Mike Greene Grammy Speech 1992
The 1992 Grammy Awards were Unforgettable, quite literally… Natalie Cole and her deceased father, Nat King Cole were awarded the Grammys for Record, Album and Song of the year for “Unforgettable”, and technology enabled us to produce a marvelous duet between Natalie and her father on the show. The 1991-92 Grammy eligibility year also was the year we formed the National Coalition for Music Education with our good friends at NAMM and MENC. The findings of our Commission and the work of the Coalition provided undeniable evidence that music and the arts are critical to the development of our children, and we took this message to communities all over the country in many forums all year long. To that end my 1992 Grammy speech concentrated on arts education and access to it for all of America’s children.
In 1991 President Bush (1) announced a new imperative for education called America 2000. The core subjects were listed as English, math, science, history and geography. Astonishingly, music and the arts were nowhere to be found! All of our Coalition’s requests to add the arts were met with blunted replies of “No” from then President Bush, and Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander (former Governor of Tennessee). And then, in November of 1991 Secretary of Education Alexander, the highest ranking education official in this country and himself a musician, called music and arts education “Extracurricular”! For the previous 2-1/2 years the coalition battled for the arts inclusion and recognition as part of education reform. All suggestions and requests for change were constantly rebuffed. No matter how strong the case being made and no matter how influential the leaders bringing the issue forward on the community’s behalf. But, in one ten day time period because of the efforts of just a few people, everything changed, and it all started with the 1992 Grammy speech.
Robert Morrison was heading up NAMM’s Coalition efforts in 1991-92 and is now the President of Quadrant Arts Education Research Corporation. In 2011 Mr. Morrison wrote the following article regarding the back story to the 1992 Grammy speech:
The Bully Pulpit of One
Mike Greene, angered by the lack of progress with national leaders, took the stage at the Grammy Awards on Tuesday, February 25, 1992 and in front of 1.5 BILLION people and like a preacher at the pulpit launched the following salvo:
” America’s creative environment affords all of its citizens the opportunity to create and appreciate music, and that begins with education. In the near future, you’re going to be hearing a great deal about the government’s plan for education. It’s called AMERICA 2000. It’s a supposed educational blueprint for the next millennium. And guess what? Among the goals, the words ‘art’ and ‘music’ are not even mentioned one time. The very idea that you can educate young people in a meaningful way without music and art is simply absurd….If current trends persist, music will no longer be a universal entitlement, but one of the markers future historians point to as the beginning of a cultural caste system tied to personal and class economics….If a child has never been inspired by a poem, if a kid has never been moved to tears by a great symphonic work…why on earth should we believe that our future generations could even be bothered by the banning of records or the burning of books?”
Immediately following the show Secretary Alexander called a friend in Nashville’s music business and asked (sanitized for publication): “Who is Mike Greene and what is his <<#@$$>> problem?”
In an effort to head of the negative press, Secretary Alexander announced from a pay phone in an airport to an education reporter for the Tennessean Newspaper in Nashville Tennessee the creation of the “America 2000 Arts Partnership” just in time to be printed in the paper the day of the concert (March 6, 1992). Think about this.
A major new education initiative for music and arts education for the country coming from the US Department of Education is announced to an education reporter in Nashville!
Which brings us to the main question: Did this decision have anything to do with….children? The answer unfortunately is no. It was all about politics and perceptions. This is a VERY important lesson that has driven the modern day arts education advocacy movement. It would be three weeks before the formal details of the plan were released. When they were music and arts education were at least invited to the table: The America 2000 Arts Partnership. The plan spoke of National Standards for Arts Education but stopped short of embracing the arts as a core subject. It would take a change of administration and a new Secretary of Education to make this happen.
The New Administration Seals the Victory
With the change of administration after the 1992 election a new Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, entered the scene. After being in office for less than one month – on February 23, 1993 (we know for a fact this was strategically released on the eve of the Grammy Awards), new US Secretary of Education released the following statement on the importance of Arts in education:
“As we work to improve the quality of education for all children, the arts must be recognized as a vital part of our effort. The arts–including music, theater, dance, and visual arts–are a unique medium for communicating what is common to all of us as human beings and what is special to each of us as creative individuals. The arts provide valuable opportunities for understanding our cultural heritage and that of all other civilizations. The arts also enhance our nation’s economic competitiveness by developing creative problem-solving skills, imagination, self-discipline and attention to detail. Emerging national education standards will, for the first time, provide a clear vision of the knowledge, skills, and concepts that all students need to learn through studying the arts. Building on existing arts education partnerships, the Department will implement and support new education reform efforts which insure that the arts are an integral part of every child’s education.” I guess he saw the Grammy Awards from the previous year!
The overwhelming response to this statement from music and arts educators, advocates, and supporters from across the country gave the Secretary the courage to then change the National Education Goals and add the Arts as a core subject to the new education legislation “Goals 2000.” On March 31, 1994 the President signed Goals 2000 and now music and the arts are codified into federal law as a core subject. That same month the National Standards for Arts Education were released. Not long after new research studies would be published connecting music and arts education to all sorts of educational benefits.
Mike Greene had nothing to gain by taking the Grammy stage on February 25, 1992 to deliver what is now the most important speech ever delivered on our behalf.
Honoring excellence through our Grammy awards is only one of the goals of the academy but of even greater importance is the Academy’s year round work representing the interests of the creative community and ensuring that America’s creative environment affords all of its citizens the opportunity to create and appreciate music and that begins with education. In the near future, you are going to be hearing a great deal about the government’s new plan for education, it’s called America 2000, it’s a supposed educational blueprint for the next millennium and guess what, among all the goals, the words arts or music are not mentioned even one time. The very idea that you can educate young people in a meaningful way without music and art is simply absurd. Through NARAS initiatives, like the National Coalition for Music Education, Grammy in the Schools, the National Student Music Awards and the McDonald’s All American High School Band, the academy is working at the grassroots level to keep music and art in America’s schools for all our kids. If current trends persist, music will no longer be a universal entitlement, but one of the markers future historians point to as the beginnings of a cultural cast system, tied to personal and class economics. You know in the past few years, our industry has spent a lot of time accentuating the importance of intellectual properties and fighting against censorship. But if a child has never been inspired by a poem, if a kid has never been moved to tears by a great symphonic work, or if a minority child has never been told that it was his or her people who gave us most of our great indigenous American music, why on earth should we believe that our future generations could ever be bothered by the banning of records or the burning of books.