Atlanta - Chapter Board Spotlight - Kevin Leahy
What does The Recording Academy® and/or the Atlanta Chapter specifically mean to you?
The Recording Academy Atlanta Chapter has been a big source of inspiration for me. In addition to being the organization that introduced me to many of the musicians and producers I’ve gotten to know and work with over the years, I’ve gained a wealth of insight into other aspects of the ever-changing music industry. Especially in Atlanta, where artists from so many backgrounds come together to collaborate and create, the Atlanta Chapter helps me connect with the highest caliber of musicians and recording professionals. There’s a strong sense of camaraderie amongst the Chapter members here, representing many facets of the entertainment industry, and we’re all inspired and motivated by the efforts we see each other make.
Why did you first become a member of the Academy?
I was first introduced to the Academy about 15 years ago, after doing a number of recordings that gave me the credits to become a voting member. I was intrigued to see that the organization that staged the biggest annual televised music awards show also comprised of local chapters which focused on numerous initiatives that connected music professionals throughout the year with networking opportunities, education programs, advocacy efforts and more. I’ve been a member every since, making friends and building up a network of trusted professionals that I often turn to for guidance, assistance and collaboration.
Tell us something you love about one of the following Academy programs/initiatives: Advocacy, Awards, MusiCares®, GRAMMY Foundation®, GRAMMY Museum, etc.
I’m a fan of the Awards, primarily the lesser known categories spotlighting unique aspects of the recording arts – Best Historical Album, Best Music Film, Best Classical Instrumental Solo, Best Recording Package and more. I’m always amazed to see and hear the work nominated in these categories, as they highlight various aspects of the industry that typically does not get as much attention as the televised Pop, Rock and Country categories. It’s inspiring and encouraging to think about all of the people out there fine-tuning their unique craft, contributing their part to the recording industry.
What is one of the most important things you would want to impart on the next generation of music makers and/or executives?
I feel it’s important to know that many of the challenges we face today in the music industry are similar to the challenges musicians have faced for a long time. It’s really up to everyone to continue to stick together, break down barriers that limit growth and opportunity, listen to those who have something to say, and foster a community that keeps everyone encouraged to pursue their craft. The music industry is ever-evolving, and it can be challenging and often frustrating to navigate one’s course as a music maker. But if you continue to show up, learn from your experiences and keep at it, it can be an extremely rewarding journey.
What makes Atlanta’s music community so special?
I think there is such a supportive group of musicians, producers, promoters and fans in this area of the country that have a love and respect for the distinctive musical traditions that arose here, but are also eager to take chances and try something new. Music has been such a big part of this city’s DNA for generations, attracting people from all over the world to add to the melting pot of sound that makes us so unique.
What was your first concert you ever attended and where?
Pink Floyd on their “Momentary Lapse of Reason” tour at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, 1988. I’m pretty sure that sealed the deal for me.
What is the best spot in Atlanta to catch a show?
I’ve always loved Eddie’s Attic and the Variety Playhouse, and have been fortunate to have played at both venues many times over the last 20 years. No matter who I’m playing with or who I go see perform at these venues, the room always transforms into something unique throughout the performance. The sound is always impeccable, fine tuned by engineers who have worked these rooms for years, and there’s a collective respect of the moment between the artists and audience.
What projects are you currently working on?
In addition to freelancing on drums and percussion with a number of different artists, I’ve been putting a lot of effort into the Atlanta Pops Orchestra. The 30-piece orchestra celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2015, and we marked the occasion by creating some new programs that connected us to today’s Atlanta music scene – much in the same way Albert Coleman did when he led the Atlanta Pops for the first 50 years. This celebration included performance collaborations with hip-hop trailblazers (and two time GRAMMY award winners) Arrested Development, blues guitarist & singer-songwriter Michelle Malone, former Celtic Woman singer Chloë Agnew, HeaveN Beatbox, Levi Lowrey and many more artists that have a strong connection to this city. We even gave the premiere performance of an original song written by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal. And we released a Christmas album with John Driskell Hopkins from Zac Brown Band – the first full album recording by the Atlanta Pops Orchestra in over 30 years. We are currently working to build upon the momentum of these activities, and eventually expand our recording and performance opportunities to include film scores, additional collaborations and more.