On Wednesday as part of the GRAMMY Camp Media Team, I attended two GRAMMY Week events in Los Angeles, GRAMMY Camp - Basic Training in the morning, and GRAMMY in the Schools Live! in the evening.
Despite hosting over 700 students and countless music industry professionals, GRAMMY Camp - Basic Training had just a few powerful messages for its attendees: work hard, be true to yourself, and don't take no for an answer.
A sort of educational music business summit, GRAMMY Camp - Basic Training brought together students from Los Angeles-area high schools and artists, producers, songwriters, entrepreneurs, engineers, and more for a day of music and career exploration.
"I always hear people say, 'I'm waiting for my big break,'" songwriter and producer Jimmy Jam said to students during a panel. "I want you to take the word 'waiting' out of your vocabulary. You should be saying, 'I'm preparing for my big break.'"
Jam was joined by "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" music director Rickey Minor, singer/songwriter and "American Idol" contestant Didi Benami, and songwriter and producer Evan Bogart, among others.
Bogart stressed originality and honesty as key to succeeding in the music industry.
"You have to be open and honest with your partnership and with yourself," Bogart said. "Not all work is good work, but standing for who you are as an artist is smart work."
Several sessions featured unique participation by both panelists and students. One, which featured an array of music directors, producers, and instrumentalists, concluded with a rousing performance of singer/songwriter and "American Idol" contestant Lacey Brown's hit "Let It Go." Another on music production included a contest to find the most talented singer in the room. Lots of shouting and cheering ensued.
The final event of the day was an hour-long performance by members of the GRAMMY Camp - Jazz Session.
Perhaps Kevin Ricard, a percussionist, summarized the theme of Basic Training best:
"Be versatile and make yourself marketable," he said. "Create a pathway for yourself. Being single-minded about what you want to do will lead to a career."
The third annual GRAMMY in the Schools Live! brought together GRAMMY-winning artists and the next generation of musical talent for a spectacular concert to benefit GRAMMY in the Schools and its programs at the University of Southern California.
The GRAMMY Camp - Jazz Session big band, under the direction of Manhattan School of Music's Justin Dicioccio, began with a jaw-dropping set that covered everything from Dizzy Gilespie to Count Basie. The GRAMMY Camp Alumni Band then took the stage to play three songs, which included an electrifying cover of Janelle Monáe's "Tightrope."
Current nominee Terri Lyne Carrington and last year's Best New Artist winner Esperanza Spalding performed a diverse selection with members of the GRAMMY Camp - Jazz Session combo and choir. Spalding's ability to simultaneously play complex basslines and sing mesmerized the audience.
Spalding said jazz music was fitting for the purpose and theme of the event.
"The culture of the music is community," Spalding said. "We want to illuminate that reality. I'm so glad that [GRAMMY in the Schools] is here. It's an experience I couldn't get at home."
Spalding also noted the strong influence Carrington had on her as a musician.
"There would be no Esperanza Spalding without Terri Lyne," Spalding said. "Everything she does is something that hasn't been done before."
The evening was capped with a rousing performance by Anthony Hamilton and students in GRAMMY Camp - Jazz Session. A journey through hits hits, including "Charlene" and "Woo," had the audience on their feet.
"Education and practice are really important," Spalding said. "These programs are great for students to strive for."
Julian Ring is a GRAMMY Camp music journalism student who was selected to cover GRAMMY Week 2012 as part of the GRAMMY Camp – Jazz Session media team. To find out more about GRAMMY Camp and to apply for this summer, go to GRAMMYintheschools.com. Deadline is March 31, 2012.