Nashville Arts Magazine was recently invited to Ben Folds’ Studio in the historic RCA Studio A to experience an evening of creative collaborations for education in Music City. Grammy U, a program sponsored by the Recording Academy, brought a group of full-time college students into the studio for a small, intimate lesson from some of the most legendary producers and engineers in recording industry. Frank Lidell, who produces Miranda Lambert, and Justin Niebank, engineer for Keith Urban and Taylor Swift, are just two examples from the impressive list of teachers at the event. Jon Randall Stewart and his band 18 South recorded a song, giving students a hands-on experience of the process. The Recording Academy started Grammy U as a way to help prepare college students for their careers in the music industry. As we watched a group of students huddle around Folds’ soundboard (it’s the one that Fleetwood Mac used to record Rumours) or sit in the studio that has seen the likes of Elvis and, most recently, Tony Bennett, we could not stop ourselves from beaming.
Grammy U is only one example of educational outreach by the Recording Academy. Current Vice President, Member Services, Nancy Shapiro played a leading role in a new music education program that promises to make Nashville the global leader in the subject. Music Makes Us: The Nashville Music Education Project was implemented in Metro public schools this spring. This revolutionary program will overhaul the curriculum for music education in Nashville. Shapiro declares, “We are Music City. We should have the best music programs. Music education should be a high priority to Nashville.” The program will feature a traditional or legacy track and a contemporary track that includes hip hop, rock band, mariachi, and world percussion.
Shapiro continues, “In addition, Pearl Cohn will be starting their own record label with Warner Records, under the leadership of John Esposito. There will be twenty student record executives mentored by twenty Warner Brother executives.” Students in Nashville will audition for a record produced by the new label. Music Makes Us is the result of a partnership between the Nashville Public Education Foundation, Mayor Karl Dean, and the Music City Council. The advisory board for the program includes Shapiro, Dr. Jesse Register, Director of Metro Nashville Public Schools; Randy Goodman, chairman of the Music City Council; and Nina Miller, Executive Director of the Gibson Foundation, among others.
Mayor Karl Dean says of the program: “Through Music Makes Us, Music City will become the standard bearer of what music education can be and should be in public education. Nashville has the largest concentration of the music industry of any city in the United States, and for the first time we are taking full advantage of the many talented individuals on both the creative and business sides of the industry as a resource for our students.”