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On October 26, 2011, thirteen thousand fans gathered in the heart of Austin at the Frank Erwin Center to watch the sold-out (in a matter of minutes) concert by GRAMMY-winning artist, Taylor Swift for her Speak Now world tour. Taking place before the curtain call was an exclusive event for local high school and college students, presented by the GRAMMY Foundation and The Recording Academy Texas Chapter, GRAMMY Camp – SoundCheck With Taylor Swift. Twenty-five GRAMMY University Network students and high school students from Bowie, Harker Heights, and Temple High School were selected to go behind the scenes of the 2nd largest production next to U2’s world tour show, observing Taylor Swift’s sound check, getting a backstage tour, and participating in Q&A sessions with Taylor as well as tour manager, Robert Allen, and sound engineer, David Payne. The event concluded with Taylor generously giving the students tickets to her show, with her tour manager explaining that after getting the inside look on the pre-production, it’s necessary to see the end result!
We thought that there would be no better way to describe the day’s events than to hear it directly from a student who was able to participate and be impacted by the experience. Below is high school student and GRAMMY Camp alum Dertrick Winn’s recap of the magical day:
As we huddled into the floor seats of the soon-to-be-packed auditorium, we were greeted by Taylor Swift during her sound check, while she was performing GRAMMY Award winner Shawn Colvin’s song “Sunny Came Home,” for a secret performance Swift sang with Colvin, whom she called her “songwriting hero.”
Following the sound check, we were taken to Taylor’s T Party Room, where she invites select fans to eat pizza and hang out after her show, for a Q&A session about her music career. During the Q&A session, Taylor’s humorous and energetic spirit kept everyone laughing and having a good time. She was very easy to talk to and answered great questions about her musical inspirations, her background in theater, and how her fans motivate her to continue performing at her best. Students asked questions about her songwriting process, her favorite part about being a recording artist, and how she felt about winning a GRAMMY for Album of the Year at such a young age (which she deemed as her biggest accomplishment to date). We even got to talk to the tour manager and sound engineer about their roles on the tour, and how they started their careers.
Following the Q&A was the backstage tour. The students were led to the tour’s wardrobe room, introduced to the video crew, and invited to Taylor’s catering area. The backstage tour ended right behind the stage, which held the giant magical story of Swift’s Speak Now tour that was to unfold that night. This set, we were told, required 21 buses to transport the tour, and an additional 13 buses for Taylor’s band mates and crew members. With Taylor’s music in mind, and such a large group of participants on board, the show was sure to be a magnificent experience.
Then, it was the main event! Taylor Swift’s sold-out concert at the Frank Erwin Center was filled with a number of stunning visual effects. Her stage included spontaneous sparks, fireworks, dancing couples hanging from the ceiling, and falling snow during her performance of “Back to December”. Taylor Swift’s opening acts David Nail and NeedToBreathe gave electrifying performances, preparing Taylor Swift’s fans for a great night of music. Taylor’s set had 23 wardrobe changes and a handful of equally stunning guitars, a banjo, a piano, and a ukulele. After nearly 4 hours of music, Taylor Swift and her tour took a bow, leaving the stage and a jam-packed arena of screaming fans.
This event helped me realize that all artists are people, no matter how famous they are, and it was great to see how cool of a person Taylor is. I appreciate her music more than ever. The event inspired me to continue pursuing a career in the music industry; that it is possible to make it if you work hard and surround yourself with people that are really enthusiastic about what you do. Another thing her tour manager said that struck home with me is that the music industry is a business of lucky breaks—you have to be in the right place at the right time since you never know when or where a great opportunity will present itself. You have to get out there, get active, and never take no for an answer.
I’m still in high school, so it was cool seeing all the college students who enjoyed music also! GRAMMY U is an awesome program and it's just another great reason to make education a priority.
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