Inside the Grammy Museum's Latest Music Preservation Initiatives

Michael Sticka
Cara Robbins

Michael Sticka

President Michael Sticka speaks about new Latin music exhibits, boosting tourism and philanthropy

The Recording Academy's Grammy Museum in Los Angeles has awarded $7.5 million in grants to more than 400 recipients since 2008. This year, the museum gave $200,000 to a variety of music-related programs including Northeastern University's research on musical anhedonia, a rare neurological condition that prevents people from deriving pleasure.

The museum's funding also supported the preservation of 150 hours of Edwin Gerhardt’s marimba xylophone collection on 78s and 1,500 recordings from the Armenian-American diaspora. (The application deadline for next year's grants program is Oct. 15.)

“We focus on telling the story of music,” says museum president Michael Sticka, who previously worked as its executive director. Those stories will now have a more global sensibility. A new three-year partnership with the Latin Recording Academy will expand the Grammy Museum’s Latin oriented exhibits and educational programs, and will be run by the museum’s first Latin music curator. 

Sticka spoke about the new grant recipients, increased focus on Latin music and renewing the museum's connection with the Los Angeles community.

Your latest round of grants are for music research and sound preservation. Why are those studies important for the Grammy Museum?

It's very important to us that we provide funding to institutions. Our grants program, where we give out $200,000 a year, is probably one of the oldest programs that was part of the Grammy Foundation. There are two aspects of the grants program: research and preservation.  One example of preservation is how we gave Middle Tennessee State University funding to preserve 500 cassette tapes from bluegrass legend John Hartford. [On the research side] Northeastern University is researching musical anhedonia -- people who don't experience pleasure from music. They’re looking at the links between this disorder, social skills, social bonding and how music is connected.

The Grammy Foundation integrated with the Grammy Museum in January of 2017. How do the two differ?

A museum at its core is an educational institution. The Grammy Foundation was founded 30 years ago to be the educational arm of the Recording Academy. So it made a lot of sense to bring the two organizations together. We maintained the Grammy Foundation’s programs, which are really the national education programs, like Grammy Camp, Music Educator Award, our Grammy Signature School and our grants program. They are great complements to our community education programs here in Los Angeles.

What is the primary source of funding for the Grammy Museum?

Being the Grammys, we have a lot of corporate sponsorship. The Recording Academy provides funding for us as well. Most of our funding though, outside of admissions and retail, comes from donations and membership.

What can we expect from the Latin Recording Academy's recent investment?

That's coming from the strategic plan that we completed and the board adopted last fall. One of our main goals out of the plan was to increase our programming to the Latin community through Latin music. It makes sense because our sister organization is the Latin Recording Academy, but it's also a part of our mission, especially being in Los Angeles county where 48 percent of the population Latinx. We really weren't doing our job or fulfilling our mission effectively with the Latin music gallery so we're very excited and very thankful to the Latin Academy for help with that funding.

The residential school system all but wiped out many Indigenous languages. What you have in place for the preservation of indigenous music?

That's a great question. Right now, what we're focused on is the Latin music community. That's the first step for us. The second step, as we expand our curatorial department, is to not only focus on indigenous music, but also Korean music, or any other kind of global music. We consider that as a part of our mission.

Have you changed the way you’re getting the word out to tourists and schools for visits and for donations from philanthropists or estates?

As far as visitors and students, for the first time ever, we launched a brand campaign, Music Has A Home. We're much more focused on getting the word out about the museum. For the grants program, and any of our programs, we have a deliberate plan that we're putting together with some partners about our social impact and social good. We're doing that via social channels — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin — and through presentations that I’m making throughout the chapters of the Recording Academy.

In your new role as president, has anything changed from when you were executive director?

Nothing has really changed, other than the fact that I continue to get to work with an amazing team and we have a very robust strategic plan that we're already activating on and putting in place. It's certainly an exciting time at the Grammy Museum.