Students Get Grammy Learning Experience

The public ceremonies officially proclaiming Grammy Week in Los Angeles actually began last Friday, at the Hamilton High School Academy of Music.

That also was the day that 17-year-old Vernell Brown, a Hamilton piano student, got the biggest break of his young career.

The program for the day called for Brown to play with the school's jazz ensemble under the direction of 20-time Grammy-winner Henry Mancini. That part of the show came off without a hitch.

But then jazz pianist Billy Childs didn't show up and Brown got drafted into performing an impromptu "My Funny Valentine" with noted French horn player Richard Todd before an audience of 700 students, local TV cameras and several recording industry bigwigs.

"To fill Billy Childs' shoes (was) totally amazing," Brown said.

His performance was part of the inauguration of the Grammy in the Schools music education program. Organized by the Los Angeles Host Committee for the 1989 Grammy Awards, Grammy in the Schools is a prototype for a nation-wide effort the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences hopes to start next year to bring professionals and young people together for a learning experience. The 7,000-member Recording Academy sponsors the Grammys.

"The academy is known for only one day a year (Grammy Awards day) to most of the public," said Michael Greene, president of the Recording Academy. "But we actually spend most of our money on education . . . and we're here to show what we do the other 364 days of the year."

Friday's event, Greene said, was intended to teach music students "about the realities of the music business."

The students--400 from Hamilton's music academy, joined by others from 15 Los Angeles Unified School District schools--attended such workshops as "Being a Jazz Studio Musician," led by drummer Stix Hooper (an eight-time Grammy nominee and founder of the Crusaders); "Record Company Management," led by Bob Garcia, A&M; Records' national director of artist relations; and "Studio Vocal Sessions and Solo Work," led by studio singer Marilyn Jackson and 1987 Grammy winner Darlene Koldenhoven.

The day also included plenty of performances. After a few opening remarks by Mayor Tom Bradley, the students heard an hour-and-a-half concert of compositions by Vivaldi, Rossini, Dukas and others.

Violinist Joseph Genualdi (a member of the Los Angeles Piano Quartet) and 1989 Grammy nominee Gary Gray (principal clarinetist of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra) were backed by Hamilton's Academy String Ensemble in Vivaldi's "Winter" from "The Seasons" (played by Genualdi) and Rossini's "Variations for Clarinet and Orchestra" (played by Gray). Hamilton's 23-member Academy Jazz Ensemble performed with saxophonist Peter Christlieb (a 1987 Grammy nominee) and drummer Hooper, then were conducted by Mancini in his music from "Peter Gunn" and "The Pink Panther."

"The kids are the real stars here," said Mancini of the program, part of which he rehearsed with the jazz ensemble.

Other professional performances were a duet of Dukas' "Villanelle" by pianist Delores Stevens and Todd (horn soloist with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra), and vocalist Koldenhoven's rendition of her own composition (with Brad Cole), "The Human Connection."

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