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Letters to Naras: Rachel Faro Writes About the Latin Jazz Grammy

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On Wednesday April 6th, The National Academy Of Recording Arts And Sciences announced a “restructuring" of The Grammy Awards, a move that included the elimination of the Latin Jazz Grammy. This unfortunate decision undermines the integrity of Latin Jazz and disregards its importance as a major piece of the cultural landscape in the United States. I would encourage all LJC readers to protest this decision and demand that NARAS reinstate the Latin Jazz Grammy immediately—you can do this by sending an e-mail to NARAS President and CEO Neil Portnow here—neil@grammy.com Get additional information and updates on LJC's Support Page For The Latin Jazz Grammy.

The elimination of the 31 Grammy categories reaches far beyond the confines of the Latin Jazz community—this is a major issue that impacts musicians from all realms of the business. It's important to remember that outside of the Latin Jazz categories, 30 other genres were effected by the “restructuring." In addition, a number of artists come in and out of multiple genres, working with Latin Jazz musicians on one project while dipping into another musical world on the next. Singer, songwriter, and producer Rachel Faro has made these regular connections with Latin Jazz musicians while maintaining connections with other styles. From a teenage role in the Los Angeles production of Hair to co-producing Eddie Palmieri's Sueñoor working closely with several important Cuban groups, Faro has done it all. Her broad perspective allows her to realistically see the long-term impact of the Grammy changes and value of keeping each of these individual categories.

Dear Neil,

I've been a member of NARAS since 1982 and my connection with the Academy goes back to when I appeared on the Grammies as a teenage member of the LA cast of Hair. I've done just about everything one can do in the music business from recording as a major label artist for RCA to producing over thirty albums of all kinds of music from blues to world to jazz to New Age to salsa (three of which have received Grammy Nominations), to owning and operating an independent record label. I am one of the few women around who has produced so many albums and who has been her own boss at her own label.

Never have I experienced the Academy to be in so much danger of losing its relevance to those of us who are experienced recording professionals. Cutting out so many categories is one of the worst things to have happened to the Academy and the repercussions of this shall last for years to come. Instead of strengthening the Academy you have weakened it.

By “folding in" unique categories such as Latin jazz, Hawaiian, Zydeco, Native American and New Age you have disenfranchised committed NARAS members who are as much the heart and soul of the music business as major pop stars. You have basically expressed to them that their music and recordings, however excellent, don't matter. As you know, receiving a Grammy or a nomination, can be an important engine for expansion of these genres. The Academy, instead of being aware of the importance of expanding diversity and creativity in music, has instead chosen to contract and marginalize this music.

Also, the guidelines by which you have accomplished this butchery seem to be confusing and arbitrary. Is it 40 minimum submissions or 25? And if it is 25 with 3 nominations and 40 with 5 nominations, as has been explained to me, why are categories such as Latin jazz which have always had an average of 30㬟 submissions now eliminated (or “folded in" as you explain, which really is just wrong—Latin jazz is not straight ahead jazz and should not be blended in this way)?

At least be consistent and immediately reinstate any categories which have submitted over 25 entries in the last years. Not to do so is grossly unfair.

It is crucial that this week's meetings include a strong reconsideration of which categories should be immediately reinstated. There is no reason not to do so, especially if they pass the 25 minimum requirement.

I question the priorities of the Academy and its governance. I am aware of all the wonderful things that the Academy does: Musicares, education, advocacy in D.C. and such. But are we there to truly represent our membership in all its excellence and diversity or to embody a narcissistic, glossy producer of “music's biggest night"? Some of these “smaller" genres have been huge sellers in the past (Hawaiian, polka) and some are burgeoning and growing more vital every year (all Latin music, Latin jazz, World), and some may remain stable and at the same size indefinitely (Native American, Zydeco)—nevertheless all are equally important and should be equally respected and represented by the Academy.

I have always enjoyed all that the Academy offered and there are many who work within the Academy that I consider dear friends and fellow professionals. But if these issues are not considered and these categories are not reinstated I may no longer feel that NARAS represents me and the music that I make. In that case I will seriously consider resigning from the Academy after all these years.

Respectfully,

Rachel Faro

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This story appears courtesy of The Latin Jazz Corner by Chip Boaz.
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