Ne-Yo, Jesse McCartney, Keri Hilson and producers Stargate were among the artists and songwriters who joined a diverse lineup of industry professionals for Grammy Career Day today (Feb. 4) at the University of Southern California (USC). Presented by the Gibson Foundation, this annual initiative of the Grammy in the Schools program was attended by 1100 Los Angeles area high school students along with 100 students from Las Vegas (Clark County).

A cheering audience of music career aspirants greeted panelists for the
day’s first event: a Super Panel comprised of current Grammy nominee Ne-Yo, McCartney, Hilson, EMI Music Publishing president/West Coast Creative Big Jon Platt and The Recording Academy chairman/producer Jimmy Jam. Moderated by Recording Academy West regional director Lizzy Moore, the hour-long session touched on various subjects from songwriting and production to publishing.

On the subject of songwriting, McCartney advised fledgling songwriters that “when you try to fit a certain genre or mold, you fail. Write what you know. That’s your template.”

Cautioning that “your spot in this business is not etched in stone,” Ne-Yo recommended that students finish school and follow the “3 P’s” in their career endeavors: passion, persistence and patience.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you make if you can’t count it,” he emphasized. “It’s also difficult to write a song if you can’t read or write. Being prepared and following the 3 P’s will get you where you’re trying to go.”

That session was followed by 11 concurrent workshops focusing on various fields: vocals, music direction, jazz, production, songwriting, artist management, engineering, publishing, music & visual media, rock and women in music. The industry professionals participating in these mini-seminars included Concord Records executive VP John Burk, Universal Music Publishing executive VP of creative affairs Tom Sturges, managers Tina Davis (Chris Brown) and
Brian Avnet (Eric Benét), “American Idol” music director Rickey Minor,
producer Harvey Mason Jr., Fox Music senior VP Mike Knobloch and Cuervo Entertainment president Javier Willis.

Treating an standing-room-only audience to an inside peek at the creative process, songwriter panelists Lamont Dozier (Motown’s Holland-Dozier-Holland), Sean Garrett and Hilson partially composed a song on the spot using student suggestions for subject matter and tempo. Rounding out the day was a student concert featuring the 2009 Grammy Jazz Ensembles (choir, combo and band).

Lending its support of the event while promoting hearing health and
conservation was the Starkey Hearing Foundation in partnership with the Grammy Foundation.