By Julie Barzilay
At the 51st Grammy Awards on Sunday night, Taylor Swift rushed through the aisles to join Miley Cyrus on the brightly-lit satellite stage in the middle of Staples Center. Hours earlier, Sarah Tither-Kaplan â09 stood face to face with Swift in the Staples dressing room, executing an interview she had anticipated for weeks.
Later in the ceremony, Coldplay apologized to Sir Paul McCartney for “borrowing” the Sergeant Pepper-inspired costumes the group donned for the show. A day earlier, Tither-Kaplan observed the very same Chris Martin as he bounded eagerly across the stage with Jay-Z, laughing, announcing how nervous he was, and, according to Tither-Kaplan, evaluating his chances of making it big on “American Idol.” The verdict? He thinks he has the wrong cheekbones to build a substantial fanbase.
In a way, Sarah Tither-Kaplan â09âs backstage pass at the Grammys was the result of two years of travel and toil in the music industry. She started out writing reviews for music websites, then began snapping shots and doing interviews at festivals. Next she founded the promotional team for the band Josephine Collective, which grew from zero to 600 members in the course of a year. Her next stop was 2008 summer Grammy Camp, where she worked with professional music journalist Steve Baltin. Baltin offered Tither-Kaplan the chance to put her journalistic skills to the ultimate test as a Grammy reporter.
During her 11-hour days at the Staples Center last week, Tither-Kaplan was granted full-fledged interviews with Katy Perry and Taylor Swift (who she deemed “a sweetie”), saw U2 perform their “epic” new song and witnessed the “adorable” collaboration between the Jonas Brothers and Stevie Wonder come to fruition in rehearsals. She also attended Grammy Career Day at USC and sang along at the Grammyâs Person of the Year event honoring Neil Diamond. During the telecast of the Grammys, Tither-Kaplan sat with other print reporters and interviewed winners from the pre-telecast show. As the night wore on, winners meandered into her room, enabling Tither-Kaplan to have lengthy conversations with the likes of Paul McCartney and Robert Plant.
Tither-Kaplanâs interviews and reviews of Grammy performances will be published on Grammy.com while her in-depth pieces will be featured on AOL Music.com. There is already a snippet about Taylor Swift by Tither-Kaplan at http://www.bered.com/2009/02/09/taylor-swift-talks-about-grammy-performance-with-miley-cyrus/. While seeing the band that ignited her love of music, Blink 182, reunite at the Grammys was a major highlight, her favorite performance was actually an impromptu one by John Mayer, Buddy Guy, BB King and Keith Urban. In rehearsal, Mayer was making fun of King for forgetting the lyrics to the song they were playing, a tribute to Bo Diddley. King made a casual remark that “that line fools me every time” â and when you get four renowned musicians together in a gargantuan arena, a throwaway phrase transforms into a full-fledged original song. Mayer improvised lyrics, King played lead guitar and a unique moment of artistic creation presented itself to an awe-struck Tither-Kaplan.
“I was one of the only people in the world to ever hear that song,” she said.
Tither-Kaplan said she had to work hard to keep her cool in the presence of her idols.
“When youâre on a red carpet or in a press room, you never know who you are going to wind up standing in front of,” she said. “My world revolves around music, and having to speak coherently to one of the artists whose music has become so much a part of my life is definitely a challenge.”
Tither-Kaplan “definitely” wants to continue to work in the music industry, she said, but before she figures out whether her path will involve journalism she needs to decompress from this weekend.
“It was a really grueling but a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she said. “I came in so star-struck, but by the end I was really comfortable with it. These artists are real people, and to get a glimpse of their real personalities is fascinating.”