(By First Time GRAMMY Nominee Jonathan Sprout “Best Musical Album for Children”)
Many of you have asked for an account of my adventures at The GRAMMYs. Here goes…
I flew into Los Angeles on the Thursday before the Sunday night GRAMMYs. That afternoon, I rehearsed “Doctor” and “Chocolate King” for the first time ever with some of the people who helped write, perform, engineer and produce AH#3 -- Dave Kinnoin, Jimmy Hammer, Leslie Chew and Hillary Black. It was the first time we’d all ever been together in the same room. The rehearsal was magical. Right away, I knew we were going to be able to pull off our “unplugged” version of these two songs at The GRAMMY Museum in two days. We practiced late into the evening and then went to a restaurant in Encino with Regina Kelland, our marketer/publicist, who had flown in from Florida to be part of the weekend. We stayed late into the night, proposing toasts to The GRAMMYs and were the last customers to leave the restaurant. By the time I was back in my room at The Wilshire Grand Hotel in Los Angeles, it had been 22 hours since I’d awakened in PA that morning.
Friday night was rehearsal #2 back in Encino at Jimmy Hammer’s studio. We continued working out and memorizing our parts late into the night.
Saturday began at 8:30 with a breakfast gathering of children’s music makers at a restaurant next to The GRAMMY Museum. Nearly 100 children’s singer-songwriters, publicists, and marketers were on hand to network. My fellow GRAMMY nominees and I were introduced before we headed off for a sound check on the GRAMMY Museum stage. Things were a little hectic at the sound check, but we got our few minutes to sing a song , and then it was back to the network breakfast to meet some of my fellow children’s music makers and shakers.
I met Debbi Derryberry, the voice of Jimmy Neutron, and numerous other people I’d only heard of for years. Just before it was time for me to head for the “green room” before our performance, I was interviewed outside on a café table by John Wood and Dan Crow of Kidzmusic.com (where my CDs are available).
The 200 seat state-of-the-art sound stage at The GRAMMY Museum had hosted a Ringo Starr appearance a few days earlier. We six nominees in the Children’s Music category were asked to perform a couple of songs each. Everyone came -- Milkshake (Baltimore, MD), Ziggy Marley (Jamaica), Buck Howdy (San Diego), Cathy & Marcy (Washington, DC), Greg & Steve (CA), and me.
The show was a sell out. The walls of the theater were lined with people who couldn’t get a seat. Many people were turned away at the door.
Dean Pitchford, songwriter of “Fame” and screenwriter of the movie Footloose (1984), was up for a GRAMMY in the children’s spoken word category. I had a fun conversation with Dean up in the green room, and then it was time for him to head down to the theater to kick off the concert with a reading from one of his books. Eventually, we went on and performed our two songs to an enthusiastic, intelligent and appreciate crowd of mostly music industry grown-ups and their families.
Some facts to put this GRAMMY experience into perspective: In 2008, there were over 105,000 albums released. At the 2010 GRAMMYs, there were 1,004 nominees from approximately 110 different categories. Nominees are determined by members of the Recording Academy who vote. You can join if you’re a professional who has worked for a while in the field of recorded music. Normally, five nominees are chosen per category. In my category, there were six, which means there was a tie in the voting. The GRAMMY winner is determined by the same voters in a second round of voting.
Many GRAMMY experts claim the highlight of the weekend is the Saturday GRAMMY Nominee reception. It was held after the lifetime achievement awards ceremony at the Wilshire Ebell near Hollywood. The place is an extraordinary mansion with courtyards, gardens, a ballroom, and, in our case, a red carpet. It has hosted performances and events since the 1920s. Judy Garland was discovered here in the 1930s. Amelia Earhart made her last public appearance here before disappearing on her around-the-world attempt in 1937.
We rushed from our concert to our Hotel room, donned our spiffy outfits and were driven to The Wilshire Ebell. We walked the red carpet to the theater and saw Leonard Cohen (“Suzanne”) and others receive lifetime achievement awards (including Michael Jackson’s manager on behalf of Michael), took some pictures, and then attended the reception. Stars were everywhere. We chatted with numerous nominees and spotted Jimmy Jam, Weird Al Yankovic, and New Age gurus Kitaro and David Darling.
And there was buffet shrimp, king crab legs, lamb, etc., to die for… Everywhere… all evening.
Every nominee gets a beautiful Tiffany GRAMMY medallion. It looks like an Olympic bronze medal, complete with a purple ribbon. You wait in a long line to receive your medal. We stood behind the writer of the most radio-played Christian music song of the year and in front of members of the GRAMMY nominated legendary group Hiroshima. When you get to the check-in spot, you sign your name in a book with a list of nominees before receiving your medal and having an official GRAMMY photo taken of you. The sign in book lists names alphabetically. The name just above mine was “Bruce Springsteen.” Above Bruce was “Brittney Spears.”
Security on Sunday, Grammy Day, was so tight that our taxi driver couldn’t get within two blocks of the arena without the pass we were given to give him. We waited in line to go through airport-type security at around noon in the warm California sun.
Ninety-nine GRAMMYs were given out between 1:00 and 3:00 PM Sunday afternoon in the Convention Center adjacent to The Staples Arena. I sat with my band cohorts a few rows from fellow children’s music nominees Greg & Steve and Cathy & Marcy and their entourages. The children’s music GRAMMY was given out in the #15 spot. Ziggy Marley, the winner, was not present to receive it.
Then it was through tunnels of white tenting over red carpets into The Staples Arena to our special GRAMMY Nominee seats. In the seat behind ours was the attorney for the Zak Brown Band which performed that night and won the GRAMMY for Best New Artist.
The show was one amazing performance after another. Lady Gaga’s leaps, Beyonce’s hair flinging struts and Pink’s circus-like water-drenched spinnings were stunning and unforgettable. If you want to be a star in today’s music world, you’d better be good in gym class too!
Ringo Starr walked out on the proscenium to present a GRAMMY and I realized it was the first time in my life I was in the same “room” as a Beatle. Earlier, I’d walked right past Tony Bennett.
I arrived at The GRAMMYs a nominee and I left a fan. How could we not appreciate the talent and organization, the attention to details of sight and sound and security that had to happen in order to pull off this most amazing concert … this most amazing weekend? The entire weekend was a peak experience that culminated in that riveting three and one-half hour extraordinary concert.
Some people have told me they’ve very disappointed I didn’t win. To be honest, I knew the odds of our winning were slim. I have no regrets about the outcome of the weekend. I knew at 10:00 PM on Wednesday, December 2, 2009, when I first learned about my nomination while checking my email in a motel room in Connecticut, that I was going to come home a winner, regardless of the final outcome.