*This article is written by special guest author, Michelle Jones. An Orlando-based composer, instrumentalist, and voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), Michelle travels to LA each year to attend the annual GRAMMY awards as well as any associated events. We are so honored that she chose to share her 2023 experience with Orlando Decoded. Thank you, Michelle! You can learn more about Ms. Jones and her work by reading the “About the Author” section at the end of the post.*
It is rough to be a traveling musician, especially when crossing time zones with inconsistent schedules for eating and sleeping. Then there are times you don’t mind the schedule for the pinnacle event of the year – the GRAMMY Awards®!
As a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), I have the exciting opportunity to attend the GRAMMY Awards® each year, and all the preceding events and after parties. It is a full week of non-stop activities and time spent with friends.
Upon landing the week prior to the main GRAMMY Awards® telecast, I went directly into a meeting and private tour with Spotify in the LA Arts District. I toured their facilities and discussed playlists, new artists, podcasts, and streaming, as well as their new projects with their own studios nationwide. I am so excited to continue building our relationships with my own record label, Cosplay Records, and working with Spotify’s teams of artist management, engineers and producers!
The next few days included more meetings (formal and informal) with officers, board members and trustees from the twelve various Recording Academy/GRAMMY® Chapters across the USA, in addition to many organized events. One of my favorite events was the GRAMMY U Masterclass with Jacob Collier and Jessie Reyes. Jacob is the musicians’ musician, as he studied formal music composition and theory in the UK. He taught the entire audience how to build a chord, move the chord, and sing it all while he conducted from the stage. He calls it the “audience choir” and he says he ends every show with it. For a music theory nerd like me, I understood every word and it was a wonderful experience to witness Jacob as a born teacher.
Another of my favorite events that week was the GRAMMY® Fund Brunch with Maren Morris, supporting the Advocacy of NARAS and for artists’ rights in local, state and national governments. I am part of GRAMMY® Advocacy, and was happy to finally see fellow committee members in person. We have had virtual meetings for many years, so being able to actually hug someone was very healing.
Fun fact: The “hang” after any of these events is as vital to furthering your career and reputation as attending. It’s where the relationships grow and build for musicians and creators. The official event hotel lobby bar is a key place to hang out and meet with your colleagues.
There were several more events and parties, but we were all there mainly for the big day – GRAMMY Awards® Day! This event emphasizes the importance of attending and being “seen.” Therefore, my friends and I wanted to represent our hometown of Orlando, Florida, by partnering with our local seamstresses and cosplay specialists to create “looks” that would stand out as a group and individually. When you are given the opportunity to showcase you and your friends’ fashion creativity, dedication to visual and performing arts, and responsibility to upcycle and repurpose clothing so it does not end up in a landfill, you do it!
Orlando Fashion District’s Emmy® Award-Winning Seamstress Gina Vincenza (PsychoSeamstress) asked me if she could help create my look for the 2023 GRAMMY Awards®. Gina is known for environmentally responsible fashion through upcycling and repurposing clothing. She was already working with Ms. MekaNism (President of the Florida Chapter of NARAS) and her partner Cross Prime for their looks. I immediately knew the primary part of my ensemble: the overskirt I designed and made with my mother when I was 16 years old! So much love went into that dress. I won my first concerto competition playing violin in that dress, and it earned me a scholarship. I hand-sewed every sequin, every bow, every glass bead on the silk organza. Gina changed the waistband to an elastic with Velcro closure for ease of dressing, and we added pockets inside to hold my high heels/flats. Awards day is an 18-hour day as it starts at 11am Pacific Time with constant events, Premiere Ceremony, Telecast, After Party, and multiple after parties till 5am. I have to stay in the dress the entire time, so comfort, versatility and having flat shoes for walking are a necessity.
Once we had the definitive part established, we rummaged through my closet to find a new base dress. We found a vintage beaded black sheer column gown with a hot pink underdress that I had purchased several years ago to wear onstage (thanks to Leigh Shannon at Ritzy Rags thrift section). We made it a short/long dress (short in front, long in back) so that I could show off my Saint-Laurent Tribute Sandal shoes and sparkle hose.
The final piece was one I designed and needed help fabricating. I wanted a multi-function lighted pterodactyl collar. I started lighting up instruments and costumes in 2015, and have worn the only illuminated dresses at the GRAMMY Awards® through 2022. Well, this definitely posed quite a challenge for Orlando Fashion District, so we involved Melissa and Katelyn with Cryptid Roots. They are well-known cosplayers, and certainly stepped up to this momentous task. With multiple fittings, mock-ups in muslin, plastic and metal wires strung together, and trial-and-error brainstorming, we finally finished this piece at 2:00 am the day before I left. These ladies spent so many hours and had the best attention to detail I have ever seen! It served every purpose needed, including traveling well in a suitcase across the country. Gina, Melissa and Katelyn were a dream team!
Once in Los Angeles and checked in to the hotel, I immediately unpacked the gown and steamed them to be perfect for Sunday’s marathon of events. As I steamed the pink silk organza overskirt, I felt my late mother’s presence in my heart. She was in LA with me in spirit. On Sunday, as soon as I stepped out of the car, people started taking photos of me.
My accessories were Saint-Laurent Tribute Sandals, Valentino Garavani Calfskin Rockstud Bag and V Logo Signature Pearl bracelet, and Dark Garden Custom Corset with Finishing Belt.
After several photos, I met up with other attendees, and we headed over to the many red-carpet opportunities took lots of photos as a group. Meka’s ensemble used EL wire, was designed by her and her partner, Cross, and fabricated by both Cross and Gina. The embroidery of Meka’s Owl logo on her custom jacket was done by Cryptid Roots. Cross and Gina worked together to create his overall look. We all wore sustainable fashion, and everyone we met wanted photos with us, including many of the GRAMMY® Award Winners of the day. We got to share our stories of our ensembles, and everyone agreed our original looks and sustainable fashion were the highlight as we lit up the night!
- The GRAMMY Awards® are ONLY open to voting and professional members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). The only people who may obtain tickets and attend are those members in good standing. If you are invited to be a guest of a member, it is a high honor as the members all have a limited number of tickets we are allowed to purchase. No amount of money can buy you a ticket into these award ceremonies without having a person on the inside. Plus, as a member, we must be present with our guest(s) in attendance. Any violation of the rules (especially when it comes to tickets) may result in immediate expulsion from NARAS.
- We as voting members actually vote for the GRAMMY Awards® winners and nominees. Professional members and record labels CAN NOT VOTE; only individual voting members in good standing. It is the only peer-selected awards for music in the world. The voting members are well-educated and well-versed in their specific genres, and are limited to those genres for actual voting purposes.
- There is MORE THAN ONE “Red Carpet.” There are preceding events red carpets, premiere ceremony red carpets, standing in line for a photo op red carpets, non-celebrity and NARAS big-wig red carpets, guest of nominee/celebrity red carpets, after-party red carpets, and finally actual nominee red carpets. When you are there in person, you know which one has which background and can tell the difference.
About the Author: Michelle Jones
Michelle Jones, the Vinylinist® is an award-winning rock violinist, recording artist, composer, and bandleader of the House Band for the City of Orlando, Violectric®. She is a producer and owns her own record label, Cosplay Records. She is also a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, a.k.a. Recording Academy/GRAMMYs® (NARAS), and serves on the Education Committee and the Advocacy Committee with the Florida Chapter of NARAS. With membership comes responsibility. As part of her responsibilities, she attend the GRAMMY® Awards and preceding events each year that she is able. She says, “I take this very seriously as it is a privilege to be a voting member.” preceding events each year that she is able. She says, “I take this very seriously as it is a privilege to be a voting member.”