Grammy Awards Benefit Host City
For cash-strapped New York, the star-studded event is a boon to tourism and area schools
NEW YORK — FOR music fans and nominees, Tuesday night's 34th Annual Grammy Awards is just a three-hour star-studded gala. But for New York City, the nationally televised event at Radio City Music Hall caps a "Grammy Week" celebration that could net the cash-strapped metropolis an estimated $40 million.
That's one reason why New York fought ferociously to wrest the Grammys from Los Angeles for an unprecedented second straight year. Jonathan Tisch, the president of Loews Hotels and chairman of the New York City Host Committee for the Grammys, offers another.
"Along with this summer's Democratic Convention, the Grammys give us a chance to show the world something besides all the negative things people read," says Mr. Tisch, who has spent the last seven months securing public and private funding for Grammy-related events designed to underscore the city's entertainment capital status.
Foremost among the events are a Feb. 21 "Save the Apollo" benefit concert by Natalie Cole to help preserve the historic Harlem theater; the Feb. 22 MusiCares banquet at the Waldorf Astoria to raise funds for assisting needy music professionals; and a Feb. 23 mayor's reception at Bloomingdale's for music industry executives and host committee contributors.
While some of these affairs are restricted to the recording industry and city elites, Tisch stresses the host committee's effort to open Grammy Week festivities to all New Yorkers.
One means is the Grammy Music Trail, a tour of some 30 landmark music sites in all five city boroughs, which was organized in conjunction with the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau and kicked off on Feb. 18. The trail, which includes such noteworthy stops as the Cotton Club, Tin Pan Alley, and the CBGB nightspot where punk rock was born, will be designated as a permanent tourist attraction.
The "Grammy in the Schools" project also involves all five boroughs and reaches far beyond Grammy Award participants. It climaxes Feb. 24 with a performance by C&C Music Factory's Robert Clivilles and David Cole at Manhattan's LaGuardia High School. Designed to define and explore music career opportunities for high-school students, the month-long event features appearances in high schools by Jellybean Benitez, Judy Collins, Vanessa Williams, Queen Latifah, Garland Jeffreys, and Michael Kamen.
Mr. Jeffreys, a racially and ethnically mixed singer-songwriter who grew up in Brooklyn's Sheepshead Bay section, used his talk at Mark Twain Junior High School in Coney Island to reiterate the themes of his starkly autobiographical new album, "Don't Call Me Buckwheat."
"I was able to affect the kids directly instead of musically," says Jeffreys, who presented each student with a "Buckwheat" cassette. "What was most wonderful was the chance to convey the album's messages of reconciliation and hope. But I also wanted everyone to know that while rock-and-roll was my choice of musical expression, one form of music isn't any better than another."
QUEENS native Kamen, a five-time Grammy nominee and co-writer of Bryan Adams's mega-hit "(Everything I do) I Do It for You," spoke at Dreyfus Intermediate School in Staten Island.
"Because of budget cutbacks in New York, most schools have had to abandon music programs," says Mr. Kamen, who told the kids about his own school days as well as his adult successes.
"We had thousands of clarinets and basses when I went to school, and now, 25 years later, they're no good and aren't being repaired," Kamen says.
Meanwhile, the MusiCares foundation addresses the urgent needs of older music-industry personnel. The second annual MusiCares fund-raiser - which honors Bonnie Raitt and stars Natalie Cole, Jackson Browne, and last year's honoree David Crosby - provides financial assistance, substance abuse treatment, self-paid insurance, a "yellow pages" directory of available human services, and hospital and retirement care.
"As the son of a big band leader, I still vividly remember old musicians knocking on the door at Christmas, without enough money for presents or health care," says Michael Greene, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, which awards the Grammys. "Our business is of such an independent nature that people often end up without enough to fall back on."
MusiCares's goals are similar to those of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, which will stage its Third Annual Pioneer Awards presentation in the Rainbow Room on Feb. 26. While not officially part of Grammy Week, it offers a fitting finale.
Since 1988, the foundation has provided more than $640,000 in financial assistance to the R&B community, including grants to honorees, health care, and support services.