GRAMMY Camp LA: ‘Be Persistent and Be Prepared’

Our friend, Meghan Brown, wrote this guest blog for Featured News…

GRAMMY Camp! Have you heard of it? It’s an awesome summer camp program that brings high school students together for a 10 day total music immersion.  Last week, I was lucky enough to join  ultra-talented campers at GRAMMY Camp LA and see firsthand how they learn what’s new in the music world from some of the biggest names in the industry. Colbie Caillat, Al Schmitt, a GRAMMY-winning audio engineer and Universal Music Group’s Global Head of Digital Accounts, Amanda Marks, to name a few.

Super Panel participants (from L-R): Singer/Songwriter Tori Kelly, 20-time GRAMMY-winning Audio Engineer Al Schmitt, GRAMMY winner Colbie Caillat, Universal Music Group Global Head of Digital Accounts, Amanda Marks and Singer/Songwriter Christine Albert.

My day started with touring classrooms, where I observed campers in audio engineering, electronic music production, songwriting, vocal performance, music journalism, video production, music business and instrumental performance sessions. I was struck by the students’ knowledge and unwavering focus. You could’ve heard a pin drop in each of the small group discussions where lecturers such as Singer/Songwriter Christine Albert and Audio Engineer Jason R. E. Sears provided career guidance and students asked insightful questions.

In an intimate theater setting, Christine spoke to students in the performance track on the importance of collaboration, and why it’s important to be prepared to open yourself up to feedback shared by producers and colleagues. “There’s usually some point where the producer hears it differently than you do, and that’s a really good thing.”

In the next room, Sears was answering questions about working with the audio crew on NBC’s The Voice when I dropped in. He offered some candid advice about working from behind the scenes in the music business. He mentioned, “You have to be persistent, and you have to know how to deal with people. Believe me, you’re going to deal with egos all kinds.”

Audio Engineer Jason E. Sears speaks with GRAMMY Camp students on the audio engineering track.

As the track-specific workshops came to a close, I walked with the students to a larger auditorium for the annual “Super Panel,” moderated by Scott Goldman, Vice President of the GRAMMY Foundation and MusiCares®. The panel was stacked with industry pros! Panelists included Christine, GRAMMY winner Colbie Caillat, Singer/Songwriter Tori Kelly, Amanda Marks from Universal Music Group and Al Schmitt, a 20-time GRAMMY-winning audio engineer.

The room buzzed with excitement as students recognized the well-known panelists seated at the front of the room. The conversation revolved around how each professional reached their success in the music industry, what skills they had to develop to reach that point and what advice they would give to those starting out in the industry. Two themes emerged during the session: be persistent and be prepared.

When asked by a student what the most important aspect of recording was, Al responded that preparation is key. “Make sure that everything is prepared—you’re not just responsible for knowing your job, you need to know what’s going on with everyone. Know who’s singing what, and what songs are coming up. If I had a down beat at 10 a.m., I was in the studio at 7 a.m.”

This sentiment was echoed throughout the discussion, as Tori and Colbie stressed that being prepared for live shows, TV performances and key discussions with labels was instrumental to their success.

Colbie also spoke to her lessons learned when it came to being persistent about what you believe in, “sometimes the biggest challenge I faced was knowing when to say ‘yes’ to a change, and knowing when to say ‘no.’” She shared that this was especially true when choosing the songs that went on her albums.

My favorite part of the day came at the end, when I had a chance to sit down with a few students who shared their own stories.

Yasamin Ghodsbin, who was back at GRAMMY Camp for her second year on the audio engineering track, found that she was learning just as much as she did last year. “Every guest speaker and workshop focuses on something new and you learn something different.” She also felt that getting a hands-on experience with professional gear was a valuable part of GRAMMY Camp, “we’d never have a chance to use the gear we’ve had a chance to use here, it’s a huge learning experience.”

Video Production student, Jamar Mathieu, was at Camp for his first time, “every day is so educational and exciting—we’re getting real world advice from people who have become very successful doing something we love to do already.”

If you’re a high school student with dreams of working in the music industry, check out GRAMMYInTheSchools.com for application information on GRAMMY Camp 2015, taking place in L.A., Nashville, St. Paul and New York.

—Meghan

Cheryl Jennison DaProza

Cheryl is a Media Relations Specialist at Shure with previous experience in the customer service department. She is also a professional singer involved in several tribute, cover, and original bands in the Chicago metro area. In what little spare time she has between work and music, she can be found reading or hanging out with her parrot. Cheryl’s favorite mic is the KSM9HS and her Twitter handle is @TheUnsungDiva.

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