|Kristen Madsen, Sr. Vice President of the GRAMMY Foundation
and Musicares, speaks at the GRAMMY Foundation's GRAMMY
Signature Schools presentation of its first ever Enterprise
Award at Oxnard High School in Oxnard, Calif.
This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Kristen Madsen, senior VP of the Grammy Foundation and MusiCares.
The lyrics of Faron Young’s 1955 #1 country hit that said—“I wanna live fast, love hard, die young, and leave a beautiful memory”—don’t much impress Kristen Madsen, senior VP of MusiCares, and the Grammy Foundation.
The two charities were founded by the Recording Academy.
The Grammy Foundation is dedicated to cultivating an awareness, appreciation and advancement of the impact of music on American culture.
MusiCares is one of the leading forces in identifying, raising awareness, and addressing the problems of addiction in the music industry.
The fact is that our musical community flourishes in an environment often awash with alcohol and drugs. A long list of musical artists, managers, road crews and recording industry personnel have either been smacked-down, killed, or temporally side-lined by alcohol or drug addiction.
Faron Young, in fact, had one of the longest-running and most popular careers in country music, but he shot himself with a 10 gauge shotgun in 1996. He apparently felt the music industry had turned its back on him. That, and despondency over his deteriorating health, were cited as possible reasons why he took his life.
The tragic health and financial hardships faced by so many members of America’s music industry prompted the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences—now known as the Recording Academy—to establish the MusiCares Foundation in 1989.
The foundation was for music people to have a place to turn, in times of financial, personal, or medical crisis. Its primary intent was to focus the resources and attention of the music industry on human service issues which directly impact the health and welfare of the music community.
In 2004, MusiCares acquired the Musicians Assistance Program (MAP), a similar program assisting musicians in need, including drug rehabilitation that had been founded by jazz musician and former addict, Buddy Arnold and his wife Carole Fields—in 1992.
MusiCares, invaluable to all segments of the music community, provides artists and other music industry professionals who are in need and regardless of their financial condition with a safety net of critical services, including access to addiction recovery, outreach treatment, and financial assistance.
MusiCares' services and resources also include access to emergency financial assistance, leadership activities, and senior housing.
MusiCares has developed the MusiCares MAP Fund as a pool of resources to address addiction and recovery needs. Named for the Musicians' Assistance Program, the fund represents the joint goals of MAP and MusiCares and provides access to addiction recovery treatment and sober living resources for members of the music community regardless of their financial circumstances.
When a call comes into MusiCares, professionally trained staff evaluate the situation, provide crisis intervention if needed, and offer any appropriate referrals to local and national organizations. They review a financial assistance application with the applicant, and go over the approval process with them. Clients are quickly notified what resources are available to them.
Approved financial assistance grants are paid directly to a third party or creditor to ensure proper use of the funds.
In addition, MusiCares staff negotiates lower rates with service providers or creditors to stretch the value of financial resources.
As well, MusiCares’ recovery network service identifies music people who are in recovery and are willing to offer their support to others going through the recovery process. The network consists of individuals nationwide who will provide a touring musician with support via meeting them at an airport, providing hospitality, confidential support and/or transportation to and from a 12 step meeting.
MusiCares’ Emergency Financial Assistance Program tries to provide help to those in need as quickly as possible. This includes assistance for basic living expenses, including rent, utilities and car payments; medical expenses, including doctor, dentist and hospital bills; psychotherapy; and treatment for HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, hepatitis C and other critical illnesses.
Prior to heading up the Grammy Foundation and MusiCares, Madsen served as VP of Member Services for the Recording Academy for eight years.
During her tenure, she oversaw significant growth in the department, including: a doubling of the membership; an expansion of chapter offices from eight to 12; an increase and refocusing of the Academy Grants program from $45,000 to $700,000; and the launch and development of Grammy Fest, a month-long celebration of the Grammys, bringing together the Academy’s Grammy activities with local cultural programs.
From Salt Lake City, Utah, Madsen began her career in arts management, working at the Utah Arts Council where she was a consultant to non-profit organizations on such issues as board development, grant writing, marketing and program development.
In that position, she managed a roster of touring artists, including booking dates, contract negotiations and publicity. She also ran the California Assembly of Local Arts Agencies, a membership association dedicated to ensuring access to public funds for arts programming in local communities throughout Utah.
Madsen also serves on the boards for Grantmakers in the Arts, the Actors Fund, and the Library of Congress' National Recordings Preservation Board.
You oversee two separate non-profit foundations.
The Grammy Foundation focuses on music education, and the preservation of our cultural legacy; sort of (the) future and past. The MusiCares Foundation was established to take care of music people who find themselves in crisis. In some ways, we look at that as musicians’ present. So, we really cover the gamut of music people of all ages and all spectrums of their care.
How many people are there on your staff?
Nine at MusiCares. On the Grammy Foundation side, there are six. For both MusiCares and the Grammy Foundation, there is additional shared staff, including executive, fundraising, publicity and business affairs (personnel).
You work with recovering addicts, and alcoholics. Are you one yourself?
I am not. All of our team on the health and human services side of MusiCares are licensed or credentialed in some related field of social services.
There’s an irony in MusiCares and the Grammy Foundation operating from Los Angeles.
One of the things that make this job so unique is that we are working with these two foundations to make a difference in peoples’ lives, but we get to do it against the backdrop of celebrity, and we get to do it in this very creative environment. It is a pretty interesting dynamic to bring those three (factors) together. The visibility of celebrity is fantastic and, on balance, it is way more positive than anything someone might think would be negative.
You recently had your fiscal year end for 2010.
In 2010, we served more than 2,000 clients with $2.4 million (in resources) but we also serviced 334 (clients) with proactive services; that would mean our Safe Harbor Room, our sober rooms, and a lot of health clinics. We also have dental and medical clinics for mammograms, flu shots and all of that. The total number of clients that we served was over 3,400.
What are the eligibility requirements for MusiCares?
It is pretty simple. You have to show you have made your living in the music industry for at least five years. They don’t have to be consecutive (years) and it doesn’t have to be a good living. If you don’t have five years, but you have credits on six albums, you are eligible. That’s a parallel to the Recording Academy’s membership qualifications, which is where we picked it up. We currently only serve domestic clients, those living in the U.S. We may make an exception here and there.
MusiCares isn’t just for musicians.
No. It’s for the entire eco-system of the music industry. The roadie or the tour manager or the label guy or publisher, everybody is involved in all of this. They also have the same sorts of issues and needs.
There are various tag lines glorifying rock and roll’s drugs and alcohol lifestyle, but Alice Cooper’s line that “You don’t have to die for your music” is straight on.
Alice is one of our MAP Fund honorees, (receiving the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award for his dedication and support of the MusiCares MAP Fund and his devotion to helping other addicts with the recovery process). We also had (Metallica singer) James Hetfield, who said that, “Sex, drugs, and rock and roll is a myth. Don’t believe it.” They are both great supporters and champions of our cause.
In rock, jazz and country, there’s a booze and drugs legacy for young musicians to consider.
With the missions of the Grammy Foundation and MusiCares, we have found an intersection. At the Grammy Foundation, our signature program is Grammy Camp. This is 80 to 100 high school kids from all over the country, who are with us for two weeks, creating, writing, and recording. They end up with this fantastic CD of this wonderful work, but we also do a lot of panel discussions with them.
I’ll never forget that I sat on a panel a couple of years ago with Amy Blackman, who is the manager of (the L.A. Afro-Latin collective) Ozomatli and other bands. At the very end of the panel, the last question, this kid raised his hand, and asked, “What is the hardest thing you have ever done as a manager?” Amy talked about the process of taking so many members of her band through addiction and into recovery, getting them into treatment and what that meant to the band and how hard it was.
That gave me the opening—in a very organic way—to then talk about MusiCares. Remember that these were high school kids in the audience. I said, “Look, you guys want a career in the music industry. We consider addiction to be an occupational hazard of this industry. There are 80 kids in this room. I can guarantee you that there are people here that know people who are addicts or who may have problems themselves. I can guarantee that all of you will be faced with a choice if you pursue this career. You have to pick. It is coming at you. You decide if you want that or don’t want that for your life.”
You can hardly blame parents worrying about the future of their children entering the music business because the industry has such a reputation for addiction.
It definitely does. With the Grammy Foundation, I get so many opportunities to watch these young musicians get the chance to be onstage and play. You watch their faces through the set or the concert or whatever, and you are going to see every emotion. You are going to see that moment of panic when they don’t know what they are doing. You are going to see that moment of “I’m nervous, but I got it.” Sometimes, on every face in every show, you are going to see just pure unadulterated joy. Then, you say to that parent whose kid wants to go into the music industry, “If this kid does it right, and has that career, that expression on their face is going to be part of their everyday. Wouldn’t you want that?”
To me, (my job is) kind of the yin and the yang, because I have both MusiCares, and the Grammy Foundation, both sides of this equation. We’ve got young people we work with. We want them in this industry; we need them in this industry. We need their talent and creativity, and on the MusiCares side, we have to throw down that safety net to say that, “If you trip, let us catch you.”
Kids are very aware today about the potential of addiction.
They are so much savvier than we were because of the onslaught of marketing messages that have come their way. They know all of the mottos, and the slogans about not doing drugs, but, I think, they are a bit smarter about it. I think they are more independent, generally, about making their own choices. So, if we can reinforce with them, through any of our educational programs with people who are their idols saying, “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” that’s a good thing.
MusiCares has gone through a considerable evolution since it began in 1989.
Absolutely. It was a little bit of a rough road to get started, and tough to get people to take some ownership. It was fine to speak intellectually and say, “Gee, we should take care of our own,” but I think that it took time getting folks with hands-on experience to recognize that music people, who had contributed to our remarkable musical legacy that we all enjoy, were really struggling. That we all probably ought to take some responsibility for that, and try to help those people with a charity that takes care of its own. I think that after the first decade or so, people started to know more about (MusiCares).They started to hear stories about what MusiCares meant when we were able to help people, that kind of helped us.
Over the years, the record industry has often condoned the rock and roll image of bad boys doing drugs and drinking excessively. The attitude was, “Hope we get a few records out of this band before one of them dies.”
It is a real Faustian bargain. The people whose livelihood is reliant on making the band happy are the people in the best position to say to them, “You know what? You need to get sober.” That’s always been the rub and a sore spot (in dealing with artists). I think that that is another place that MusiCares definitely has helped. We have been working with many managers over the past decade in trying to pull them together in groups, so they have some support for each other to say, “I’m going through this with my band, give me some advice and consultation about how to do it.”
Do you get a lot of managers seeking help?
We do, definitely.
Being on the road constantly touring is a crazy life.
It is a crazy life. We’ve established a terrific partnership over the past couple of years with the Warped Tour. It culminated this year in our hiring a guy—a former musician and roadie who is sober—to be on the bus for the entire tour. Not only to be a representative of MusiCares for basic emergencies that occur out on the road—like when someone needs a dentist or a doctor to fix his arm, they help us to get the bills to pay for that—but, also to hold 12 step meetings in any location, at any time that it makes sense for anyone who needs it at that moment. As you know being on the road is one of their most vulnerable times, especially if they are freshly sober. Here is someone who was with them the whole time. We think it made a big difference, and we’re delighted to have been able to do that.
[The 12 step program is a set of guiding principles outlining a course of action for recovery from addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral problems. Originally proposed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as a method of recovery from alcoholism, the program was first published in the book, “Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism” in 1939.
The 12 step process involves: admitting that one cannot control one's addiction or compulsion; recognizing a greater power that can give strength; examining past errors; making amends for these errors; learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior; and helping others that suffer from the same addictions or compulsions.]
Some segments of the public—and even within the music industry—have little sympathy for music people, specifically musicians, down on their luck. The attitude is “These guys were once wealthy, and they blew it.” In some cases, that’s true.
I would say that in the industry there is not indifference, because folks are too close to (these) people and recognize that, “This could be me tomorrow” for whatever reason. In the general public, that’s absolutely a misconception that we have to fight against. As we talk about trying to do work to help music people in hard times, of course, the people that the public thinks of are the name artists that are selling out arena shows. You have to remind them that this (client) may be your neighbor down the street, who has been seeing piano students every half hour, every afternoon, week after week, who is in trouble here.
Some of the music industry people—even the artists—never got near the big money in their careers. Recording contracts decades ago had minuscule royalties or artists weren’t paid. The public rarely considers that.
I think that’s right. What the public doesn’t know about the business of the industry allows for that misconception you mention to perpetuate.
With the cutbacks and consolidations throughout the music industry in the past decade, there are now more people in dire need.
That’s right. The past couple of years have been a challenge for MusiCares. For the past decade, the music industry was ahead of the rest of the world in economic downsizing. So, we were already seeing increases in the numbers of people that were coming our way because of job issues, losing their job etc. But, in these past two years, when the rest of the world also collapsed, we certainly saw a real upturn in the number of people coming to us. The reason was that they had no job security anymore.
So, we have had to evaluate, and change some of what we’ve done and work on, when we can, job retraining. Our resources didn’t necessarily grow within that time period. We have had to look to how to stretch those resources. So we double-downed on our work with other social organizations. We work harder to try to negotiate reduced bills where we can. We make sure that our money is still going out the door to these clients, but we are trying to do more with less—as is everybody—and yet not turn away any qualified client, which is a claim that we have made from the beginning, and a claim that we can proudly stand on.
When MusiCares began, it was as an augmentation to alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs that some of the music labels had in place, as well as the Musicians Assistance Program, a similar program assisting musicians. MusiCares has since become the music industry’s core program.
I guess that I’m not familiar with programs at the labels. That probably came before my time, if they existed. There are two notable exceptions. One is certainly the Motown/Universal Music Group Fund (that provides grants for financial assistance to R&B recording artists formerly affiliated with Universal Music Group, or any of its wholly owned labels) established by Motown and Universal Music Group, that still continues for the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.
There was another organization, as you mentioned, that came parallel to MusiCares, the MAP Fund that Buddy Arnold founded, which definitely had label support.
MusiCares has really enjoyed continuing support from the record labels financially, whether it has been through buying tables and participating in our "Person of the Year" event, or our "MusiCares MAP Fun" events, or sometimes straight contributions. Hopefully, that will continue.
Even against (label) consolidation, the lay-offs, and the cutbacks, we feel that we have had continued and on-going support from not just the labels, but the rest of the traditional music industry as well, from publishing, promotion, and the concert touring (sectors). However, MusiCares has not sat around, and thought that (support) is going to be there either.
[Tenor saxophonist Buddy Arnold’s career was compromised at times by prison terms and drug abuse. He played in bands led by Joe Marsala, Georgie Auld, Herbie Fields, Buddy Rich, George Williams, and Claude Thornhill in the 1940s. After studying music and economics at Columbia University, he toured with Buddy DeFranco, Jerry Wald, Tex Beneke, Stan Kenton, and Neal Hefti. In 1958, he was imprisoned for attempted burglary. After his sentence ended, he played again with Kenton, as well as with Tommy Dorsey.
In the 1980s, Arnold was again imprisoned. Following his release, he and his second wife, Carole Fields, established the Musician's Assistance Program (MAP) in 1992, dedicated to helping performers seeking drug and alcohol treatment. In 2004, MusiCares acquired the Musicians Assistance Program in 2004, following Arnold’s passing the year earlier of complications following open-heart surgery. He was 77.]
MusiCares also partners with organizations like the Blues Foundation, the Actors Fund At Lillian Booth Home, In The Rooms, and so many others.
We work hard to make sure that if we have a client that we know also qualifies for assistance from any of those other organizations, that we can then connect and partner them up so the money that we have can go farther with those other organizations chiming in as well.
Does the economic downturn continue to impact your work?
Absolutely. The reality of the economy has been shocking, and startling to all of us. However, we are delighted and surprised that after we went through with our own series of cutbacks, evaluations and scaling back, what we could accomplish the year (the 2010 fiscal year) after the immediate crisis. We were very happy in both years (2009 and 2010) to end with a bit of a surplus.
Granted, it was at a different scale than we might have been doing a few years prior, but it also evidenced to us that the core of what we were doing, and the core of the people that were supporting us, that there were some green shoots. There were conversations that we were having in 2007 and 2008 that just went cold and were on hold for all of 2009, but came back in 2010.
Some (programming) just got postponed and delayed. We are not imagining that anything is going to change for our 2011 year. We are still being very conservative, because we know what people are facing out there. But we are hopeful that we will still manage to keep our head above water, and we are being vigilant about making sure that any potential new players in the music world are sitting at our table.
You can’t just rely on the old models of fundraising anymore.
Nobody can. So, we are bringing in the people from retail and technology—whatever that technology might be—and people from other industries, like publishing. We are also finding that corporate interests, which have picked up their attraction to using music to market what they are doing, have also picked up on cause-related marketing. Having the Grammy Foundation, and having MusiCares part of a corporate marketing plan with music, is something of interest to folks who may not have been interested a few years ago.
Fundraising is a big part of your job?
Absolutely. It’s the way of a non-profit organization. We are in the business of helping people who share the values of our mission. Write a check. Give us money out of your own pocket to do the work that we do. That’s one of those things that also makes us raise our accountability standards as high as we can. We recognize that this is other peoples’ money that we are using here. We need to make sure that we use it wisely, and are good stewards of it.
How do you pick MusiCares Person of the Year?
There is a long list of potential people. It gets bigger every year as musicians do even more wonderful things. As artists achieve success in their careers, they also do wonderful humanitarian things. (The choice) really comes down to the right place, and the right time for that particular year. What’s going on with the musician at that moment? Is this a place in time in his or her career that they feel comfortable receiving this kind of an award? Will they be in town? Are they willing to help us raise this money by trading on their terrific name, values and good works in the community? All of those (factors) come into play.
[Barbra Streisand is being honored as the 2011 MusiCares Person of the Year at its 21st annual benefit gala on Friday, Feb. 11, 2011, two days prior to the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards. Streisand is being honored in recognition of her renowned creative accomplishments as well as her philanthropic work. Proceeds from the dinner and concert honoring Streisand will provide essential support for MusiCares. David Crosby, Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Cole, Gloria Estefan, Tony Bennett, Quincy Jones, Phil Collins, Elton John, Sting, Luciano Pavarotti, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Don Henley, and Neil Young are among those who have also been honored by MusiCares since 1991.]
How much are the tickets for the Barbra Streisand gala?
They range from $1,250 for an individual ticket up to, I think, we will have a $7,500 ticket.
The Emergency Financial System Program, where people are coming to you when they are really in trouble, that must be their last resort.
Yes. And they do often come to us at the last resort, because there is such unnecessary, but also inevitable, shame about saying, “I can’t do this on my own.” One of the centerpieces of MusiCares’ confidentiality is to make sure that people understand that if they come to us, that they and we will be the only people that will know about it.
For those with drug and/or alcohol problems, what are the steps that MusiCares takes once they come to you?
By the time they come to us, that signals they are ready or close to ready (for treatment). By the time they pick up the phone and call, or someone gets them to pick up the phone call, we know they are at least willing to do that. Our immediate action is to find a place for them to go into treatment that we hope will be the right place. Some times that means, “You want proximity? You want to be near at hand?" Sometimes, you want them to get out of the environment of where they are. Sometimes, the budget may have something to do with it.
We have a terrific network of treatment centers all over the country that are used to us calling on a moment’s notice. We try to find a bed for those guys to get to. We let them know that we will cover the costs because, often times, that is the stumbling block (to seeking treatment). People can use that as a reason not to go. To say that we have a bed, and we can pay for it, that tears down all of the standard objections to going into treatment. After that, we have programs for sober living, whether it’s (the Addiction Recovery Support Group) in a local (chapter) where we are hosting 12 step weekly meetings that we do in about six locations around the country, or we can help them get into a sober living facility, if that is what is called for.
A component to addiction recovery is group support. Men look at addiction differently than women. Also, people may feel more comfortable being in the same gender group.
Absolutely. We also see differences in how people address any kind of a social issue based on gender. We launched an initiative this past year with women in recovery because the statistics for women needing help and then seeking help are shockingly low at 8%. I’m here to tell you that men are not (seeking help) in fantastic numbers either. They are barely into double digits. But, we felt like there were reasons around that. We need to be conscious about that (gender issue), not only for the work that we do in addiction recovery but also in all of our health and human services. To make sure that people in all circumstances recognize that we are here for them, and we can provide service based on what it is that they need.
You may have someone with financial problems or they may be having alcohol or drug problems. What’s common is that these people don’t want others to know about their problems. Not only because of the shame, but because they may not be hired in the industry again.
That’s right. People are afraid of being that guy that someone says, “I don’t want you to work for me anymore.” We all know the reasons why people have been laid off and the cut backs that have occurred, but people don’t want to be that guy, and they just don’t want it to be known.
MusiCares also provides addiction recovery support through its Safe Harbor Room program.
Safe Harbor Rooms, and the support group meetings that we put together, are really tried and true elements that come out of the tradition of Alcohol Anonymous. Safe Harbor Rooms are about making sure that folks have the chance to reinforce their sobriety all of the time, but especially when they are feeling low or are tempted or vulnerable.
People are not only with others who will have walked down their addiction road before them, these are also folks who understand the industry and (understand) the specific Devil in this industry that might grab hold of people if they are not guarding against it.
It is the kind of routine and schedule of reminding themselves of, “I’m sober. I made it through another day. Here are people that know my experience. They have walked in my shoes. They are here to support me.” That has become one of the cornerstones of sobriety.
When we do the Safe Harbor Room at a music event, not only are all these people here with others, knowing their specifics and their issues, but they are in that environment that may have contributed to their becoming an addict in the first place. So let’s find this “safe harbor,” this place of calm, quiet, and sober rest for them to step away from that; and remind themselves why they are sober and why that’s what they want.
[MusiCares established its first Safe Harbor Room backstage at the 39th Annual Grammy Awards telecast in 1997 to provide a support system to artists and crew members struggling with addiction issues. MusiCares has since expanded the Safe Harbor Room program to include other leading award shows, and key music industry conventions.
Staffed by qualified chemical dependency and intervention specialists, the Safe Harbor Room offers a support network to those in recovery while they are participating in the production of televised music shows and other major music events.]
For someone to go into a Safe Harbor Room for the first time must be like coming out of the closet.
Well, that’s a really good point. We certainly advertise the Safe Harbor Room (at events), and its location backstage, but there’s not an enormous neon chaser light there. The Safe Harbor Room has been very successful. A lot of the guys that are (regulars) in the Safe Harbor Room, or bring folks with them, are people that are very open about their sobriety. But, there’s always a handful (of people) every time that it’s a little bit fresh or new for them. We just want to make sure that (sober) environment is there, and that they are willing to give it a shot.
MusiCares was highly visible in 2005, providing aid to the musicians of the Gulf Coast Region after the hurricane disasters of Katrina and Rita. MusiCares was also a key player in relief aid following the flooding in Nashville last year.
We committed to put $1 million in for hurricane relief for Katrina and Rita. That grew to $4 million because people remembered that MusiCares is a charity for music people. When you thought about New Orleans, you thought about music. It cemented that MusiCares is a charity that deals with the music industry. The partnership with Gibson (The Gibson Foundation) was to put musical instruments back in the hands of musicians. These are people who not only lost their life blood, but they lost their sustenance—their work. So to be able to go over to Musician’s Friend and order whatever the replacement instrument is, and we’ll pay for it, was most gratifying (for us to do).
Before the Grammy Foundation and MusiCares, you were in member services at the Recording Academy.
I was. For about 7 1/2 years. I ran the membership division of the Recording Academy. I started on this side (the Grammy Foundation and MusiCares) in August, 2003. I started the year that Buddy and Carole passed away. That was a tragic time. It was also a moment where MusiCares and MAP could come together, perhaps, in ways that they couldn’t previously.
After Buddy passed away, the folks at MAP got together with MusiCares, including Neil Portnow (president of the Recording Academy), to see if some kind of merger was possible. I ended up working with Dave Adelson (a MAP board member at the time), and (entertainment lawyer) John Branca and Neil. We put the deal together. As part of the merger, we all felt like there was a name value that MAP had established that was important, and valuable to continue. It was also a way to honor the tremendous heart that Buddy had put into this work.
MusiCares then pooled together all the funds that we were then spending on addiction recovery, and blended them with MAP's assets for the MusiCares MAP Fund, which continues today. We put any money that is raised specifically for addiction recovery into that fund.
It’s been a great thing for MusiCares to have those two organizations come under one umbrella. The people associated with MusiCares that formerly were associated with MAP are remarkable. John Branca was the anchor between the two organizations. He came over as a new board member for MusiCares off of the MAP Fund board, and went on to become the chairman of MusiCares. We also acquired the longtime and beloved MAP employee Wynnie Wynn, who has been a real gain for MusiCares.
[John Branca currently serves as Chairman of MusiCares. Earlier this year, he was also named Chairman of the MusiCares Capital Campaign to create an endowment for MusiCares.]
You’re from Salt Lake City, Utah. Was music part of your life growing up?
I probably began my concert-going career at the Salt Palace. I saw David Cassidy, then Lynyrd Skynyrd, then James Taylor. This was my intro in going out to hear live music.
You went to the University of Utah?
I was a music major. I thought I was going to be a concert pianist, but I ended up discovering that I wasn’t going to be a concert pianist. I didn’t really want to be a teacher. I discovered that there was a career in arts management. I worked for the state’s art council in performing arts touring. Through a jury process, we would select 30 artists in all of the performing arts—theatre, dance and music. Then, they would be on our roster which would make them eligible for subsidized support to tour the state of Utah. The goal was to get good quality art across all corners of the state, no matter how big or small the community was.
We did a lot of local Utah performers, but each year, we saved a chunk of the budget for out-of-state touring artists in order to bring in other arts, and make sure that the citizens of Utah had access to good quality art from all over. We had the Western Opera Theater, the professional touring company of the San Francisco Opera Center; the Modern Mandolin Quartet; the Turtle Island String Quartet; Cephas & Wiggins, two old blues players; and Queen Ida.
How did you come to work at the Recording Academy?
I was in San Francisco, and I had been working in non-profit arts management for my whole career. I thought that I might see if I could transition over to the full-profit sector. Music is what I really wanted to do. I wanted to get closer to music than I currently was. I heard Michael Greene, (then president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences) give a speech. It raised my awareness of the Grammy Awards. So, I thought “What about the Grammy Awards?” At the time, I thought it was a for-profit organization. It took me about five months of writing letters, and calling everybody I knew or I could think of that possibly had a connection with this organization (to be hired). I think that finally they were so tired of hearing from me that they said, “Get her over here because we can’t have any more letters.”
What was your impression of attending your first Grammy Awards in 1996 at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles?
Imagine the little girl from Salt Lake City, Utah being at her first Grammy show. It was one of the years informally called, “The Year of the Women.” A lot of women had big hits that year, including Alanis Morissette.
[In 1996, Canadian Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill” won four Grammy Awards: Album of the Year, Best Female Rock Vocal Performance (“You Oughta Know”), Best Rock Song (“You Oughta Know”), and Best Rock Album. Since its release "Jagged Little Pill,” featuring the confessional hits “You Oughta Know,” “Hand In My Pocket,” “Ironic,” and “You Learn” has sold over 30 million albums worldwide.]
What are some of other Grammy Foundation programs, other than education?
Education is mostly about high school kids. There are 12 (Recording Academy) chapters around the country and we work nationally with those (education) programs. We also provide some funding to high school music programs that are being maintained against all odds.
The other key program at the Grammy Foundation is that we work to preserve our cultural legacy—the stories, and the sounds that have been built upon for years and years to come to where we are today in music. We have a grant program where we provide funds to people who have collections that need to be archived, cataloged. or even preserved—transferred from a vulnerable format onto something more stable.
We have a Living Histories program. This is a series of about 200 videotaped interviews with the pioneers and the legends in the music industry telling their stories in their own words. It is a terrific archive. We use those interviews wherever we can to get the word out, and to remind young people that there was something before yesterday. They have access to the music, so why not give them access to the stories (behind the music)? Also, for those who have told those stories, or lived through that (history,) we celebrate and recognize the commitment and contribution that they made to our culture.
You sit on Library of Congress' National Recordings Preservation Board.
In 2000, the Recording Academy was very involved in what was nicknamed the “Grammy Bill,” which was building a National Recording Registry to parallel what existed then as a film registry. Once we got the enabling legislation, the Library of Congress could then induct into the recording registry the recordings of the greatest significance over a period of time. If you go onto the Library of Congress website, and type in National Recordings Registry it will pull up all of the inductees for every year since.
[The 2000 legislation followed the successful National Film Preservation Act, enacted in 1988 to preserve the U.S.’s disappearing film heritage. The new legislation called for the establishment of a National Recordings Preservation Board to assist the librarian of Congress in choosing recordings to be included. The board includes recording artists, members of Congress, experts in audio preservation, and other representatives of the music industry.]
The Library of Congress preserves the master of recordings chosen?
That’s the goal. If the copyrights are clear—that’s an issue, obviously—and if they can have access, the goal is to have a preservation copy of those recordings.
Has it shocked you what has been not preserved over the years?
There is a massive amount of material out there. What is shocking is the reality that some (recordings) can’t be found, or the wonderful discovery of, “Oh, look, someone opened the box, and look what’s here.”
Many important recordings have been lost or have become unplayable since the introduction of recorded sound in the late-19th century. Many others are at risk of becoming lost.
That is definitely a tough scenario. The Grammy Foundation is one of the few agencies that continues to fund preservation work. We work together with the Recording Academy, our partner, to make sure that the standards are up to date. For a long time everybody said, “Let’s make everything digital, and that will last forever.” Ho-ho. Now, we need to make sure that these new technologies that we are using not only last but the technology for playback will exist in 10 and 20 years from now. It was a big hornet’s nest, and it is getting larger in some ways.
What archival preservation has the Recording Academy done of its own legacy?
Leading up to our 50th anniversary two years ago, the Recording Academy brought new people on staff and developed a good program to go through everything that we had in our archives. For the television shows, we had to make sure that we had access to master copies to all of those because we did not have our hands on where all those were. We now have every (show) but the first year.
[The first Grammy Award telecast took place on the night of November 29, 1959, as an episode of the NBC anthology series “Sunday Showcase,” which was normally devoted to plays, original TV dramas, and variety shows. The 53rd Grammy Awards will take place on Feb. 13, 2011 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. It will be broadcast on CBS.]
Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record. He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times.
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