By Betsy Rothstein - 09/07/05 12:00 AM EDT
Keep your eyes peeled.
About 100 music artists, many of them Grammy winners, will swarm Capitol Hill today in an effort to make lawmakers more aware of the music industry and the importance of supporting it.
The more famous artists to watch for include three-time Grammy winner Gloria Estefan, songwriter Desmond Child (he wrote “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” sung by Ricky Martin) and musician and “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson. The less famous, but talented, stars include Grammy winner Jimmy Jam, jazz guitarist and Grammy winner Earl Klugh and saxophonist Dave Koz.
Koz flew in to Washington on Monday for today’s event, having traveled from South Africa, where he spent the past two weeks performing in Johannesburg and Cape Town. He also went on a six-day safari. He spoke to The Hill shortly after arriving at his Washington hotel in what he admits was a jet-lagged haze.
Koz intends to bring up his pet peeve with the politicians he meets today: Arts programs are the first to get sacrificed in budget disputes.
“That’s a scary thought for me and for our culture,” said Koz, who has been involved with the Recording Academy of Arts & Sciences for eight years and serves as a national trustee for the chapter in Los Angeles, where he lives.
“That is where the culture is built from, the arts. Other countries may not be as rich as the United States, but they understand the importance of the arts in the overall culture [more than we do]. I’m not sure how much the United States values arts. I would like to see it valued more, and that starts in the schools.”
Grammys on the Hill, as today’s event is called, has included only evening performances for the past five years, but the Recording Academy of Arts & Sciences is expanding the program this time, particularly by sending the entertainers to the Hill.
They will be divided into 11 teams, 10 per team, and will meet with 22 lawmakers. Estefan will hold a master class called “The Power of Music” from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in Rayburn Gold Room 2168. During the session, she will mentor young musicians; the event will end in a jam session with various members of Congress and other guest artists.
While the Estefan master class is open to the media as well as guests, other events are closed, including a private breakfast also held in the Rayburn Gold Room.
Lawmakers who get private appointments with the musicians may be in for an impromptu concert in their offices. Members who have agreed to host the artists are a bipartisan mix, including Reps. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Mary Bono (R-Calif.), Mark Foley (R-Fla.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas).
“As good as the lobbyists are, we’ve found that there’s nothing like the congressmen interacting with the artists themselves,” said Daryl Friedman, vice president of advocacy and government relations for the Recording Academy of Arts & Sciences. “We’re hoping to have a unifying day for the music industry.”
Koz said the timing of the hurricane and the destruction of parts of Louisiana is fortuitous “in the sense that New Orleans is such an incredible music city. When words don’t help, music is often a great source of healing.”
Money helps, too. And to that end, the Academy announced that it will pledge $1 million to musicians affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Koz began playing saxophone in his older brother’s band, performing at bar mitzvahs and fraternity parties. “I never thought I’d be successful,” he said, but has played twice for former President Bill Clinton and twice for Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), including a performance in the back yard of the senator’s Kalorama home in Washington for Kennedy and a group of senators.
Koz is a Democrat but doesn’t want to play that up. “Sometimes I think we all tend to label ourselves too much,” he said.
He is thrilled, he said, to be part of the delegation of musicians that will flood Capitol Hill. He said he sees it as an act of solidarity in the aftermath of the hurricane.
Stressing that the people heading to the Hill include not just performers but also song writers, music labels, the National Music Publishers Association and the National Association of Retailers of Music, Friedman said, “It’s really the first time that every aspect of the community is coming together to talk about the big picture with Congress.”
Afternoon events will include Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) giving a speech with FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein and, Friedman said, at least two other senators who had not yet confirmed that they will participate.
This evening, the festivities will continue at the Willard InterContinental Hotel, where the Academy will honor those who “work to improve the environment for music makers and artists who use the power of music to improve all our lives.” This year’s award recipients include Estefan, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Jon Secada will present Estefan with her award as well as perform. Crystal Gayle with songwriter Richard Leigh will also perform.
Koz is looking forward to today’s schedule on Capitol Hill and said he plans on bringing his saxophone. “I will play in the hallways, in the restrooms, on the roof,” he said. “I’m a soldier, I am ready to go.”