Tales from the GRAMMYS: Notes From the Social Media Rock Star Summit

A Music Nerd’s work is never done, it seems! I’ve got quite a backlog of items to post, between finishing up my Tales from the GRAMMYS® and writing up several interviews I’ve done lately. Meanwhile, time flies! Do you ever wish you could get the world to stand still, just for a little while, so you could catch your breath? Yeah, me too! 😛

Since I got back from L.A., I’ve had this single sheet of paper floating around my workspace, on which I scribbled a few notes during the Social Media Rock Star Summit that I got to attend during GRAMMY Week. I found a few nuggets of wisdom among my mad jottings, including some that didn’t make it into any other coverage of the event, as far as I can tell, so I’ll share them with y’all now. (See also: my fellow GRAMMY blogger Hard Rock Chick, and LA Weekly.)

Here’s a brief snippet from the session:

The panelists were, indeed, rock stars in the social media firmament:

Where the Girls Aren’t

The only thing missing from this esteemed ensemble was… estrogen! For crying out loud, there are women in social media too, people! I can think of at least one who would have been an excellent pick for this session: Imogen Heap, who has made heavy use of social media and technology. Heck, she wore Twitter around her neck while she accepted her GRAMMY for Best Engineered Album!

Rick Sanchez, a CNN anchor and self-described “social media evangelist” was the moderator. Now, I am aware that it’s fashionable to make fun of and/or dislike Sanchez, and since part of the Miss Music Nerd Mission is to keep things upbeat and positive, I endeavored to keep an open mind going into the event. He comes across as sort of a lovable goofball much of the time, but he can stick his foot in his mouth in rather extravagant ways on occasion. At one point he was talking about the frustrations of calling customer service lines, and how you’re liable to be connected to “Bobby from India.” If I’d been a panelist, I might have created a diversion at that moment by contriving a sudden coughing fit or water bottle mishap. As it was, all I could do was look at Nikhil Chandhok with the most apologetic expression I could muster.

Social Media: The 21st-Century Front Porch?

He did make an interesting point in his intro to the discussion, though. He talked about how, 100 years ago, people formed communities of their “front porch.” The development of mass media displaced community interaction to some extent, with its primarily one-way communication. Now, social media is bringing that old-fashioned sense of community into the 21st century. Which is pretty cool.

I’ve seen the argument made that the time we spend engaging with technology is making us more isolated than ever, and I know that I’ve spent many a day glued to the laptop, with a nagging worry in the back of my mind that I’m making myself agoraphobic and courting a vitamin D deficiency. While it’s undoubtedly true that I need to get up and take a walk much more often, I do use that technology to connect with other people (that’s one of the reasons it’s so addictive!). It doesn’t completely replace in-person interaction, of course. But having met many friends in person who I first became acquainted with online (including McDoc! 😀 ), I can attest to the benefits of playing in the online kiddie pool.

L to R: Nikhil Chandhok, David Karp, Kevin Rose, Pete Cashmore, Jared Leto, Rick Sanchez

The panelists added to this idea. Nikhil Chandhok commented that humans have been telling their stories for thousands of years, and YouTube is another way to do that. Pete Cashmore went as far as to say that the mass media (TV, radio, film) that developed during the 20th century was an aberration, given how it broke down community structures. He also said that when talented people communicate directly with fans, the role of the middleman is called into question.

Sanchez asked whether a ‘gatekeeper’ role was necessary, and Cashmore conceded that “You can’t trust everything on the web.” ‘Brand’ is important, and creates a quality and trust filter. (Always make sure you’re getting gen-you-wine Miss Music Nerd content, folks! Accept no substitutes! 😉 )

Kevin Rose gave the example of interview situations where questions come from the audience rather than solely from the interviewer. He said that this results in questions no interviewer in their right mind would ask — for better or worse!

“The industry is becoming more democratic,” Sanchez remarked, and Jared Leto quickly added, “And more anarchistic.” And Pete Cashmore pointed out that what’s popular isn’t always what’s good. As a classical music ambassador, I can heartily agree with that! 😉

Speaking of audience questions, one that came up was whether musicians can be successful going forward without harnessing social media tools. As one might expect, all of the panelists believed that engaging with social media would be critical to success in the future. Kevin Rose opined that with the rise of self-publishing and self-publicizing, the industry is “screwed” if they don’t get on board with social media as well.

The Perennial Problems: Time and Money

Toward the end, two questions were raised that are particularly important to me personally, and there wasn’t sufficient time to address them fully. First, how to us creative types find time to be creative while maintaining the various social media connections and tools? That’s a darn good question that I haven’t answered for myself yet. Every so often over the past month or so, I’ve said to myself, “Wait a minute… I write music, don’t I?” or, “Hey, I’d better play the piano again sometime soon!”

The second is, how do you earn any money in this new online world, where so much content is given away free? As an avid collector of expensive hobbies, I’m certainly no authority on this issue. I’m working on my plan for World Media Domination, though… stay tuned! 😀



Wolf Trap Opera’s Virtual Season Launch: MMN is There!

Hey there, Music Nerds!

I’ve been invited to participate in a blog rally for Wolf Trap Opera, a company that has been making opera hip for nearly 40 years by initiating talented young singers into the opera biz through its Young Artists programs. Today, it is my pleasure to turn the Music Nerd Bully Pulpit over to Kim Witman, who in turn will introduce you to the next generation of opera supahstahs! 🙂

For more details on the 2010 season, visit Kim’s WTOC blog.

Take it away, Kim!

I’m thrilled that Miss Music Nerd is letting me guest post today as part of Wolf Trap Opera’s Evil Plan for Total Web Domination. Seriously, I’m just infiltrating a few colleagues’ blogs to celebrate the announcement of our 2010 summer season.

Although I didn’t actually get to meet Miss Music Nerd, our paths kind of crossed two weekends ago at the GRAMMYs®. She was an official guest blogger, and I was there because the recording of our 2007 production of John Musto’s Volpone was one of 5 nominees in the Best Opera Recording category. We didn’t take home the statue, but we thoroughly enjoyed our fifteen minutes of fame.

Since “classical music is cool” chez Miss Music Nerd, I thought I’d focus on the coolest aspect of our operation: our singers. Every summer I have the privilege of working with 15-20 of the opera industry’s most amazing emerging professional singers. It’s a wild ride.

Meet Wolf Trap’s 2010 Roster of Filene Young Artists!

First, a bit of a nerdy demographic snapshot of this year’s 16 singers; then some cool and silly fun facts.

2010 Wolf Trap Opera Company Filene Young Artists
Average age: 28 (Age range: 25-34)


• Beaver Dam, WI    • New Canaan, CT    • San Antonio, TX   
• Dallas, TX    • New Orleans, LA    • Seoul, Korea   
• Ft. Mitchell, KY    • New York, NY    • South Bend, IN   
• Humble, TX    • Odessa, TX    • Washington, DC   

(OK, what was in the water in Texas about 28 years ago?)

Degree-granting institutions attended (grad and undergrad)

• Academy of Vocal Arts • Ohio University
• Columbus State University • Rice University
• Curtis Institute of Music • Schulich School of Music, McGill University
• Indiana University • Seoul National University
• Juilliard Opera Center • The Juilliard School (2)
• Loyola University New Orleans • University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (2)
• Manhattan School of Music (4) • University of Houston (2)
• Mannes The New School for Music • University of Louisville
• Michigan State University • University of Michigan
• Northwestern University • University of North Texas(2)
• University of Notre Dame • Yale School of Music

The Tenors

  • Paul Appleby cut his teeth on stage as the lead singer of a Bruce Springsteen tribute band, The Heroes We Thought We Had to Be.
  • Nathaniel Peake was a total band nerd and always thought he’d be conductor of a high school band.
  • David Portillo studied to be a music teacher, but the first day he saw a class of kindergarten students, he changed his mind and decided on the far easier career of opera singing.

Mezzos, the Salt of the Earth

  • Eve Gigliotti dreams of producing an opera-reggae album with her little brother, a founding member of the popular Philadelphia band, Crucial Reggae.
  • Catherine Martin has a bad habit of reading multiple books at once and not finishing any.

The Countertenor

  • Ryan Belongie is a huge fan of both the Green Bay Packers fan and interior design.

The Low-Voiced Guys

  • Kenneth Kellogg almost changed majors in undergrad so that he could play basketball for Ohio University.
  • Nicholas Masters’ hobbies include guiding DC area traffic and taking kettlebell class at Equinox Fitness.
  • Michael Anthony McGee almost made it onto MTV’s Real World at age 20, but isn’t too disappointed. Who really wants to live in a house filled with cameras and a bunch of crazy people in Las Vegas anyway?
  • Daniel Billings is becoming a photoshop expert.
  • Chad Sloan has two of the best nieces in the world with whom he spends much of his time teaching them to make rude faces at dinner. His sister loves him for this.
  • Michael Sumuel grew up singing gospel and R&B and is a sports junkie (Go Cowboys! Hook ’em Horns!).

Sopranos and Other Divas

  • Rena Harms spends her spare time with the sweetest dog on earth, her shih tzu, Pete.
  • Angela Mannino is a proud native of New Orleans, and her family and friends are Katrina survivors.
  • Hana Park’s dream was to be a concert pianist, for she began playing piano at the age of five as she was growing up in Seoul, Korea.
  • Ashlyn Rust is an avid hiker, and last summer she hiked Longs Peak, the highest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park at 14,259 feet. She completed it in 13 hours despite being caught in a lightning storm above tree line.

If you’re in the Washington DC area this summer, check us out! There’s some fabulous opera to be seen and heard, and I promise we’re not stuffy. Drop by and say hi.

And if you know someone who lives in the Vienna, VA area (northern Virginia, near Tysons Corner) who just might have space in their home to house one of our artists for the summer, write me at wtoc [at] wolftrap [dot] org!


Tales from the GRAMMYs: L.A. Power Couple!

It was so exciting, it was all a blur! 😉

I learned a lot during my GRAMMY Week® about what it means to be ‘in the media.’ (Media? Little ol’ me? Hey, I have a couple of souvenir media credentials to prove it! 😉 ) Last Wednesday, before the GRAMMY Salute to Classical event honoring Placido Domingo, I got to hang out in the media room, waiting to speak with the maestro himself. There were two TV journalists, flanked by camera operators, and two print reporters with their miniature voice recorders. And then there was me, trying to look like I knew what I was doing!

Kimberly Henshaw & José Adán Pérez

While waiting my turn to interview Domingo, I had a chance to chat with a charming young couple from L.A.’s opera scene.

José Adán Pérez was one of the four singers who performed in tribute to Domingo during the evening’s program. He gave a breathtaking rendition of the Zarzuela aria, “Amor, Vida de Mi Vida,” by Federico Moreno Torroba, which I wrote about last week. I’m sad to report that I can’t find video of this performance on grammy.com or the GRAMMYs YouTube channel, though there is a brief video recap of Salute to Classical here.

Below is a video of José singing the piece on another occasion. It was even better with orchestral backup, though… Well, you’ll just have to take my word for it!

The lucky woman who gets to be serenaded by that thrilling baritone voice is Kimberly Henshaw, who works in Communications and Public Relations at L.A. Opera. I talked to Kimberly about the company’s recently announced 2010-2011 season. And I was excited to learn that it opens with the premiére of Il Postino, based on the 1994 film of the same name, with music by composer Daniel Catán. Any guesses as to who will sing the role of the poet Pablo Neruda? 😉

I also learned this fun fact: the L.A. Opera has only been around for about 20 years now. That may sound like a long time — it does stretch back into the last century, after all — but as major cultural institutions go, I think it’s pretty young. Congrats to them for how well they’ve established themselves in such a short time!

Stay tuned for more Tales from the GRAMMYs! 😀


Home from Hollywood!

MMN recuperating on her fainting couch

Hello again, Music Nerds! I’m back home in Boston, de-jet-lagged and well-rested after spending a few days on my fainting couch, wondering if my GRAMMY® adventure was all a dream!

No, it was definitely real, and I have more to share about it, following up on the quick post-game recaps I posted last week. I’ll have the inside scoop from the exclusive venues I managed to con my way into at various events: backstage, the red carpet, the nosebleed seats… I saw it all! 😉

Yep, that's really my foot touching the red carpet!

Stay tuned for my series, Tales from the GRAMMYs, coming soon!


Quick GRAMMY Night Photo Dump!

Well, Music Nerds, I’m tired but happy. I’m going to share a few photos with you right now; I’ll write more later.

Here I am at the Pre-Telecast! (That’s where the classical awards are given, so it was my Main Event!)

Sharon Isbin performing during Pre-Tel:

And accepting the GRAMMY® for Best Classical Performance (without orchestra):

The After-Party had a carnival theme. This trippy dude and I are pointing to the future:

With two other GRAMMY bloggers, Hard Rock Chick and Calinative:

And now, it’s time for all good little music nerds to get some sleep! 🙂


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