Maren Morris, King and Aloe Blacc champion Grammy efforts to nurture young musicians

Maren Morris with her Grammy for country solo performance backstage at the 59th Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday.
Maren Morris with her Grammy for country solo performance backstage at the 59th Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

When breakout country artist Maren Morris won her first Grammy on Sunday, it wasn’t her parents, her record label or her manager who received the first shout-out. It was a summer camp.

“Eleven years ago, I went to the first ever Grammy camp. It was the first time I ever flew on a plane by myself to L.A., and it’s crazy to be here a decade later,” Morris said while accepting the award for solo country performance for her hit debut single, “My Church.”

The annual camp is part of Grammy in the Schools, one of several educational initiatives offered through the Grammy Foundation, which supports the Recording Academy’s efforts to champion music education in classrooms, where funding for the arts is often far from assured.


In 2005, Morris attended the inaugural camp alongside more than 40 other students. The Grammys now host summer camps in Los Angeles and Nashville for U.S. high school students who are flown in from around the country to get intensive instruction on performance, songwriting and audio engineering from seasoned industry veterans.

As work on this year’s Grammys was underway, the foundation was also hosting another one of its programs, Grammy Camp — Jazz Session, which brought 30 students to L.A. The camp included recording sessions, a trip to the Grammys and several performance opportunities.

On Feb. 9, the Jazz Session group played its eighth annual showcase. The event offered a glimpse of the immense talent of young musicians across the country.

“I’m not nervous, just ready to have fun,” said Nathan Farrell, a 17-year-old alto sax player from New Jersey, before taking the stage. “I’m not entirely sure I want to go the musician route all the way, but it’s definitely one of my true passions.”

Farrell, a member of the Jazz Session’s Grammy band, helped transform the event’s venue, the Novo at L.A. Live, into a party reminiscent of the swing era.

The group played jazz songs like “Straphangin’ ” and “Love for Sale” with the swagger of professionals; few would have guessed that these young performers had rehearsed for only two days.


In the audience were hundreds of Los Angeles high school students. Earlier, they participated in Grammy Career Day, an event that introduces students to the music industry.

When one saxophone player stood up and ripped through a solo, the students erupted into cheers.

Keith Hancock, a choir teacher at Tesoro High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, who was named the Recording Academy and Grammy Foundation’s music educator award recipient for 2017, also attended the event. Hancock was selected out of more than 3,000 nominees nationwide; in addition to the honor, he will receive a $10,000 honorarium, and Tesoro High will receive a matching grant.

Hancock spoke about the lack of funding for the arts.

“Music and art education is incredibly fundamental to everybody’s education,” he said. “Every student needs to have a comprehensive music education in order to be a well-rounded human being.”

After the Grammy band, a combo of four instrumentalists and seven vocalists did “Oh, Lady Be Good!,” a tune famously performed by Ella Fitzgerald, before launching into a jazzy rendition of Adele’s Grammy winning smash “Rolling in the Deep.”

“This is about being a part of something bigger than yourself,” said Houston vocalist and flutist Alexandria DeWalt. While onstage, the 17-year-old showed off her scat singing skills, a form of vocal improvisation popular in jazz music.

To help celebrate the Grammy Foundation’s programs, L.A.-based R&B trio King and singer-songwriter Aloe Blacc also performed.

Before the show, King’s Paris Strother reflected on what music meant to her when she was young.

“Being at that age and being exposed to a whole new world of music — I think it’s just such a perfect time to learn about yourself and culture and the world,” she said.

For the aspiring musicians who may one day grace the Grammy stage, Blacc offered one piece of advice: “The most important thing for young musicians is to not want to make it. Focus on your craft and make sure that you’re making music that reflects who you are for a community. And if that community appreciates what you do, they’ll help you.”