lazar has touched on just about every aspect of it. She was a big eye opener and left us pondering on what else we should explore as journalists.

GRAMMY Camp® Counselors Getting Back From Campers By Nick Arnold

During GRAMMY Camp®, high school students interested in becoming involved in the music business learn from industry professionals how to use their skills towards a career in music. All the participating students will leave Camp with a greater knowledge and passion for their respective fields of interest in the music business. But it is not only the kids who are finding guidance for their involvement in the music business; several of the counselors have mentioned that they have been given new inspiration to their careers in the business.

“It’s great to see how driven everybody is because it took me a while to figure out that this was what I wanted to do," says counselor Kellyn Robison. "Music was always a part of my life, but I didn’t realize I wanted to make a career out of it. To see how driven everybody here already is, it’s amazing! It is really inspiring! I try to write songs myself, so it makes me want to go write some more songs. Their talent is unbelievable, I’m really excited to see the combos come together with the singer-songwriters and see what they come up with for the final performance.”

I also spoke to David Edwards, who was impressed by both the quality of the equipment that the students were given access to and the abilities of the students in the performing tracks.

“Well, I knew that there were going to be different tracks and everybody was going to be educated and learn more about their tracks, but I had no idea about the amount of hands-on experience that everybody was going to get," said Edwards. "Just the Electronic Music Production lab is amazing! Every student in there gets their own module to work on and learn all about the the ins and outs of midi controls and production tips they need. The singer-songwriters blew me away with how talented they are; not only with their instruments, but with their vocal techniques and style. I think I high expectations, but they exceeded them with everything they’ve done so far."

Several members of the staff and counselors, like both Robinson and Ben Kann, originally lived and worked in Nashville, Tennessee before coming to California to work at GRAMMY Camp.

"I first heard about GRAMMY Camp through the Recording Academy in Nashville," said Kann. "I used to volunteer for them at various events. A lady by the name of Lorie Hodge told me about the camp and she recommended that I apply. So I applied, and it was a great blessing and I am very grateful that I got in!”

"Well, I’m from Nashville as well," Robinson added. "And I got involved with GRAMMY Camp the same way as Ben did; by volunteering at the Recording Academy and working at different events that they had. I worked at soundchecks and stuff, and I met a lot of people through that. They suggested I apply, and so now, here I am!

So, as you can see, the kids enrolled in Camp aren’t the only ones learning and getting inspired during Camp. The staff and counselors have found the Campers’ determination and skill to be a new source of inspiration.

Brand Yourself By Dertrick Winn

Tonight one of GRAMMY Camp’s key sponsors came to GRAMMY Camp® to talk about the importance of branding yourself and staying true to your art and purpose for making music.

Scott Nelson and Dan Cherry, leading members of Converse and Anomaly Communications respectively were both part of the project team that helped get every GRAMMY Camper one of their very own pair of custom Converse Chuck Taylors.

Although Converse is a clothing brand whose product appeals more to the visual aspect of artistic expression, The Chuck Taylor is an iconic shoe that has been worn by some of the most legendary and unique artists in the music industry, like the Strokes' Julian Casablancas, Pharrell, and Andre 3000. As well as the shoe being a part of music history, Converse now serves as a catalyst for promoting the creative music of the future. The attention of the combined talent that is GRAMMY Camp was now focused on these two speakers who, we soon found out were a lot like us.

Dan Cherry is the Managing Director of Brand Strategy at Anomaly Communications, a media company purposed to spreading positivity and creativity in the world of music and entertainment. Dan Cherry started off as a college student attending school with a basketball scholarship, but ended up not being able to play due to a serious knee injury. He spent his first day of college on crutches, spending the first of his college days entirely different that he expected. “I wasn’t playing basketball, wasn’t going to parties, just sitting in my room, depressed.”

Though this seemed to be an unfortunate predicament, it was during his alone time that he came up with the concept for what today is known as the And 1 basketball media production company, which he describes as “Like a skate video, but with basketball moves." The And 1 projects consisted of recordings of talented athletes touring the States playing street basketball accompanied by energetic music that served as a theme for this entertaining show. These productions became known as the And 1 Mixtapes, and were released in several volumes that achieved critical success to street basketball fans everywhere. “I took my passion for basketball and music and found a way to combine the two," says Cherry. Though he feels he has no musical talents, his And 1 project has displayed talented musicians through these Mixtapes.

Scott Nelson is the Director of Advertising at Converse. His job is to oversee all of the marketing actions being taken in by the brand, including work with artists who do music and commercials for Converse. He made it clear that Converse only works with artists who are true to themselves and are original. “They all started out just like you,” Says Nelson, “Use your talent to create something powerful and respectful.”

Campers Learn How To Stay True To Themselves By Jenay Ross

GRAMMY Camp® is the perfect place for Campers to develop their own sense of identity as an artist. A huge common bond the Campers share is the dream of taking their love of music to the next level, but being successful and unique in the industry can be a tricky task to take on.

In this day in age, musicians have to compete against hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people who are striving to make it big. It can be tough for musicians to break away from sounding like artists who have already been there and played that. According to second-year Camper, Ajani Nanabuluku, “Real talent isn’t judged like it used to be.” Today, songs can sound so alike that it can be difficult to distinguish one from another, but many of them manage to become one-hit wonders. A question that should be on everyone’s mind is how do artists put their own twist on things to place themselves on a higher level than everyone else? The most popular answer from Campers and guest speakers has been to stay true to oneself.

Pianist James Trotter admires David Foster, describing him as a “genius,” and would love to be like him. Even though he uses Foster as his role model, Trotter will always act like himself and only himself. “I try to stay true to my roots and my morals,” said Trotter.

Aside from finding their own niche musically and creating a unique identity, it is important for musicians to not only dedicate themselves to their craft, but to become knowledgeable in the other aspects of the industry. Brandon Woodward, a drummer, has gained a great understanding about how to make a living out of playing drums. While Woodward has gained a pretty solid foundation in most genres, he knows there is always room to grow. He is aspiring to go above and beyond and he said, “I will do so by not limiting myself.” He wants to get into the different types of production of music and is interested in being a part of the creative process as a whole. Being diverse, hard-working, and original is the key to branching out and making things happen.

Meeting The GRAMMY Camp® Faculty By Shawn Handy

To start off the week in GRAMMY Camp® my fellow Campers and I gathered in Booth 100 for the Meet The Faculty panel, a very well-rounded and beneficial talk for myself and my peers. Every speaker said something very important but one quote that stood out to me that I’m sure everyone has heard before is "Networking and staying connected is very important," from Student Life Coordinator Gary Shields. I believe that this quote is helpful because when you are trying to become successful in anything you plan on doing it is very important to network, build relationships.

Another quote that I’m sure took fear out of a lot of people including myself was by Senior Director David Sears. "Fear is a wonderful thing, but it's also a terrible thing." What he is saying is that fear is only good when you are not afraid to be different. Fear is bad when you have the gift to sing and there are record companies present but you are nervous.

"As a music journalist, you can help elevate someone’s career," was said by our very own Steve Baltin. It was a thought shared by all of the faculty, who are here to help elevate our careers.

Monday, July 12, 2010

At GRAMMY Camp® Music Tastes As Eclectic As Campers By Julian Ring

GRAMMY Camp® is a place for people who love music. However, the term “music” is quite a general one; it contains many styles and genres within it. Along with these various forms of music come many faces and acts from all different backgrounds. The beauty of GRAMMY Camp is the diversity of not only the students who attend it, but the variety of people who inspire them to do their best.

Electronic music production student Kamari Carter cites his biggest influences as renowned DJ and producer Deadmau5. Kamari refers to an interview he saw in which Deadmau5 described his unique style. “He doesn’t like how in old house and trance music, you can tell the next eight beats, 16 beats, 32 beats. He despises that. He tries to mix up everything and he tries to make a completely new sound.”

John Bassel, who is at camp as a combo bassist, has different tastes in music. “My biggest influence would probably be John Entwistle (bass player for The Who).” According to Bassel, Rancid bassist Matt Freeman was an early inspiration, and through him, Bassel learned to play many of the greatest punk basslines by ear. “And John Entwistle influenced him, so I moved up to listening to The Who, and I started figuring out those bass parts, too.” As opposed to Kamari Carter’s taste for cutting-edge electronic music , Bassel prefers tried-and-true rock 'n’ roll. “That’s basically how I learned how to play bass,” he explains.

For combo guitarist Cody Tripp, it’s all about music from the Southern United States. “I try to be as open as I can about playing everything, but I guess my background is more in rock, blues, and country.” When citing major influences, Cody immediately lists Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Steve Gaines, for his “Texas swing-style playing. I also like Stevie Ray Vaughn because of how much soul he’s got.” Cody says he hopes to continue the guitar as a form of musical expression. “I’d like to try teaching, or studio work, or just playing around,” he says.

While these are only three examples, it is clear that musical tastes and influences vary among campers. From electronic beats and rhymes to rock 'n’ roll, to blues and country, GRAMMY Camp is a place for students from many musical backgrounds and with styles that range across the board.

GRAMMY® Campers Show Their Musical Diversity By Susan Ewing

Day two of ten, couldn’t be that much to do right? Wrong. With only a half day to prepare, the instrumental and singer tracks were split into random groups and had to get ready for the mini-concert taking place later that night. Not only were they given music hours before the concert, but each group had a specific genre, moving from Ella Fitzgerald and Taylor Swift to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and A Tribe Called Quest too. Sounds like quite a challenge right? It was indeed, but each group handled it very professionally.

Kicking off the mini-concert was a jazz piece created by the great Ella Fitzgerald. With John Bassel on bass, Will Pinson on drums, Cody Tripp on guitar, Ajani Nanabuluku on keyboard, Jim Trotter on piano and Quinn Anex-Ries on saxophone, the group had themselves a pretty solid instrumental section. Showing outstanding harmony with their singing were Taylor Harvey, Katherine Stuber - who also received praise for her scatting - and Savannah Meares.

Up next was a hip-hop song called “Scenario” from A Tribe Called Quest. The 11-member crew had an energy flow throughout the whole performance. “Scenario” isn’t an easy song to master in half a day and despite missing some lyrics and some bringing the lyrics up on stage with them, the rappers sold the performance. The powerful rappers, Casey Barth, Alec Gaston, Chris Borst, Richard Mattox, and Dertrick Winn kept up the energy and got the crowed involved during the performance. Having the supportive instrumental section, with Brandon Combs on drums, Alma Macbride on piano, Evan Philpot on bass, Spencer Gibbs on trumpet, Kristen Castro on guitar, and Danny Wirick on keyboard, also helped with the performance.

Group three, Crop Circle, did Alanis Morissette’s “All I Really Want.” The only group having a violin, played by Kevin Schwarzwald, showed an awesome funky vibe going on. Tara Putorti on bass, Sterling Laws on drums, Giavanna Foster and Taina Spicer on guitar, and Dallas McKinney on keyboard jammed out together. A song full of attitude, the three singers, Sarah Lindstedt, Lena Stein, and Brenna Miles, tried to express the emotion and Brenna successfully portrayed attitude with her short solo in the song.

The number four group to perform also gave themselves a name, The Professor’s Nightmare. Starting with a count off, The Professor’s Nightmare sky rocketed with energy from beginning to end in their performance of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me.” It was a little extra bonus for the crowd when the three singers, Katie Gavin, Christine Jamra, and Ellie Perleberg, introduced each one of their band members - Travis Werling on bass, Brandon Woodward on drums, Mike Harrison on guitar, Michael Arrom on keyboard, and Jake Botts on saxophone. The crowd got into the performance as they swayed their arms to the music.

The last group to perform, Ballistic Nylon, gave a five-star performance of a Red Hot Chili Peppers song. Ballistic Nylon blew the crowd away with a solo intro played by Gunnar Rolfs on guitar. The five singers, Casey Barth, Alec Gaston, Ryan Jarvis, and Richard Mattox, did their part in harmonizing wonderfully together. The instrumental section kept the relaxed, rock flow going with Daniel Oldham on bass, India Pascucci on drums, Tom Wilson on keyboard and a stand-out horn section with Jonathan Huggins on trombone and Jarrod Booth on trumpet.

The concert showed off the unity of the Camp, with the five bands getting their performances together in a day and the Electronic Music Production setting up all the equipment in an equally short time.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Open Mic Night Kicks Off GRAMMY Camp® 2010 By Julian Ring

After arriving from all over the country to the first day of GRAMMY Camp® 2010, 81 high school students filed into the Ground Zero Café on the USC campus for an event known as “Open Mic Night.” The night saw Campers onstage to perform various music styles in front of the entire Camp. What followed was a three-hour extravaganza demonstrating the creative talent and potential of the student body. The Singer/Songwriters were a particularly strong presence, with campers such as Katie Gavin playing well-written original compositions. One performance that stood out was that of Carly Gibson, who played a hard-hitting southern love song featuring harmonics and overhand guitar. John Ryan Jarvis’s solo piece was also an enjoyable, simple listen. As the night progressed, many more campers ventured into the limelight. Brenna Miles amazed the crowd with her near-perfect vocal crooning, accompanied by a solemn piano melody.

However, students in the other career tracks were also represented in full force. For example, campers’ admiration for hip-hop music was made apparent in such energetic performances as those of Electronic Music Production’s Kyleel Rolle and Music Journalism’s Dertrick Winn. And to close out the evening, Guitarist Zaccheus Taylor wowed the audience as he soloed with the members of his combo in a cover of B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone.”

Campers left Open Mic Night exhausted but excited at the amount of sheer talent they witnessed. It was a great way for songwriters and musicians to share their favorite compositions and covers with the rest of the GRAMMY Camp community.

Monday, February 8, 2010

GRAMMY Camp Journalist Nick Arnold - GRAMMY Week Review

It’s the Monday after the GRAMMYs and I can’t believe how many incredible events I have been to in the past week. Let me explain. Last summer, I was lucky enough to have been chosen for 1 of the 6 spots in the music journalism track at GRAMMY Camp. I never imagined that the week I spent at GRAMMY Camp would lead to my being asked to cover this past week’s GRAMMY events as the official high school correspondent for the GRAMMY Foundation. But it did!

Here’s how it all went...

WEDNESDAY, January 27, 2010

On Wednesday evening, I arrived at the Doubletree Inn in Santa Monica for a special performance by the GRAMMY Jazz Ensembles with special guests Mindi Abair, Brian Culbertson, and Boney James. I was happy to see that some of my fellow GRAMMY Campers from last summer had made it into the Jazz Ensembles for GRAMMY week. High school students from all over the country auditioned for this honor, and I believe only 28 were selected. Stiff competition!

I was blown away by the musical sophistication and skill of these teenagers. They were able to handle and master complex pieces, while performing alongside seasoned professionals. Needless to say, the audience was impressed and appreciative. It was a great way to start off the week! Even the guest performers were stunned. "I had no idea what level they would be able to play at, but honestly, I was unbelievably surprised!" (Brian Culbertson)

THURSDAY, January 28, 2010

I had to rise and shine bright and early to check in on the USC campus at the Thornton School of Music for GRAMMY Career Day at 7:30 a.m. The GRAMMY Foundation had arranged panels of professionals from all divisions of the music industry to speak to hundreds of L.A. high school students. There were record producers, entertainment lawyers, music retailers, video game soundtrack composers, DJs, talent managers, you name it. I was excited and a little nervous because I had been told ahead of time that I would be getting an exclusive one-on-one interview with Justin Timberlake. I was the only journalist he agreed to speak to at the event. No pressure there!

Before the panels even began, I waited to be called in. Right before the JT interview was supposed to start, I was thrown a curve ball. I was told that the interview was not just with Justin, but with a couple of his producing/songwriting partners, so I would have to quickly re-write my questions to apply to the whole group. No problem! A guy speaking about 90 miles an hour quickly gave me background information on the other two guys, but it wasn’t until I got into the room with all three that I learned who was with Justin: Rob Knox and James Fauntleroy work with Justin - and the trio call themselves The Y’s.

I won’t recap the interview here, as it’s being published online at : ( but I will say that it went very well. Justin, Rob and James put a lot of thought into their answers and made the conversation easy. By the end of the interview, I wasn’t nervous any more. They were just really professional and open. It made me feel like this week wasn’t going to be so hard or intimidating after all.

After the interview, I went to the Producers’ panel, which featured top record producers, but also artist who also do producing. Jimmy Jam, Keri Hilson, Anthony Hamilton, Eddie Galan and Danja spoke to a full auditorium of kids interested in music careers. They stressed being prepared, not expecting immediate stardom. They emphasized to the kids that you have to work your way up and pay your dues. The students listened attentively and I’m sure they got the message that you have to be realistic, and even if you are talented, you have to work really hard to break into the business.


The GRAMMY Foundation’s 12th Annual Music Preservation Project ——CUE THE MUSIC: A CELEBRATION OF MUSIC AND TELEVISION presentation at the Wilshire Ebell Theater

This was my first red carpet, but it was a friendly event designed to showcase the Foundation's efforts to preserve our musicl hertage, so I wasn’t TOO nervous. The theme of the evening was to showcase the importance of music in television programming. Numerous artists performed famous television themes and iconic TV tunes, and members of the GRAMMY Foundation gave speeches about the relevance of music, not just in television, but in our everyday lives.

On the red carpet before the production, I spoke to mega-successful record producer Jimmy Jam, who said "Music and television go together hand-in-hand. Whether it's Ricky leading the band on 'I Love Lucy', or anything on MTV, or my kids watching “Hannah Montana” and The Jonas Brothers, television has always had so much music in it."

The GRAMMY-winning lead singer from Train, Pat Monahan, was another friendly face on the red carpet. He even complimented my hair! He said his love of music had been influenced by “I Love Lucy” and other popular programs of his youth.

The show was filled with stand-out performances: Colbie Caillat and Jason Mraz dueted on Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe.” Solomon Burke’s delivered a powerful soulful version of “Woke up this Morning,” the theme from “The Sopranos,” from an ornate throne, and got great applause from the appreciative audience. “I Love Lucy” was a recurring theme all night, as GRAMMY winner Jorge Moreno and his band wowed the audience with a blazing bongo-driven rendition of Ricky Ricardo’s signature song, “Babalu”. Melanie Fiona, a rising new R&B star, came out in an elegant dress, looking like a movie star, and charmed the crowd with a sweet, sincere version of Kermit the Frog’s “Rainbow Connection.” Pat Monahan's rendition of The Bugles' classic "Video Killed the Radio Star" brought back nostalgic memories of the days when MTV was brand new. MTV played a vital role in the growth of the music industry, and Pat Monahan had something to say about that. "Without MTV, I don't think music would be as huge as it is today. I watched it all the time growing up." The Fray closed out the show with two of their own songs, most notably, “How to Save a Life,’ which has been featured in numerous television programs, incluing “Grey’s Anatomy," "Scrubs," and "The Hills." The capacity audience seemed to love it all. I went back to my hotel room tired, hungry, and humming those television tunes, which I could not get out of my head.

FRIDAY, January 29, 2010
GRAMMY Rehearsals, Staples Center

Friday were “open rehearsals” for the GRAMMYs, meaning with the proper credentials, media were allowed into the Staples Center to observe rehearsals and interview various artists. The first performance I saw was Maxwell preparing for his duet of “Pretty Wings’ with singing legend Roberta Flack, who joined him on her hit “Where is the Love?” The performance was smooth and moving, even in rehearsals.

The next thing I saw was Green Day’s “21 Guns.” It was not what I expected since the band was joined onstage by the cast of the upcoming broadway adaptation of their album-turned-musical, “American Idiot.” With at least 2 dozen singers joining Billie Joe and his bandmates, the song became an epic performance. The arena was filled with a monumental, palpable energy. After seeing only these two numbers, I was thinking that Sunday’s show was going to be bigger and better than any GRAMMY show I’d seen before.

Next up, The Black Eyed Peas. No surprise that they put on a visually impressive, over-the-top, energetic show. The group were launched onto the stage at the start of the number and proceeded to sing and dance “Imma Be” with their trademark enthusiasm. The number then morphed into “I Gotta Feeling” as more dancers joined them on stage. Both the Peas and their dancers were dressed in wild, futuristic outfits, which I figured could only be surpassed by Lady Gaga!

I’d seen three incredible run-throughs and I felt lucky just to witness such world class performers in action. If that’s all that had happened for the day, it would have been more than great... but then I got to talk to Dave Matthews. The day just kept getting better! I was able to ask him about the inclusion of GRAMMY Jazz Ensemble musicians in his performance of “You and Me” for the Sunday’s show. "Those kids were incredible, and they really came into their own after rehearsing for a while," Matthews told me. "I think the show will be a great place for them to be in the spotlight and show their skills." All this, and it was only late afternoon. I still had another big red carpet event to cover that night:

MusiCares “Person of the Year” gala dinner honoring Neil Young at the L.A. Convention Center

This was a REAL red carpet, with tons of stars arriving constantly. Legends such as Brian Wilson, Jackson Brown, James Taylor, David Crosby, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills stopped and chatted. Newer artists such as Everest, Jason Mraz and Colbie Callait, and Ozomatli also came by.

The “Person of the Year” event is a big annual gala which raises millions of dollars for the GRAMMY Foundation’s MusiCares program, which provides emergency funding to musicians in need. They have a huge silent auction before the dinner in which tons of cool trips, tickets, artwork and signed memorabilia (among other stuff) is bid on by the approximately 2,000 guests. There was a really cool Jeff Beck signature Les Paul up for auction, and I really liked some of the numerous pieces of artwork of honoree Neil Young.

Once the dinner began, so did the music. Every year a variety of artists perform songs originally written and performed by the “Person of the Year” honoree. It was clear that all of the acts on this year’s bill were TRUE fans of Neil Young, as was the emcee, comedic actor AND musician, Jack Black.

One of my favorite performances of the night was Ozomatli’s brass-drenched, latin-influenced version of "Mr. Soul". The Red Hot Chili Peppers rendition of “A Man Needs a Maid,” was an unexpected choice, and was an exciting debut for their previously unconfirmed new guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer. He can not only play incredibly well, but he can sing! Before the Chili Peppers took the stage, I was able to get an exclusive interview with their talented and hysterically funny drummer, Chad Smith. You can read it at:

There were so many other stand-outs... Ben Harper was joined by three female vocalists for an emotional, moving cover of Young’s “Ohio.” The three women were seated next to an also-seated Harper, who accompanied himself and the trio on a steel slide-guitar. It wasn’t one of the raucous numbers of the night, but certainly one of the most beautiful. What WAS raucous was John Fogerty and Keith Urban, along with Booker T, on a blazing version of “Rockin’ in the Free World,” which brought the crowd to its feet. One song which snuck its way into the line-up was one not actually written by Neil Young: a video was played of Jimmy Fallon’s dead on impression of Neil, singing a funny piece called “Pants on the Ground.” The clip has been huge on youtube for a few week, but the laughter was so loud in the room, I suspect that most of the audience had not seen it. Neil was laughing along too, and clearly thought it was funny. Too bad Jimmy Fallon was not there in person...

It’s hard to not mention every single song that was done, because so many of the performances were truly exceptional - but I’ll just mention Crosby, Stills and Nash closing the show with “Human Highway”. It was amazing to see three of Neil's closest bandmates from his entire career perform one of Young's rarities so beautifully. After NARAS President Neil Portnow made a speech about what an inspiration not only Neil Young’s music, but his philanthropy, were, the man himself was called to the stage. He clearly was not expecting to have to speak, but he winged it and managed to be both poignant and funny. He joked that he had forgotten how many good songs he hand written and assured the crowd that he was not done, that he intended to keep on writing and performing. He said when he saw those clips of himself when he was young, he did not even recognize that man. Clearly he enjoyed the night and was appreciative of all the performances. I heard people all around me in the huge hall saying that they had been to many of these MusiCares dinners, and apparently a number of the guests felt that the Neil Young event was the best they had ever been to. That’s pretty high praise.

SATURDAY, January 30, 2010:

The rehearsals were closed to press, but I managed to get a pass to go in as a “civilian,” but not until the evening. The timing was right because I needed to work on getting my Justin Timberlake and Chad Smith interviews written up during the day. Since I knew it would not be appropriate to try to get interviews with any of the artists I saw at closed rehearsals, I decided to just kick back and enjoy the show. When I got there, Stephen Colbert had finished doing the run-through of his portion of the show, but was still watching the rest of the rehearsals with his daughter. I was able to get an introduction, and when he found out that I was going to be on the red carpet before the actual GRAMMY telecast the next day, he pointed to my red and black beanie (which is my signature - I never go anywhere without it on) and asked, “are you going to be wearing that hat?” When I told him I would have it on, he told me he would look for me. I smiled, but didn’t expect too much... but since I am writing this after the fact, I won’t wait until tomorrow’s entry to say that in the media room at the GRAMMY telecast, after he won a GRAMMY for “A Colbert Christmas” he came back to take questions from the press. He saw me and pointed at me, and called out “The Hat, man!” And with that, out of all the reporters in the room, I, the lowly 15-year old, was allowed to ask him a question! See tomorrow’s blog entry to find out more...

Other than my Colbert encounter, I was privileged to see Jeff Beck rehearse his tribute to Les Paul. After that, Lady Gaga and Elton John came onstage, but the producer, Ken Ehrlich (who is so awesome at what he does, and really nice, by the way) asked everyone not working on the show to clear the arena... but I was able to watch the rehearsal from the remote comfort of the sound mixing truck, which was a fascinating experience. About 8 guys were crowded into this trailer, all discussing how to get the very best sound out of the song performance. I was sort of glad they chased me out of the Staples Center or I would not have been able to see that and get a better understanding of what a complicated, collaborative effort it is to put on a show like the GRAMMYs. All during rehearsals, everywhere you looked, there were hundreds of people racing around with walkie talkies, all working to try to make the best show ever. It was a pretty cool thing to see.


This is it. The big day. The 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards. Even though the show tapes at 5:00 p.m. and does not air until 8:00 p.m., I had to be down at the Staples Center to get my place on the red carpet at 11:30 a.m. The Red Carpet opens at noon and lasts until 4:30. You would think maybe nobody would come early, but in fact, Elvis Costello and some other major named did come by before the mad rush of late afternoon. Slowly but surely, once it got closer to be time for the broadcast, bigger artists started floating by on the carpet. I was a new kid, so I didn't expect to be able to attract the attention of many artists or their publicists, but in fact I was able to talk to some of my favorites, including Weird Al, Paramore, and Silversun Pickups.

One of the highlights for me was talking to Alice Cooper, because he has always been one of my heroes, and to talk to the Master of Musical Horror himself was so exciting. I was even more thrilled after I got a chance to ask him some questions and he had complimented me for knowing knowing so much about his most recent album, "Along Came A Spider." I was also able to talk to Rob Halford of Judas Priest, which was pretty cool. And even though I didn’t get to have meaningful conversations or ask them questions, I did get to meet a lot of other artists, including George Clinton, Sugarland, The Lonely Island, Miley Cyrus, Booker T, and more that I can’t even remember now, I am so tired.

Around 15 minutes before the telecast began, the biggest artists came through, including Green Day, Taylor Swift and Rihanna. The publicists protected their artists from the shouting camera crews and reporters, trying to rush along the artists who could not spare a moment of time. They did few (if any) interviews, and passed up almost everybody before heading to the arena to see the opening performance by Elton John and Lady Gaga.

Elton and Gaga's medley was visually and sonically stunning, due not only to the wild costumes and stage displays, but also due to the beautiful blending between these two icons' voices .I watched the show through a television monitor in a remote room in the arena called "the media center." The print division of the media center is a place where writers from publications from all around the country, online and on paper, sit and watch the show, type live reports of any notable news throughout the day (and which there were plenty of them). Basically the reporters all watch the telecast for any surprises. After the winners are announced, some of them come back into the print media room to answer questions. A couple of times I was lucky enough to be chosen to pose questions. As I mentioned in Saturday’s posting, Stephen Colbert remembered having met me, so after he won and came back stage and called on me, I asked him if he had been influenced at all by fellow comedy nominees Spinal Tap and Weird Al. He answered, “Yeah, sure, absolutely. I’ve listened to them for years. I’ve been listening to Spinal Tap for 25 years. I think March 2 is the anniversary. I’m a little bit of a fan.”

After T-Pain came off stage he also picked me to ask a question, but in the end, he didn’t really answer it. I asked him how Slash came to included in the number he did with Jamie Foxx and Doug E. Fresh, but he sort of rambled on about something else, which just goes to show that even if you get called on to ask a question, you won’t necessarily get an answer.

There were as many performances on the telecast as there were awards presented, and both kept people inside and outside of the arena on the edge of their seats. There were many surprised faces in the media center when the Kings of Leon won Record of the Year for "Use Somebody." When Green Day won for Best Rock Album, I know I was more than pleasantly surprised, because there had been too many successful records in that category to make a safe call as to who would win. In my humble opinion, “21st Century Breakdown” never received the critical support or sales success it should have, so I was really pleased for this band. I first went to see them in concert when I was 10 years old, and they are the first group I was truly passionate about. I have learned that it is OK to be a writer AND a fan. I am biased on this one. I was really happy for their win.

Many people have summarized the night’s events so I won’t take up endless space commenting on every single number and award. I will just highlight a few that I really enjoyed: Not surprisingly, I thought Green Day’s collaboration with the cast of the upcoming “American Idiot” musical was very cool. And kust as they had in rehearsals, The Black Eyed Peas came to entertain. They did just that in their performance, nailing every dance move, lyric, and energizing the crowd. Dave Matthews' performance was very smooth and had a positive feeling filled the whole room when he was on. It was really effective how the staging started out with a single spotlight just on Dave, plucking away at his acoustic guitar, but in the end built to a full band with a string and brass section. I was especially happy to watch for the kids with the horns, since they were from the GRAMMY Jazz Ensembles! I thought that was definitely one of the best numbers of the night.

The tribute to Michael Jackson in 3D was very moving, and honored his legacy. I thought Jennifer Hudson, Celine Dion, Smokey Robinson, Usher, and Carrie Underwood all gave impassioned, great performances of their parts for Jackson's classic "Earth Song," in front of the cinematic feature created for his scheduled concerts in the O2 arena. The performance brought many in the audience to their feet, and it seemed that everyone in the arena remembered a time where the king of pop still ruled.

Closing out the show, Eminem, Drake, and Lil' Wayne were a rap group the likes of which the GRAMMY stage had never seen before. Accompanied by Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker, the rap-megastars proceeded to bust rhymes so hard and fast that they were even able to inspire Taylor Swift to stand and move to their beats. Although I will admit that I am not generally a huge fan of their work, I was entertained and captivated by the incendiary performance. SO was the crowd. It was a fitting final performance going into the last awards of the night.

At the end of GRAMMY Week, I look back and wonder how I was able to do it all! I know how lucky I am to have met and spoken to the people I interviewed. I learned so much about what it takes to have a career in music, and what it takes to put on a production the size of the GRAMMYs. Every event I attended was so professionally organized and entertaining. I am in awe of the people who made all of the GRAMMY Week events come together so flawlessly. I am honored to have been selected to not only attend, but participate. I am only 15, and I have already experienced things most people can only dream of… and it all began with GRAMMY Camp! Pretty cool…