When Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow was about 7 years old, he saw an Elvis Presley performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” that changed his life. “It kind of blew my mind,” Portnow recalls. “The day after, I told my mom and dad that I wanted to play guitar like that.”
Soon after, Portnow started receiving guitar lessons from Stan Solow, who introduced him to influential guitarists like Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Raney and Andrés Segovia. During his address at the 55th annual Grammy Awards in February, Portnow noted Solow’s influence on his musical career when announcing the Recording Academy and Grammy Foundation’s first Music Educator Award, an honor that recognizes the positive influence of music teachers on their students.
“As I said on the telecast, ‘I never became a guitar god, but he certainly changed my life forever,’” says Portnow, who announced the award alongside Ryan Seacrest and Justin Timberlake.