World news – Harvey Mason Jr. skillfully guided the Grammy Awards and Recording Academy through controversy and pandemics

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Kirin Amiling Macapugay, an educator and organizer from San Diego, and Celina Su, Chair of Urban Studies and Political Science at City University in New York, discuss the recent rise in racist attacks against Asian Americans and islanders in the Pacific </ p If Harvey Mason Jr. has a say on this matter, the future of the Grammy Awards and the Recording Academy, which will host the 63-year-old Grammys, will be all about inclusion, transparency, diversity and equity.

Each is essential to the music world’s most prestigious and comprehensive annual awards show, the 2021 public-free edition of CBS TV that will be televised on March 14th and the first to be without an audience. The academy has received increasing criticism in recent years for not doing more to expand its membership base. Similarly, the Grammys took flak for failing to adequately recognize hip-hop and black and female artists in their most prestigious categories: album of the year, album of the year, and song of the year.

« I really believe the academy is undergoing a transformative shift towards becoming an even more inclusive and transparent organization, » said Mason, who chaired the academy’s board of trustees until early 2020 and then became its interim CEO and president / p> « Right now, » he continued, « I can see that our leaders and committee members are made up of a wide variety of musicians, engineers and producers in different genres and walks of life, and approach everything with a willingness to learn and learn. » a commitment to integrity. As we continue to double that commitment to change, inclusivity, and even resilience, I want our membership to reflect even more our broader music community over the next few years. “

52-year-old Mason, a five-time Grammy nominee, is a seasoned musician and producer. He became acting CEO and President after replacing Deborah Dugan, who began a short-lived tenure as director of the academy on August 1, 2019.

She was taken on administrative leave just 10 days prior to the 2020 Grammys edition after alleging allegations of workplace misconduct and poor judgment. Dugan, in turn, accused the Academy of sexual harassment, financial inadequacy, and questionable practices regarding voting and performing on the Grammys show.

But that was then and this is now, and Mason has held out where others may have stalled . During its leadership year, the Academy took a number of important steps.

Last April, Valeisha Butterfield Jones was hired as the Academy’s first Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. In July, the academy began a partnership with Color of Change, the country’s largest online organization dedicated to racial justice. In September, the academy launched its Black Music Collective, an organization of prominent black music creators and professionals who want to highlight black voices in the academy and the wider music community.

In December, the partnership released its Change Music Roadmap, the should contribute to moving the music industry towards « realizable racial justice ». The academy has also expanded its 12,000 voting membership. During a town hall meeting of the academy held on Zoom on Monday, Mason proudly noted that of the 2,300 music professionals invited to the academy in 2020, “over 48 percent are women, 37 percent are black / indigenous / colored (and) 51 percent are under 40 Years. « 

 » We made changes to the way we attract new members, « he said. « We have made changes to the composition of our board of directors. We have made exciting changes to our diversity, equity and inclusion policies and procedures. We have made changes to our leadership and people. We have made changes to our awards and regulations, many of our transparency questions have been answered and we have strengthened our conflict of interest policy. So there are a lot of things I’m very proud of – and there are a lot more I would like to do. « 

One of Mason’s goals is the selection of a new CEO and President, which he is expected to announce by May. He is now driving the 2021 edition of the Grammys, which will be revised next Sunday after being postponed due to the January 31 coronavirus pandemic.

« While we continue to be cautiously optimistic, absolutely nothing is more important than the health and safety of the people in our music community and the people who work tirelessly to produce the show, » said Mason. “As we head towards the new event, we will of course follow the Los Angeles County’s safety guidelines for the latest information on COVID-19 and safety precautions, and will do everything we can to put on a great and safe show. ”

This weekend will also see the premiere of the Grammy Awards, featuring San Diego-bred nominees Gregory Porter and Anoushka Shankar, which will be streamed live on grammy.com this Sunday at 12:00 noon. The annual MusiCares fundraising concert will be streamed on Friday on the same website with performances by Common, BTS, Jhené Aiko and others.

At the best of times, it’s not easy to watch the Grammys and Recording Academy year round conduct. Mason has been commended by his colleagues for keeping a steady hand during a particularly challenging time.

« The Recording Academy is in a fundamental transition, a reflection of the cultural changes we are experiencing in society as a whole, and Harvey stepped in at a steep time, « said Jeff Levenson, Governor of the Recording Academy and former trustee.

 » Harvey’s responsibilities have stabilized, especially given the challenges few of us were prepared for. Can he help leading the academy to a new normal? I think so, but the bigger question is, « Can the music industry define what this is? »

Mason, a retired college basketball star, is the son of the veteran drum dynamo Harvey Mason Sr. Both father and son have each received five Grammy nominations over the years, although none have gone home with a trophy ason is co-founder of the contemporary jazz band Fourplay, in which the San Diego-born bassist Nathan East is also represented.

« I’ve known Harvey Jr. almost all of his life and recognized his brilliance very early on, » said East.

« Whether sport or music, he has always produced outstanding achievements, which I attribute to a combination of God-given talent and exemplary upbringing. They say the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree – and of course Harvey’s musical talent is his humanity and unwavering will to serve. « 

Because of his busy schedule, Mason was more likely to answer questions by email than by phone. Here are edited excerpts from our interview.

Q: Most people outside of the music world only know the Recording Academy In terms of the Grammys, not as a year-round organization doing a lot of different things, from MusiCares to lobbying congresses and working with music educators and young music students, what does the academy do that you are most proud of every day?

A: The Recording Academy is the world’s leading society of music professionals. Our job is to encourage year-round support for musicians. We are a membership organization at our core and the main mission of the academy is to serve the many Members of our music community joining and promoting them. To do this looks like many different things. We celebrate artistic excellence with the Gra mmy Awards – the only accolade recognized by professionals and the highest achievement in music. We honor the history of music and invest in its future through the Grammy Museum and many other initiatives that support the development of musicians. We advocate fair laws and rights on behalf of musicians.

And probably most importantly, with our partner MusiCares, the leading music charity, we support music people in times of need. As of March 2020, MusiCares has distributed more than $ 22 million to help more than 25,000 musicians in these challenging times.

Q: It’s one thing to look at the academy from the outside and another thing to look at the board of directors and now be the acting interim CEO and President. What are the biggest problems and misconceptions people have about the academy? How do you approach them?

A: It is easy to assume that such a prominent organization as the Academy is resistant to new ideas and cultural innovations. We really listen to our community and respond to it. We are always open to feedback to ensure that we represent the needs of the music industry in the best possible way. That’s why I have this job to encourage our music community to capitalize on all that the Academy can offer its creators.

Q: You joined the board of directors of the Los Angeles chapter of the Academy in 2007 and the Academy’s Board of Trustees in 2009. What inspired you to join and what specific contributions and / or changes did you want to bring about? What kind of testimony would you give yourself so far?

A: I joined because I was at a time in my career when I realized that you had to be a member to vote for nominations or the Grammy Awards . By the time I got into the academy, I realized and learned more about many programs, saw their real value, and enjoyed the opportunity to give back and help the music industry. Some of the things I was hoping for were working with MusiCares and helping to be a safety net for people on the music scene.

I also found it important that we in Washington, DC, fight for the rights of creators so that people can make a living making music. I’ve seen what happened to some of the tech companies that distribute our music (online) and found that it will negatively affect our ability to generate income. I knew it was something very important to work on, so it was definitely something I was excited about. And music class was something I knew was important too since I had young kids and I saw them drain music in their (life). … If I gave myself a grade, I would give myself a « B ». I think a really great job has been done, but I also know that there is still a lot to be done, both for the academy and for myself personally.

Q: What about the very remarkable musical family you grew up in are your first specific musical memory, and what’s your first memory of the Grammy Awards, whether on TV or in person or both?

A: My earliest musical memory was taking piano lessons in my living room on an old piano that my parents had, and having the meanest piano teacher who would make me practice the most boring songs. I just wanted to play the songs that I heard on the radio. Instead, she made sure my finger positions were correct and that I was playing old, old songs.

My favorite Grammy memory is the first time I went to the show when I was nominated for my work. Strangely enough, I looked for my place and got closer and closer to the stage. As it turned out, our seats were in the second or third row! The whole show was so much fun, but I always waited for someone to pat me on the back and say I was in the wrong place. We then lost and I felt pretty much in the wrong place anyway. But that was my first Grammy memory and it was an incredible show with so many amazing performances and a lifetime full of memories.

Q: If my math is correct, you have received at least five Grammy nominations between 2000 and 2018, and your father was nominated ten times between 1974 and 2008. What does a Grammy nomination mean to you as an artist, especially as an artist who works as a producer and songwriter behind the scenes? And do you and your father have a friendly wager on which of you will win a Grammy first?

A: First of all, there are no bets. We both hope that we will win one, that someone in our family will win one. We’ll keep pushing until we do. We still have a lot of creativity ahead of us. A nomination means so much to me – and every time I’ve ever been nominated it felt like a justification. You will be authenticated by your co-workers and they will acknowledge the work you have done.

But none of us really make music for recognition. I know I don’t and I’m sure my dad doesn’t either. We make music because we love it and we love it, and making art is what we do. But the recognition of your colleagues means a lot. And if 12,000 voters decide that the work you did in that particular year and the song or album or production stand out among all the hundreds or thousands of songs and records made in a year, this is it significant. It’s very special. Again, you don’t think about creating the song, but getting recognized by your peers is the best feeling.

Q: Before Nathan East moved from San Diego to LA in the 1980s, he told me , his goal is to become « everyone’s favorite bassist ». What were your goals and how much of them did you achieve after making the decision to make music all day? Was it one of those goals to be the director of the receiving academy temporarily or otherwise? Why or why not?

A: As for the academy, I had a goal, especially throughout my career and life journey. My goal was to give back to people or communities who were important to me and who helped me do so. The music community is huge, and a big part of me as a person is as a businessman, as an entrepreneur, and as a creator.

I’ve always wanted to try to give something back to the music community. I like to think of myself as someone who is helpful and whom others can turn to for information, guidance, or advice. To bring this to the extreme, I decided to apply as chairman of the academy’s board of trustees so that I can give something back to other musicians, artists and creators in our music community and continue to give them good advice.

Q: In the next Month marks your first anniversary as Interim President of the Academy, a role you played in extraordinary circumstances that no one could have predicted. Could you consider taking the job full time? Why or why not?

A: We are nearing the end of our CEO search and have taken the time to thoroughly evaluate each of the candidates. It is a great honor for me to serve as Interim President of the Recording Academy for the time being, and I will remain in the position until the right person is found for the job. Given the time it takes to screen candidates and ensure it is a fair, thoughtful, and inclusive process, I will remain in that role through the 63rd Grammy Awards. Our main focus right now remains on the well-being of our members and the transformation of our organization, even amid these great challenges.

Q: Gregory Porter, who won two Grammys for Best Jazz Vocal Album and 2021 for Best R&B Album was nominated, received a soccer scholarship to San Diego State University, but suffered a retirement injury during pre-season training and never played in a game at SDSU. He later told me that it was one of the best things that ever happened to him because otherwise he wouldn’t have focused on music as his calling. How much does that apply to you? Wouldn’t you have sustained a knee injury playing college basketball, had you followed an NBA career over music? Why or why not?

A: I would probably have tried playing in the NBA because it was my dream when I was in high school all through college. But I would have written songs and made music absolutely at the same time. I’ve been doing this throughout my high school and college career, and I’m sure I would have continued this in the NBA. Also, you have to acknowledge that an NBA career isn’t usually that long, so I definitely think I would have had a career in music, although it could have started three, four, or five years later.

But me would have been absolutely where I ended up because music was something I had to do, it’s something I love. And I tell a lot of people this, but if there’s anything else you love more than music, you should – because music is a really tough career path. For me there was nothing that I was crazy about like music. I worked hard to play ball in college and was looking forward to the NBA, but music has always been my real passion.

Where: KFMB Channel 8, broadcast live in and around the Los Angeles Convention Center and on Paramount Plus Subscription Streaming Service

Featuring performances by: Gregory Porter, Anoushka Shankar, Burna Boy, Rufus Wainwright, Terse Lyne Carrington, & Social Science, Igor Levit and others

When: Sunday March 14th , Lunch (prizes are awarded in more than 70 of the 84 Grammy categories)

With: John Legend, BTS, Haim, HER, Jhené Aiko and John Legend as well as archived MusiCares performances by Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Nicks, Usher, Tom Petty, Carole King, Paul McCartney, Shakira, the Jonas Brothers, Ringo Starr and Lionel Richie, Ledisi and others. DJ D-Nice will host a pre-show set.

Tickets: $ 25 (general admission) and $ 324 (including Master & Dynamics MW07 PLUS True Wireless Earphones); available at support.musicares.org/live

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