Basic Training Comes to LA During GRAMMY Week

Jenay Ross

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

As a freshman who takes the same routes around USC basically every day, walking through campus was different that morning. GRAMMY Camp - Basic Training, hosted at USC’s Thornton School of Music, kick started my GRAMMY Week experience and I was more than excited. While I made my way over to the media check-in, seeing some familiar faces and signs with the unmistakable GRAMMY logo made me feel like I was right back at GRAMMY Camp and ready to work.

Basic Training, which not only happens in LA, but at several schools across the country, is a great sneak peek for high school students to get a taste of the many aspects of the music industry. It is a day for the kids to see the reality of the business, aside from all the glitz and glamour. Basic Training is a far cry from a typical dry educational field trip. The program is filled with a variety of discussion panels and workshops ranging from topics concerning recording engineering, being a singer/songwriter, publishing, to even touring as a musician. The most unique thing about Basic Training is that each panel consists of accomplished music professionals who pursued their passions and made them into their every day jobs. It was their day to inspire kids to chase their dreams and do the same.

Even though I should be used to the great artists and professionals the Recording Academy have at their programs, I’m blown away every time. It’s not every day students have access to hotshot recording artists, producers, and music directors. To name a few, artist Kelly Price, audio engineer Manny Marroquin, and music director Rickey Minor, were there to share their words of wisdom. 

When I was sitting in the media room, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I had been to plenty of past Basic Trainings in San Francisco, but as a student, not someone who got a fancy press wristband. I soon realized I needed to get over my silly nerves, because the talent slowly emerged into the room, ready for one-on-one interviews.

RedOne, nominated for Producer of the Year for his work with Lady Gaga, truly put me at ease. When I was introduced to him, I was ready to stick out my hand for the usual handshake, but instead was welcomed with a friendly hug.

I was able to get in a few questions with several of the talented participants, including artist MOHOMBI and Jordin Sparks, and Glee’s music producer Adam Anders. Each expressed an appreciation for being a part of such a great program where they could share their experiences with a younger generation in hopes of assuring them that anything is possible.

Raised in Congo and Sweden, MOHOMBI was discovered by RedOne in LA and knows the importance of believing in oneself. “Dream Big. You can never dream big enough. The only person who can actually limit your dreams is yourself,” he expressed.

After the one-on-one sessions, I was able to briefly sit in on some of the panels with Rickey Minor at one, up-and-coming singer/songwriter Joi StaRR at another and the extraordinary Jimmy Jam, with his signature suit, hat, and sun glasses, at the last one I briefly popped in and out of. There was a lot of talk about perfecting one’s craft, having a good attitude, going the extra mile, and the importance of self-promotion, especially with today’s social networks.

Basic Training ended with a GRAMMY Jazz Session concert held in USC’s Tutor Campus Center Ballroom. First, Jordin Sparks made an appearance to speak to the students about her involvement with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which raises awareness about hearing loss and helps provide hearing aids for those around the world. “Everyone should have the gift of hearing” said the bubbly and thoughtful Sparks. Starkey gave each participating student the gift of ear plugs to utilize at places where loud music is blasted, such as live concerts.

After the presentation, the GRAMMY Jazz Choir, Jazz Combo, and Jazz Band each performed a couple tunes for students who were the same age as the performers. The GRAMMY Jazz Session is made up of 30 high school students, even one as young as 14, who applied and were chosen for the ensembles after a nation-wide search. What special opportunity were they given? An all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles and the chance to perform at various GRAMMY Week events, including the GRAMMY Awards telecast.

Sponsors like Converse, the Hot Topic Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund and Best Buy are huge contributors to make GRAMMY in the Schools programs, like Basic Training, possible. I was able to witness such philanthropy take place. Best Buy presented the GRAMMY Foundation with a $1.24 million check for their educational programs and they plan to raise more money for 2011. That’s something to celebrate.

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