ANALYSIS: Profile - Roecker: Grammy man has music in his blood, ifnot his name

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

completely.



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

themselves.



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

Martin.



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

headlines.



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

challenges.



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

insists.



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'

communications director.



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

industry.



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.



RON ROECKER

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

Ketchum

May 2001-present: Director of communications for the Recording Academy



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