More than the Grammys: More than 40 artists from La. join the ranks of the Recording Academy | Entertainment/Life
More than 40 Louisiana musicians are among the new members of the Recording Academy.
Best known for producing the Grammy Awards, the Recording Academy also works as an advocate for music professionals. In addition to state and federal legislative initiatives, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based organization provides medical and financial assistance to musicians through its MusiCares Foundation.
The Recording Academy’s Memphis, Tennessee chapter includes Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, and West Tennessee. Sean Ardoin, a zydeco musician from Lake Charles, is chapter president; Reid Wick in New Orleans is senior project manager; and Memphis-based Jon Hornyak is the chapter’s senior executive director.
Geismar-based jazz singer and music teacher Quiana Lynell is in her second term as governor of the Memphis Recording Academy chapter. She votes in multiple Grammy categories and attends board meetings with the likes of Grammy winner, New Orleans-born gospel star PJ Morton.
“Everyone sees the Grammy Awards, but The Recording Academy is about more than the awards,” Lynell said. “The work done by the Academy spans a year and decades to come.”
New members of the Baton Rouge Recording Academy include Mike Esneault, an Emmy-winning pianist, composer and arranger, and Henry Turner Jr., a recording artist, music hall operator and festival organizer.
“I can’t wait to be there,” Turner said of her first year of Grammy voting. “And, of course, I want to recruit other members.”
“It’s a good thing,” Esneault said of joining the Recording Academy. “I have a lot of colleagues who are part of it, especially in New Orleans.”
Last year’s newest members include Prairieville-based Justin Garner, an R&B and pop singer whose recent gigs include the national anthem during Thursday’s baseball game between the Dodgers and Giants in San Francisco.
“It gives me, someone from Louisiana who’s been playing and recording for years, an opportunity to help shape the musical landscape,” Garner said of his Grammy vote and work as a Grammy U mentor.
The Recording Academy has three membership categories: voting members include musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers, and artists and designers who create album covers; professional members work in music and education; Grammy U is the student membership category of the Academy.
Most of the Recording Academy’s hundreds of members in Louisiana are voting members. They help determine who wins a Grammy Award, “a true peer award, the highest award in music,” Wick said.
Wick, guitarist for the New Orleans band Bucktown All-Stars, began working with the Recording Academy as an administrator for the MusiCares Hurricane Katrina relief program. Even though Louisiana had fewer than 100 Recording Academy members in the mid-2000s, MusiCares has helped more than 4,000 musicians in the state.
Wick’s two years with MusiCares helped him realize how rich Louisiana was in potential Recording Academy members.
“That’s what I’ve been doing for the past 15 years, growing the membership in our chapter,” he said.
Wick and the Recording Academy’s Memphis chapter recently scored legislative success in Louisiana with the passage of the Allen Toussaint Legacy Act. Named after the late New Orleans songwriter, pianist, and producer, the law prohibits third-party commercial use of an individual’s identity in Louisiana without the written consent of the individual or his or her authorized representative.
“Louisiana did not have an after-death publicity provision,” Wick explained. “Before this law, when someone died in Louisiana, anyone could exploit their likeness.”
After the beloved Toussaint died in 2015, his son, Reginald, spotted his father’s image on merchandise being sold in New Orleans. And Tim Kappel, an entertainment law professor at Loyola University, noticed Toussaint koozies on sale outside the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
“Reggie (Toussaint) called me,” Wick recalled. “He said people were selling t-shirts in the French Quarter, which the family didn’t approve of. And while we were working through the legislature in the spring, Dr. John’s attorney called and said they were having similar issues. He asked if we were going to pass this law. After three tries in the legislature, we got it passed.