Did NO ONE "listen" to the Grammy’s?

I need to keep evolving.  That means staying current, and that means staying up with what these youngsters are listening to.  So it requires some time on my part and sometimes painfully enduring the contrived chord progressions and hollow lyrics of any number of artists that students feel compelled to ask me to listen to.  So I decided I would be proactive and make the commitment on my time – so I watched the Grammy Awards.

What a great night! (I am going to keep coming back to that word more frequently than a MLB player hears the word perjury lately).  First some absolute highlights:

  • I am by no means an Alicia Keys fan.  But she (her performance) was great.  She brought out John Mayer, and for retaining that Billy Joel-esque looks he certainly gets around well on the guitar.  I made it a point to download “No One” – although it will never make it to my ipod (that is reserved for the likes of Ticheli, Boysen, Camphouse, Reed, Gillingham, Balmages, Erickson, McBeth, Hilliard, Loest, and some guy named Holst).
  • I am so an official Foo Fighters fan.  I did two of their songs with my marching band this past fall.  After hearing them on Sunday night, it was confirmed – they were great!  Dave Grohl and the crew have it going on in all the right ways.
  • The Gospel Music nominees performed highlighted by Aretha Franklin.  In an era where many of the big names in the early years of Rock are passing away (rest in peace James Brown, Wilson Pickett) it was nice to see Aretha again (though in a different style).  Ludacris’ intro was great – “Prepare to your soul sanctified.”
  • Herbie Hancock! Great! Herbie Hancock with Lang Lange playing “Rhapsody in Blue” on National TV! Great! How many of you knew that? Probably 90% of America walked to the kitchen to get more pretzels and a beer the minute the clarinet started.  I was so juiced about it!  Take notice that this was real music, by two incredible musicians! And then to have your Grammy award (which it was 40 some years since a jazz guy won it) presented to you by Quincy Jones? It’s like getting being ordained for Priesthood by the late Pope John Paul.  Yeah, it’s that big.
  • Beyonce. Disturbingly not great.  Not that she ever has been….
  • Joan Tower.  Who? Oh, yeah the Best Classical Contemporary Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance Grammy Winner for Made In America (Nashville Symphony Orchestra led by Slatkin) Great! Just not televised which is not great!
  • Keith O. Johnson. Another who? Engineer for Garden of Dreams the Grammy nominated Best Engineered Album.  And the album – yeah, Dallas Wind Symphony (Jerry Junkin) they are pretty alright if you are in to that “they-play-great- music-with-pristine-intonation-balance-and-musical-expression” thing (And yes, I am a pretty big fan of that kind of music performance!!!).  They didn’t win, but would it be awesome to hear them get to perform some year on the show!  If the Grammy Foundation really wanted to hit one out of the park for music education why not bring them in and give them some serious exposure!
  • Best Instrumental Arrangement? The Grammy went to Vince Mendoza. Another who? But many of us already know this is the stuff of Joe Zawinul (who passed away in September of 2007).
  • And while we are paying homage, look no further than the tribue by the classical fan-fav Josh Groban and the understated Andrea Bocelli.  Groban is fine with me, but Bocelli is where it is at.  Sure the tribute was being done for many who had passed away, but it was so fitting as the final still photo was of Pavarotti.  One day I am sure we will pay similar homage to Bocelli, though I hope that day is far, far away.  And BTW, he was great!

It was a rewarding experience to watch.  As I reflect on the class I led my fellow Doc students on today at KSU, I cannot help but come back to this thought: Don’t stand in the way of your students learning about all kinds of music.  We must equip our students with the musical experiences and knowledge that will allow them to be educated consumers in society.  We should be the conduit that allows the spark of all kinds of music to ignite them – not the electrician who only wires certain areas of the house for certain things.  Keep evolving by figuring out what kids are listening to so that  you are never that teacher whose music time has passed by.  Certainly we should develop a definition for what is music, and criteria for evaluating music that we can lead them to make educated choices.  Whether good or bad is an entirely different subjective can of worms.  But it is our duty as Educators to provide diverse experience in our teaching beyond what society offers in culture.  I think we would all be surprised by how giving students the power to explore, evaluate, and decide on their own will lead them to a healthier relationship with music.  A healthier regard and esteem for music would definitely make society a much better place.  And I don’t think that there is NO ONE who would argue with that.

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  1. I have to give it to you on the Foo Fighters. I saw them in concert once and though Dave Grohl has a mouth he was hilarious. One of the best concerts i’ve been to.

  2. Speaking as the Dir. of Development of the Dallas Wind Symphony, I loved your comments. We be happy to perform at the Grammy’s! Thanks for the shout out! Lee

  3. Travis,

    Great post, full of energy and real usable points. If we are to become “evolving” music educators than you’re dead on when it comes to us “connecting” with the music of our students.

    Go Herbie! To quote Jason Davis, “Rocketh On”.

  4. Your post is making the rounds here at DWS World Headquarters, and I also appreciate the kudos. Of course, we’d love to be invited to play at the Grammy’s – can you maybe put the bug in the ear of the RIAA powers-that-be? That’d be great, thanks. *g*

  5. Travis, another great article! I feel the same way about exploring all types of music. (even if just to realize you don’t like it) Too often, music educators take a lofty, “if it’s not Bird, Bach, or Beethoven… it’s garbage” approach. That simply is not true. Our students gain a greater respect for us when we are able to give logical arguments for or against “pop” music based on experience not hearsay. Thanks for the insight…


  6. I admire your ability to stomach those award shows to get up on the current trends. I tried this time, but couldn’t get through all of the pretentiousness. Your comments were right on the mark though…when Rhapsody in Blue came on, I bet it was potty break time all over the US. Thanks for a great post.

  7. Hi Travis,

    Great post. Not all that big into Grohl and the Foo Fighters but will always be a Nirvana fan.

    I posted something about the Grammy’s on my blog as well. Check it out:


    Just started it and am hoping to contribute to Pisano’s 100 ME Bloggers initiative.

    Enjoy Being…

  8. Great post Travis. Just one comment…while it was great that Herbie Hancock finally got some credit for his many years of contributions to the music world, it is a shame that the only two jazz albums that have ever won that award are really “bridge” albums between jazz and pop. I listened to the Hancock album, and really was not that impressed…I would not buy it. In fact, it only sold 55,000 copies, or something like that. Michael Brecker’s album was far better, but I guess since he won best jazz album, that took him out of the running for this award.

    I read an interesting article in the New York Times about this very thing, and the writer made a good point. He felt that you will never see a “really swinging” jazz album win Album of the Year, and I believe he is right, because it doesn’t appeal to the masses. I guess this is why you will never see groups like the Dallas Wind Symphony perform on TV…I am going to try to watch the Grammys next year, but I’m afraid I’ll just be disappointed again that everything that is on the telecast is just “popular” and not necessarily great music, as it should be. Don’t get me wrong, many of the groups that are popular have great music, but when are they going to stop ignoring jazz and classical genres? The Grammys have just turned into another marketing tool for record companies.

  9. Hey Doug!

    Thanks for stopping by!

    As for Herbie – I have only heard 3 of the tracks on the album. As I am not a great jazz educator/performer by any stretch in would be improper for me to offer any critique or supportive statements to Herbie oustide of I think it is great he won. I am unfamiliar with Brecker – and perhaps should not be, so I will make an effort to check him out ASAP.

    Your assessment of the Grammy Awards is maybe closer to the truth than most of us would like to admit. My sincere hope is that this year’s show and presentation is not just an anomaly, but an indicator of things to come. We should be advocates to the Grammys and tell them how important it is that popular music doesn’t need to be the only featured music. If they are serious about helping music education (see the Grammy School program), than their broadcast should reflect it. Great points Doug, and I really appreciate you joining the conversation!

  10. Of course the highlights for me were the Foo’s playing/winning (the band themselves…more on the addition later), Vince Gill putting Kanye in his place with his “Beatles” comment (how great was that!), and the fact that a jazz album won Best Album for the first time in 40-some year. As crossover as it is, the Hancock win does show that the Grammys are not just some flash in the pan award show (which I feel it had turned into over the past few years).

    While I did appreciate what they were trying to do with the combination of current stars with those of the past, I didn’t think that many of them came of extremely well. Tina & Beyonce was weird, the John Paul Jones-directed orchestral interlude during the Foo’s performance was a bit random (the fact that they just sat there, played by themselves instead of with the band, and the odd orchestral arrangement of the theme seemed to be just an excuse of having an orchestra perform with them instead of actually contributing an interesting compliment), the fact that the “shining moment” for the winning soloist for that performance ended up not being amplified on the tv broadcast and completely lost her Grammy moment, and other randomness just seemed to not hit the mark.

    My favorite part of the whole show had nothing to do with the music. It was Jason Bateman and his delivery. He was hysterical!

    rocketh on,

  11. Oh man… how could the father of daughters not have commented on “How Does She Know”, performed by Kristen Chenoweth??? Surely you were dragged to the theaters to see that movie??? 😉

  12. Oddly enough Linda, it was not my turn to go see Enchanted. Daughter number 3 and I spent the day looking for Blues Clues while my wife took the older daughters out to see it. I got to go see Hannah Montana in 3D. I am happy to admit that Menken was very creative on the whole score. Impressive that three songs were up for Oscars this past Sunday to boot!

  13. I feel like I am still connected to the wonderful world of nerdy musicians! and I love it! I didn’t get to see the Grammy’s so that a nice synopsis for me.

  14. Bravo!

    Great article! I am one of those who did NOT watch the grammys, and I have to admit after reading your post, I am ashamed of myself.

    I of all people should know that we reach kids on so many different levels and that we must teach them what constitutes good music and NOT what we like.

    Thanks for opening my eyes, and I will make it a point to “tivo” the grammys next year!

  15. Good article, personally I am a bit skeptical about these awards. There are so many artists out there that never get any recognition and really have talent. Sometimes it is hard to believe that the only way to measure talent is by getting a music award.


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