From Taylor Hanson to Dion ‘No I.D.’ Wilson to Laura Jane Grace, these artists span genres and regions — but are united by their commitment to improving the industry for their fellow creators.
For a diverse group of artists and creatives nationwide, the Recording Academy is no mysterious, abstract entity, or one they only think about once Grammy nomination day arrives. It’s a central part of their lives, because they’re elected members of the academy’s 12 local chapter boards. Each spring, local academy members vote to elect their chapter’s governors, and the chapter boards, in turn, elect their respective officers and trustees. (Term limits vary.) Those board elections empower members at all levels of the industry to take on leadership roles in initiatives with both local and national impact.
Ten of them — from a Grammy-winning veteran hip-hop producer, to an acclaimed country songwriter, to a one-time teen sensation turned chapter president — spoke to Billboard about why getting involved was one of the best decisions they’ve made (and, quite often, good for business, too).
Have you made any friends or collaborators through working in your chapter?
I made some great friends with people that I never thought I would have met or gravitated [toward] like Taylor Hanson, who’s now our chapter president, and he elevated quickly in the chapter because of his passion. [From] the day he became a board member, he spoke at every meeting. He gave ideas. He was always engaged in the conversation. I don’t think we could have a better president for our chapter. He has a very deep care and concern for musicians, content creators and venues. He showed that when he fought to keep many music venues open in his home state of Oklahoma. I’m excited to not only get to know him somewhat professionally, but more so personally.
And we have some amazing members in our chapter I’ve been able to get quite close to, like Yolanda Adams, a member for many years now who’s also a national trustee. She has given me such insight about what’s expected of me and not to put too much pressure on myself. It’s good to have someone as respectable and knowledgeable as Yolanda Adams on speed dial.
Singer-songwriter, Hanson, 39
Texas Chapter President, 2022-2024 (Vice President, 2021-22; Governor, 2016-21)
How did you get involved in the Texas chapter?
I’ve been a [Recording Academy] member since I was 14. But the entree to really get involved came from the leadership with the Texas chapter a few years after [Hanson had] been independent consistently. It was [an effort] to get young blood involved. Advocating and supporting and making things better beyond my own four walls was something that I found really interesting because you see people taken advantage of a lot, artists not knowing their power. The academy really is a union of sorts, or an artists alliance that is connecting creators.
What’s the most important issue facing the Texas chapter?
The greatest thing that’s facing us is gaining more active members in our region of Texas and Oklahoma, which is part of the Texas chapter. The music industry has a history of being perceived as very much New York and L.A., which it is, but as it has evolved, people are much more spread out. There’s an active community of creatives in different places. Showing the Recording Academy’s relevance to creators that are not in industry-dominant markets is a real challenge.
What are your local chapter meetings like since you’ve become president?
The idea is simply, “Let’s be the most musical chapter possible.” So that meant moving our meetings to recording studios instead of a hotel so we can promote a local studio. We start every meeting with a performance from a local artist and then use every possible opportunity to turn things that the academy’s already invested in into ways to talk to future members in [our] area. The challenge of the Recording Academy is always balancing this big, glitzy show with the award everyone wants and the real work of the academy, which is to create a network of active, real professional musicians who are engaged in producing music and producing their art for themselves but are also a part of a community that is hoping to advocate for one another and be a trusted brand.
The academy is prioritizing diversity; how have you manifested that in the Texas chapter?
We need to be active in our communities, not just looking like we’re being “diverse” because you look around the room and you see different-colored people or different styles, but really diverse, as in diverse perspectives, people from rural places. We are actively pushing our leadership to recommend new members and to amplify things that we know are priorities: to encourage more membership from the Black community, membership from women behind the scenes like engineers and producers. We want to proactively go, “Hey, is your voice being heard? Are you sitting at the table alongside other members?” Every chapter has subcommittees; let’s really be proactive about engaging different voices for those subcommittees because those focused areas are the ones that end up elevating people into leadership.
How do you communicate with your fellow chapter presidents?
We have a text chain among all the presidents of the 12 chapters. One of the things that I’m particularly excited about is working on initiatives that get collaboration going between chapters because you have this incredible network. The Recording Academy has a chance to be the most comprehensive, engaged advocate for itself, for music and creators, not just for the creators who have broken through. There’s a lot of growth that could be done there, and that comes back to the chapters.
What do you appreciate the most about your fellow officers?
The relationships that you get to forge. [Former president/current adviser and rapper] Paul Wall is one of the longest-serving members. He’s incredibly astute. One of our new members, [gospel singer] Gene Moore, and I just clicked right out of the gate. [National trustee and gospel singer] Yolanda Adams’ leadership style is always very positive, but she also will challenge the status quo. She’s great at setting the tone for the room. She’s very good at communicating, but do not be deceived — when something is not going in the right direction, she will absolutely say, “You know, this is going to go against the grain, but we need to address this.”
Do you have a favorite Grammy performance of all time?
It’s a little bit self-serving, but I’m going to go back to [Hanson’s] own performance in 1998. It’s not the greatest, but it’s the most significant in my Grammy history. It was at Radio City Music Hall [in New York]. This is my nudge toward the Grammys — there was a feeling of specialness being at Radio City versus being in an arena. We love the fans, of course, but it felt more like a community of peers acknowledging one another. I hope that that feeling, which was a little more intimate, we can recapture in future years. —M.N.