James Cordon had viewers on the edge of their seats when he jokingly announced a surprise appearance by Kanye West Sunday night at the Grammy Awards. Instead of Yeezy, Neil Portnow, an alumnus and the president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, emerged to advocate for arts education.
Portnow called on the audience to urge President Donald Trump and Congress to “keep the music playing” by focusing on arts education and music rights laws during the new administration.
“We must be loud and clear in our unwavering support of music and the arts and those who create it,” he said.
Portnow, who served as Student Association president when he was a student, said the news reminds people of the things that polarize American society but that citizens “desperately” need to remember things that bring the country together, like shared history and values.
The president of the group that hosts the Grammys brought out an 18-year-old Grammy jazz ensemble trumpet player to perform the first few notes of “America the Beautiful” to prove that in “times of triumph and of tragedy,” people turn to music.
“‘America the Beautiful’ captures the essence of our country and reminds us that we are – and always will be – one people, from sea to shining sea,” Portnow said.