Tuesday, July 12, 2011

GRAMMY® Camp's Creativity Panel Inspires and Surprises By Ben LoPiccolo

"What is creativity?" began Tom Sturges at the start of GRAMMY® Camp's creativity panel, held at the Carson Soundstage at USC's Thornton School of Music. Joining the head of Creative Publishing for Universal Music was Lamont Dozier, partly responsible for shaping Motown's iconic sound and penning an incredible 64 number one hits, and Candice Nelson, one-fifth of songwriting/production collective The Clutch, recently most recognizable for working with artists such as Britney Spears and Mary J. Blige. For the next two hours, the panel offered some valuable insight to campers regarding the creative process in writing and presenting an admirable finished product.

Throughout the session, one point that was stressed the most was the endless amount of possibilities there are to start the flow of a new song. Sturges introduced several thinking exercises, ("What is ____," "10 things to do with a _____") while Dozier inspired the group with his views on being a conscious listener. Talking about "eavesdropping on the world," he revealed that his "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch" hook actually came from memories of his flirtatious grandfather talking to young women outside of his family's beauty shop. Nelson added to the conversation with her experiences on collaborating with artists of differing genres, stating that she prefers to immerse herself in the type of music for a few days before she begins to write. Having different perspectives on many types of situations turned out to be especially helpful to each student, seeing as multiple styles of work ethic had already become clear in the first three days of Camp.

From that point, the panel was open to Camper questions, a good deal regarding the difficulties that being creative poses. "There's no such thing as writer's block, that just means you're lazy!" Dozier joked during a response. "I may take a break, but the song will stay in the back of my mind, and I'm always working." The comment aroused a few laughs, but his staunch philosophy proved to have paid off -- the charts don't lie! "If you're going to be creative, you've gotta hear what's out there," Mr. Sturges continued, revisiting Lamont's theory. "We're not just talking about songwriters or symphonists, we're talking about any creative field."

As if the three visitors' input wasn't enough, Sturges introduced a surprising twist: his two colleagues would take to the piano and craft a song for the entire Camp to listen. After some student involvement, a collective decision was made for the tune to, in theory, be written as a duet for Beyonce and Ray Charles. Dozier immediately began plinking chords while Nelson hummed on top, quickly creating a melody while their audience watched in awe. Minutes later, lyrics began to surface, the two trading off lovelorn lines that eventually arrived at an infectious, soul-drenched hook. "Lonely since you've been gone / Please come home," they crooned, playing their last note to a standing ovation. Ending the night with some industry insider hints from Sturges, the panel left each Camper inspired and ready to begin the composition of their own original songs the next day.

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