Artists want their work to be recognized, and musicians are no different. Every year rock stars, fans, roadies, groupies, technicians, master mixers, producers and the whole of musical fandom tune into the National Academy of Recording Arts and Science’s Grammy Awards.
To many a Grammy represents a coveted milestone in a musician’s career. What the average aspiring musician may not realize is that the first step is down the block at Grammy U. The Recording Academy has thirteen separate chapters spread throughout the country and in each of those offices is a Grammy U program built to give music students their first step into the music industry.
“What Grammy U does is, basically, prepare students for careers in the music and entertainment industry,” says Alex Katz, Grammy U president.
“We actively seek out internships for our members. We have events where we’ll go one-on-one and do Q&A sessions with artists, panels with industry pros, all the way to actually getting into the studio with people and having our members engineer and produce songs in these sessions.”
Katz, longtime program member, has held his presidential position for a just over a month. His involvement with the program has led to many opportunities, such as an internship with Summerfest in Milwaukee, where he helped choose the festival line-up, an opportunity with music licensing company Movement and an internship with the academy, which led to his current position. His responsibilities include organizing events for U members and being a liaison between student and organization.
Katz said the intention of the program is to supplement the education students are already receiving from their school’s music program. Membership extends to two years past graduation, so recent grads can continue to use the many benefits Grammy U affords them, such as access to the Academy’s resources and events.
Recording Academy chapters’ staff our usually small. Chicago only has three dedicated employees in addition to Katz. Sarah Mudler, senior Project Manager, deals with Katz on a regular basis in addition to her duties at the office. She said Grammy U serves a dual purpose for introducing students to the Academy and educating students about the industry. Mudler said having access to something like Grammy U when she was in school would have been huge advantage for her.
“I wish there was something like that I could have been involved in when I was in college because it would have been so much easier to focus as oppose to waiting until you got an internship and realizing you didn’t like something,” Mudler said.
“Its just an easier way to get a glimpse into all these different aspects and all these different job categories and see what fits you the best.”
Katz has taken full advantage of the program’s benefits. In addition to both school work and his presidential responsibilities he plays in his own band. He said organizing all of it can be daunting but he’s glad he has all of these opportunities.
“You have to mix all those together and figure out what needs to be done as a whole,” Katz said. “In addition to that, being a musician, figuring out how that fits in … Its definitely a balancing act, but that’s part of the fun.”
In the end the Katz involvement and the introduction of fresh faces into the academy serves to better the Grammy organization. The artists are nominated and chosen by Academy members. To be a member you have to have six accredited songs on a commercial release or 12 on a digital release. Mudler said involving rising artists now will keep the awards and organization relevant.
“The end-all be-all of it is our show is only as relevant as the people who are voting on it,” Mudler said. “ All the chapters are tasked with that: making sure the taste makers, those people that are making music on any level are getting involved, voting and submitting their product. Getting that message to the college level starts it that much earlier so they know right off the bat.”