Josh Groban Works With Three Musicians in HBO’s ‘YoungArts Masterclass’
Music ‘Student’ Becomes the Teacher
Sarah Arison, the graceful, blonde philanthropist granddaughter of the late Carnival Cruise Lines founder Ted Arison and his wife Lin, is not yet 30. But she has already been on the board of the National YoungArts Foundation—founded by her grandparents to discover and support the next generation of American performing, visual and literary artists—for a decade.
“I actually joined the board when I was 19 years old,” she laughed, at a reception at the Museum of Modern Art on Monday evening. “The progress we’ve made in the past 10 years is mind-boggling. It’s a different organization. And we’re in our third season on HBO, which is bananas. Every time I see it, I’m like, ‘Really?’”
The “it” in question is “YoungArts Masterclass,” an hourlong HBO documentary series. Each episode follows a famous, established artist mentoring a small group of teenage students. Those gathered at MoMA on Monday were there to celebrate the show’s 18th episode, which features three young singer-songwriters under the tutelage of Grammy-nominated singer Josh Groban.
At 32 years old, Mr. Groban is the youngest mentor to appear on “Masterclass” to date—and the first who is also an alumnus of the YoungArts program. Other artists who have appeared on the show include Edward Albee, Frank Gehry, Julian Schnabel and Renée Fleming.
Given his youth, Mr. Groban said was just as anxious about meeting his three pupils as they were to meet him.
“I was terrified. We were both identically nervous,” he said after the screening. “All of the other peoplesaid Mr. Iervolino. 17 master classes have about 20 years more experience than I have. So there is a feeling of, ‘I’m not gonna pretend to make this anything that I’m not yet.’ I have so much left to learn, and as a student of this, maybe I can come at it from that angle and we can learn from this together.”
For his episode, Mr. Groban tasked his three students, Miranda Scott Johnson, Elena Pinderhughes and David Stewart Jr., with writing and recording a song together in the space of just a few days. At first, the song’s fate seems uncertain: “Something real happy-like?” one student suggests, only to hear another reply, “I don’t like happy.” Later, “Maybe something about an avalanche?” is met with a simple, “No, that’s dumb.”
But it doesn’t take long, with Mr. Groban’s guidance, for the trio to develop and record a folksy coming-of-age anthem, “Fade Away,” which Mr. Groban invited them to sing at TD Garden in Boston in front of thousands. (They also performed it with Mr. Groban on Monday, for an admittedly much smaller audience.)
Mr. Groban, whose own career in music started in his late teens, when he was around his students’ age, said he saw something of himself in them. “It’s like artistic puppy paws,” he said. “There’s all this natural ability and this wide-eyed wonderment for what’s next. And the fear, which doesn’t go away. I remember when I was that age—gosh, I’m not even sure I would have handled what I threw at them with the same calmness that they…”
Mr. Groban paused. “Appeared to, at least. When I see their interviews now, I see that they were freaking out!”
During a question-and-answer session preceding the performance, an audience member asked the students about how they’d gotten into music. Mr. Stewart explained that his grandfather had been instrumental in his interest: “I think when I was 12 or 13, he told me the sure way to a woman’s heart is through music,” he said, to knowing laughter from the audience. “And ever since then, I’ve played guitar.”
When an organizer asked whether anyone had any questions for Mr. Groban, he offered a quick, self-deprecating response: “I spoke so much up there,” he said, gesturing toward the screen. “I’m sick of me!”
Judging by the number of fans and friends who approached him with congratulations and photo requests over drinks and hors d’oeuvres in the reception area after the screening, he was the only one.
Josh Groban teams up with HBO and YoungArts!
Now THIS is exciting!!! Josh Groban teamed up with HBO and YoungArts to film a documentary with some incredibly talented young musicians. Set your DVR’s, the special will air on HBO on January 21st!