'Grammy U' teaches young musicians at Loyola

NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans is a city known all over the world for its music. So it's no surprise that on music's biggest night that Louisiana is well-represented.

Twenty Grammy nominees, in a variety of categories, have Louisiana ties this year. And at Loyola University, there's a whole crop of young, new talent hoping to make in the music industry some day.

"I've loved it since I can remember," said Evan Thibodeaux. "Playing records with my father, dancing."

Thibodeaux is a senior at Loyola with a music industry major. He and classmate Michael Machado recently wrote and produced a song called "Sophia" for a class at Loyola called "The Craft and Business of Song Writing."

The class is made of 17 students, and there's music coming out of the class that already sounds professional.

"This song would be at home on a Sarah Bareilles record. It's beautiful," Professor Jim McCormick told a pair of students after they played their song for the class.

And McCormick would know. He's not only the class professor. He's also a Grammy board member and a successful songwriter with BMG Chrysalis in Nashville.

"I started chasing the dream of being a country song writer about 15 years ago and started hanging out in Nashville and writing with anybody and everybody that would write with me," he said.

He's written dozens of songs. Country star Brantley Gilbert topped the Billboard country charts with a song he wrote called "You Don't Know Her Like I Do."

"Being raised in New Orleans had a big thing to do probably with me becoming a songwriter," he said. "I'm sure of it."

McCormick calls his Loyola class a creative writing workshop. He wants to pass along his knowledge to the next generation.

He's also involved in a program called "Grammy U." It helps students take what's happening in the classroom to the next level.

"It provides a great amount of educational opportunities, networking opportunities, and as an educator and someone who very much loves university life, it's a natural fit for me to be involved in it," McCormick said.

"Grammy U" connects students with music industry professionals through events and educational workshops, allowing them to grow and network with people they wouldn't otherwise meet. That includes everyone from local professionals like those at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival, to national industry executives, and even pop stars.

Loyola junior Alexis Rey knows that first-hand.

"It was really a blessing because my first big Grammy U event that I remember was that we did a sound check with Carly Rae Jepsen," she said.

Rey is also a representative for Grammy U on Loyola's campus.

"Being a freshman in this industry that I knew nothing about, I just knew that I wanted to do music," she explained. "Just having the connection like the word Grammy connected to me was a huge thing."

Tulane University is also getting involved with Grammy U. Katie Pearlman is helping to expand the program on Tulane's campus, too.

"There are so many talented musicians, and they all want to be in the industry and they're interested in the business but they don't really know where to go," Pearlman said.

Grammy U provides students with a place to go. It's open to all college students. A fee of $50 will give them admission to Grammy U for four years of undergraduate work, and two years post-graduation.

McCormick said plenty of students have the talent to make it. They just need a little help along the way.

"It helps to have a genuine love and passion for music, for songwriting," he said.

Rey said she has that passion. And someday, she wants to see the Grammy Awards in person.

"Just gotta get to California and I really want to do that," she said with a laugh.

Grammy U is hosting an event called "Breaking into the Buisiness" at Loyola University on February 28th. Current and potential Grammy U members will be able to attend workshops with several music professionals.

For more information on the New Orleans event, you can visit the Grammy U website here.


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