(L-R) Panos A. Panay, Harvey Mason jr. and Valeisha Butterfield Jones
Photo Courtesy of the Recording Academy®/photo by Matt Winkelmeyer by Getty Images © 2021
The Recording Academy Turns 65: A Nod To Its Beginnings And A Commitment To A New Era
Over the weekend, the Recording Academy will hit a quiet yet significant milestone: 65 years will have passed since its inception. How does one even come to terms with the enormity of this legacy?
No online post could encapsulate everything that’s happened with the Recording Academy since 1957 — a year Eisenhower was president, Elvis reigned in the charts, and the Space Race heated up.
Still, it’s worth pausing and considering how the seeds were sown all those years ago and how the Recording Academy is flourishing as a renewed organization in 2022.
1955: The First Seeds
In response to a request from the Hollywood Beautification Committee, five top L.A.-based record executives met on April 28 to determine names of artists worthy of their own star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame.
In attendance were Paul Weston of Columbia, Lloyd Dunn of Capitol, Sonny Burke of Decca, Jesse Kaye of MGM, and Dennis Farnon of RCA Victor. The focus was to develop criteria to use as a "yardstick" to determine which names should be submitted.
This meeting also illustrated the growing importance of having a "proper means for rewarding people on an artistic level" — similar to the motion picture and TV groups. This group later became known as the Founder's Committee.
On May 20, Paul Weston presented criteria on how to best determine which artists should receive a star to the other members of the Founder's Committee. The total number of record sales was the primary benchmark used to select artists for this project.
1957: The Academy’s Beginning
On May 28, The Founder's Committee met again: "A Group to Form a Record Award Society" convened at the Brown Derby Restaurant in Hollywood.
The meeting opened with a general discussion of the classifications for which awards should be given and current procedures. The name agreed upon for this new organization? The Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Mr. Dunn made the motion that "James Conkling become temporary chairman of the committee for the formation of the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences." The motion was seconded by Mr. Weston and carried unanimously.
Questions and concerns regarding the criteria to be used as a benchmark for the Hollywood Beautification Committee were discussed — and in attendance with the Founder's Committee was former Columbia Records president James B. Conkling.
Flash Forward To 2022
When asked about the incredible strides the Recording Academy has made in recent years, CEO Harvey Mason Jr. offered a rejoinder.
“That'll take up the whole interview — we don't have time for all the positive developments!” he told RecordingAcademy.com with a smile. “The great work that MusiCares has been doing over the last however many months during COVID. The way we're changing our membership. The way we're inviting members. The way we're constituting our boardroom. The way we're working in education initiatives. Our internship program; the Black Music Collective; our advocacy work at the GRAMMY Museum.”
Mason went on to touch on a crucial tentpole of the Recording Academy: diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). This commitment to giving all music people a fair shake manifests in communications, artist outreach, leadership, and so many other avenues.
For more information on the Recording Academy’s astounding developments in service to the global music community, check out the article “New Vision, New Era, One Academy” in the 2022 GRAMMYs program book on page 130.
And this weekend, let’s ring in the Recording Academy’s 65th birthday — both with a nod to the past, but a renewed commitment to render service to all music people in the years to come.