Getting to Know Grammy U

While the Grammy Awards might be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Recording Academy, the organization supports the professional musical community in a variety of ways. For example, its Advocacy and Government Relations office in Washington, D.C. represents the rights of music industry professionals in Congress, while the Producers and Engineers Wing develops and promotes technical standards and guidelines. Meanwhile, humanitarian issues are handled by MusiCares, which provides assistance to people in the industry who are struggling through medical, financial, or personal troubles (such as an event like Hurricane Sandy).

As a music educator, I am continually impressed by the organization’s student outreach through Grammy U. This important level of membership in the Recording Academy creates educational, networking and performance opportunities that are designed to help prepare college students for careers in the industry. To find out more about Grammy U, I spoke with Nancy Shapiro, Vice President of Member Services at the Recording Academy.

How long has Grammy U been active?

About six years. The Recording Academy felt that the next generation of music makers and music business professionals could really benefit from a program such as this. And we, in turn, felt that music professionals could benefit from listening and interacting with this demographic of young people.

It’s an interactive process where students gain access to professionals in the music business and we’re able to hear their voice and their thoughts, which helps guide us into the future.

Does each regional chapter run its own program?
We have student reps and campus reps all over the country that work out of their chapters, but it is coordinated nationally.

Grammy U is not a separate organization. It’s a classification of membership of the Recording Academy. The Recording Academy has voting members— the professionals that make the recordings. We have associate members, which are those professionals that don’t necessarily have enough credits to be voting members. For example, managers, publishers, and label executives are associate members. Then we have student members. And that’s Grammy U.

It costs $25 a year for Grammy U membership. Or, a student can pay $50, which will cover them until they graduate. Most of them do that.

How has the feedback been for Grammy U?
It’s been great. We’ve just had a Grammy U Soundcheck in Memphis with Justin Bieber. Not only did the students learn a lot because he is their contemporary, but the feedback we got was that Justin loved interacting on a professional level with people his own age. It was a great session.

That’s just one example. We have Grammy U Soundchecks with artists in every genre. When they come to a city, we make sure that our Grammy U students have an opportunity to go to the soundcheck and have a Q&A with the artist, the road manager, and the team behind the artist. And those have proven to be very valuable to the students as well as the artists. That’s what’s so great about Grammy U: it’s valuable on both sides of the fence.

What other events does Grammy U run?
We have high-profile advisory boards in every chapter city, and we do a lot of board interaction. In other words, “Up Close and Personal with an A-List producer,” or “Up Close and Personal with an A-List Engineer.” Or we may have a networking event such as the Grammy Block Party, where Grammy U students get to interact with professionals. So these events can include anything from a professional development event where you sit down and have a panel, or you might just have an “Up Close and Personal” with one key person, or it might be a networking event where you get to meet and interact with many industry professionals.

What sort of plans do you have for future development?

We will be announcing soon that we are hiring an executive director for Grammy U, because it has grown exponentially and continues to grow at a rapid rate. So we are building our staff to accommodate this. It’s a very important segment of our membership, and we will be announcing expansion plans shortly.

After six years, we’re starting to see our Grammy U members come into our voting and associate membership classes after they graduate. And we’re starting to see some of those people enter into our elected leadership on our boards across the country. So what started out as a theory, that these students would find value in the program, turned into not only the students finding value, but the recording academy finding value in the next generation of music makers entering into the different categories of membership and even voting on the Grammys. They’re among the brightest stars in our membership. We connect to them at 18 and they’re continuing their membership after graduation, which is a great thing. These students who initially showed an interest in pursuing music as a career are in fact coming into the music business.

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