The Recording Academy's latest signing, Ron Roecker, is keen to
talk about the group's philanthropic ventures. But the Grammys are still
his main attraction, reports Eleanor Trickett.
"It's r-o-e-c-k-e-r (ROE-kuh). Not Rocker," says the communications
director for the Recording Academy, Ron Roecker, spoiling the fun
And that's not the only time he plays the party pooper. "My No. 1 goal
is to make sure that people know about Music Cares and the Grammy
Foundation," he says, maturely sidestepping PRWeek's desire for
salacious stories about sex, drugs, and the Grammy Awards.
But there's something about his garrulous nature and tail-wagging love
for his job - to say nothing of the fact that he looks like a member of
a boy band - that makes the philanthropic side of the organization seem
every bit as cool as the awards themselves.
Music Cares, one of those initiatives, certainly has a quintessentially
rock-'n'-roll flavor. It's a support organization for people in the
music community who have succumbed to substance abuse, working on
prevention and rehabilitation programs.
All the world loves a falling star, and securing a meeting - and
possible testimonials - from one of the farthest fallen, Fleetwood Mac's
Mick Fleetwood, was a coup. "He said he had seen what Music Cares had
done in the community and thought it was brilliant," says Roecker, who
managed to keep the meeting flowing despite being awe-struck by the
crumbling rocker's hair-raising tales of the Mac's early days.
The sensitivity of the program has posed some challenges, especially
given that most people would rather keep their addictions to
But Music Cares benefit events such as the recent Night at the Net, a
tennis match featuring Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, and Ben Affleck
(ironically, now in rehab), and other entertainment figures, have been
covered by outlets including Entertainment Tonight and USA Today.
Roecker's other big project is the Grammy Foundation, dedicated to
musical education and supporting the "99% of musicians in our membership
who are unknowns." It's this unsung mass that makes Roecker so popular
with the music publications sniffing for the next Radiohead or Ricky
Yes, Roecker has the smarts and contacts (not to mention almost
pubescent enthusiasm) to make any story sound sexy, but even he has to
admit that it's the Grammys themselves that make the biggest
Ricky Martin's sizzling performance at the 1999 show was "a great
example of showcasing the unknown," says Roecker, who cites that event
along with the controversial Eminem-Elton John duet at this February's
show as two of the greatest Grammy moments. "The lines of communication
with GLAAD are still open," says Roecker somewhat cautiously, referring
to the uproar caused by the bizarre physical and ideological
juxtaposition of the alleged homophobe and queenliest of rock stars.
Roecker, now immersed to the tips of his spiky hair in the forthcoming
Latin Grammys (September 11), is clearly excited about such
For a start, he says, "there's a huge Cuban issue." Cuban nationalists
have been nominated, but part of the Cuban American community doesn't
think they should be allowed to participate in the event, which has now
been moved from Miami to LA. "Mike (Green, CEO of the Recording Academy
to whom Roecker reports) has stood behind the freedom of expression
without wavering. Music is colorless, genderless, and not political," he
The Recording Academy, lest we forget, is a nonprofit organization, with
20,000 members in 12 chapters. Roecker got the job, in part, because he
had some experience in the nonprofit arena - starting with his very
first position handling PR and fundraising for the Salvation Army and
Humane Society in his hometown of Wichita, KS.
Moving to LA, he furnished himself with some equally vital consumer
experience, working on the Mattel account at Manning Selvage & Lee. When
that business moved to Ketchum, he followed Barbie before exchanging her
for the flesh-and-blood stars he deals with as the Grammys'
The day-to-day job varies for him and his team of three (according to
the time of year and how close he is to the big shows), but other
elements of his job encompass anything from media relations to digging
out obscure facts and Artists & Repertoire (A&R). "There's lots of
interview-request management, and recently, I got a call from a
researcher for The Weakest Link asking me to verify a question. Also, I
get people calling up saying 'I've made my own CD; can you listen to
it?' I have no idea what's going to happen when I walk through the door
in the morning."
It's clear that Roecker can't wait to find out. His early days in music,
with "jam sessions in my grandmother's living room: her on the piano,
grandpa on the gutbucket, auntie on drums, mom on organ, and me
singing," set the scene for an inevitable career in the music
As for what's next? "It would still have to be something in music," he
says firmly. "When you look at the kids we work with in the Grammy
Foundation and see how passionate they are about music, you can see the
role it plays in their lives." Roecker was one of those young people
himself, right from the day he bought his first record: Da Doo Ron Ron
by Shaun Cassidy.
And you know what? He did, Ron, Ron.
1992-1995: Head of marketing division at Resource & Development Group
1995-1996: Account manager at Bernstein-Rein Advertising
1996-1999: Management supervisor at Manning Selvage & Lee
1999-2001: Vice president of brand marketing and creative strategy at
May 2001-present: Director of communications for the Recording Academy