×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Women Behind Grammy Week’s Biggest Initiatives

For all its supposedly liberal leanings and loose attitudes, the music industry is as sexist as most of them and more so than many. For Grammy Week, Variety is shining a light on four senior executives at the Recording Academy who happen to be female. Neda Azarfar, Rita George, Laura Segura Mueller and Dana Tomarken (pictured left to right, above) lead initiatives and departments that are absolutely essential to making the show a success and keeping the 60-year-old Academy running year-round. In a year that’s been paradigm shifting for women on the societal, professional, political and cultural fronts, these women are among those leading the charge. 

Neda Azarfar
Recording Academy VP of marketing and communications

Envisioning and implementing innovative change is Azarfar’s mission at the Academy. “It’s a 60-year-old organization; it’s a massive, globally-recognized brand, and I’m a steward of it,” says Azarfar, who joined the Academy in 2014 with the goal of integrating its communication and marketing efforts. Her accomplishments include steering a company-wide rebrand initiative, creating an new social-media strategy for the Academy’s audience of 14 million followers, and launching voter-awareness campaigns that have contributed to a marked increase in participation. “My goal is to take all the vision and energy and skills that I have, make change and positive improvements and leave the Academy in a better place than when I got here,” she says.

Rita George
Grammy Museum COO

Integration, expansion and education are the focal points of George’s work at the Grammy Museum, where she oversees its four main sites — Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Mississippi and the newest outpost in Newark, New Jersey’s Prudential Center — and staged exhibits celebrating such artists as Frank Sinatra, Taylor Swift, Leonard Bernstein and John Denver. “We recently merged with the Grammy Foundation and to bring those units together and reach more people — students in particular — is, to me, really important work,” says George. “While we still have more road to travel and more properties to build, we have set the groundwork to expand and continue to do outreach wherever we are. It’s literally a global thing now.”

Laura Segura Mueller
Recording Academy VP of membership & industry relations

The Academy “strives to have a very diverse membership,” says Mueller, who is responsible for running a department that serves the music industry across geography, musical genres and vocations. To that end, over the past year she has restructured the Academy’s 12-city chapter system, which includes offices all across the country. “Women are certainly a major demographic that we want to engage further,” she says. “So we’ve really been thinking about what a woman’s career in the music industry looks like, what we can build together and how we can get them more involved. Many women are very busy professionals with a lot to handle with their careers and on the homefront, so we think carefully about what the Recording Academy can offer.”

Dana Tomarken
MusiCares VP

“When I first started with the Academy 25 years ago, there were very few female leaders,” says Tomarken, who oversees all aspects of MusiCares’ annual fundraising event, Person of the Year, which has raised more than $90 million to date.  Her work, which includes organizing online auctions and tribute concerts, has nearly doubled MusiCares’ revenue over the past decade, money that goes toward creating health and human-service programs that benefit Grammy Academy members. “I was asked on a number of occasions, ‘What do you do?’” she recalls of those early years. “I had a choice: either to be offended by it, or try to correct it. Well, I chose to correct it. I told the male leadership to sit back and watch.”

More Music

  • Morissey California Sun Album

    Album Review: Morrissey’s ‘California Son’

    Since his days with the Smiths, the warbling baritone crooner and shrilly irritable lyricist Morrissey has found heart and humor in the repetition of his central (now, right-winged) talking points. It could be a famed mix of sexual deprivation and longing, and the isolation that comes with placing oneself on the shelf. It could be [...]

  • Inside amfAR's Cannes Gala

    Inside amfAR's Cannes Gala: Mariah Carey, Kendall Jenner and Tiffany Trump

    Kendall Jenner caused a commotion when she arrived. Tiffany Trump went unrecognized until a member of the press pointed her out as she made her way down the carpet. And Mariah Carey flew in to perform a couple of songs. Welcome to this year’s AmfAR Gala Cannes, the AIDS organization’s annual — and largest — [...]

  • BTS 'Good Morning America' TV show,

    BTS Fans Slam Restaurant After Owner Posts Video of the Boy Band Eating

    Don’t mess with BTS stans. After an owner of New York Korean barbecue chain Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong posted a video of the K-pop band dining at his Midtown restaurant, fans claimed he was violating BTS’ privacy rights and flooded the eatery with one-star Yelp reviews in retaliation. Members of the group dined in the [...]

  • Dear Evan Hansen

    Broadway Cast Albums Find Fresh Footing With Hip New Sounds, Viral Outreach

    Mixtapes. YouTube videos. Dedicated playlists. Ancillary products. Viral marketing. Epic chart stays. These are things you expect to hear from a record label discussing Cardi B or Beyoncé. Instead, this is the new world of a very old staple, the Broadway original cast recording. Robust stats tell the tale: Atlantic’s “Hamilton” album beat the record [...]

  • Rolling Stones Give up 'Bittersweet Symphony'

    Rolling Stones Give 'Bittersweet Symphony' Songwriter Royalties to the Verve's Richard Ashcroft

    UPDATED: Nearly 22 years after the Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” was released, the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have assigned to Richard Ashcroft the songwriter royalties and rights from the song, which samples one of their compositions, and removed their writing credits. The news was first reported by the BBC and New Musical Express. [...]

  • Ali Stroker Oklahoma

    Ali Stroker on 'Oklahoma!': 'This Show Doesn’t Follow the Rules and That Is So Who I Am'

    Ali Stroker is no stranger to rewriting history. With her 2015 Broadway debut in “Spring Awakening,” she became the first actor in a wheelchair to perform on the Great White Way. Three years later, she’s back onstage in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” as Ado Annie, the flirtatious local who splits her affections between a resident [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content