MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry hails as one of the top music programs in the country – and rightfully so. The program has an amazing history of successful alumni who’ve gone on to do amazing things in the music industry thanks to the help of some remarkable professors. And those very same professors have provided me and five other recording industry students the opportunity to go out to Los Angeles for three days to experience the professional music industry in the midst of music’s busiest week – Grammy Week.
Thursday, February 7
Our day started early – at 5 a.m., in fact – at the airport where we met our lovely chaperone, Professor Matthew O’Brien. As soon as we landed in Los Angeles, we hit the ground running. Per O’Brien’s request, we started off our trip in Santa Monica to eat lunch and see the ocean. We walked along the Santa Monica Pier for about an hour before we had to leave for our first event: a backstage tour of the Staples Center where the 61st Annual Grammys were held!
The tour was led by the lovely Lisa Roy who showed us the behind-the-scenes audio and video production that goes into the Grammy ceremony. From getting a walkthrough of how the sound engineers mix the live audio and vocals of the performers to seeing the stage where it all comes together, it was a tour that rocked my world. We got to walk the infamous “Winners Walk” where all of the Grammy winners leave the stage and take a celebratory walk to the backstage press room. After that, we finally settled down in our hotel and spent the rest of the evening however we wanted.
Friday, February 8
Today was jam-packed with activities! First, we booked it from our downtown L.A. hotel to Hollywood to meet with my idol and inspiration Melinda Newman, Billboard Magazine’s Los Angeles and Nashville editor, at the lovely Beverly Hilton Hotel. It was a brief, yet very informational and inspiring chat with Melinda when we had to return to the Staples Center to meet with Garry Hood, the stage manager of the Grammys. He was very insightful to all the hard work and planning that goes into major events like the Grammys, Presidential inaugurations, the Tony Awards, and the Oscars. While at the Grammys, we were given the opportunity to watch Chloe x Halle and H.E.R. rehearse! The beautiful, clear Stratocaster electric guitar that H.E.R. played was so gorgeous in-person and something I still dream about. The women we saw rehearse have such natural talent that it’s no wonder they were Grammy-nominated. For the rehearsal, we sat in the very seats where famous stars and music industry professionals sat on Sunday – it was honestly so surreal.
For the second half of the day, we went to Jay Landers’ house. Landers was responsible for the creation of our childhood pop stars like Hillary Duff, Hannah Montana, and The Cheetah Girls (Yeah. I know. It’s really amazing!). He talked to us about the creative process that went behind the construction of the Hannah Montana theme song and what working with Barbara Streisand and Frank Sinatra was like. The big event of the evening was a dinner with MTSU recording industry alumni at a restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles. And when I say that there was so much talent in this restaurant, I was absolutely not kidding. We even met 3-time Grammy nominee Wayne Haun who actually arranged MTSU’s fight song that the Band of Blue plays and Daniel Oakley who works at Spotify! It was an absolutely amazing day.
Saturday, February 9
Today was our last full day with just one event planned: the MTSU alumni brunch honoring our Grammy-nominated alumni like Grammy-winning Torrance “Street Symphony” Esmond. Fun fact: MTSU alumni had 7 Grammy nominations for this year, and one of our alumni, Luke Laird, actually won a Grammy on Sunday! We got to meet some incredible alumni that have come out of our recording industry program. From entertainment lawyers to recording studio owners, the diversity in our alumni is amazing and proof that our program is effective in bringing out the best in our students. One of our alumni, Chelsea Rae, sat down with us to talk about her time working as Kesha’s assistant and gave us some genuine advice on college and the world post-graduation. The brunch was a fantastic time – I even got a few lunch dates with industry professionals!
I am truly thankful that MTSU sent me out to Los Angeles to experience Grammy Week. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. All the people in the industry want you to succeed, and I really felt that support from all of the alumni and professionals we met. A special thanks to Ken Paulson, Abby White, Beverly Keel, and President McPhee for making this happen. I am still in awe of the entire weekend and can’t believe that this small-town Tennessee girl got to experience the grandiosity that is the professional music industry. Thank you, MTSU.