Michael Sticka’s love of the arts and dedication to community, two significant attributes instilled in him while growing up in Xenia and memorably co-founding imaginatively whimsical Zoot Theatre Company, is serving him well in his duties as Executive Director of the Recording Academy’s Grammy Museum, one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world which celebrated its 10th anniversary Dec. 8.
Previously serving as the Museum’s Director of Finance and Administration, Sticka, 37, is fundamentally shaping the Museum’s future, specifically creating and executing its strategy of growth and sustainability as an independent nonprofit arts organization. Chief among his favorite administrative roles since his appointment last summer is championing music education, a cause near and dear to his heart having been inspired by Ms. Anne Shoup, his music teacher at St. Brigid School in Xenia. He’s particularly proud of the Museum’s Music Educator Award and overall recognition of teachers.
“We’re proud to host tens of thousands of students from all over Los Angeles and Southern California every year,” said Sticka, a Carroll High School graduate who holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Dayton. “We particularly have Grammy Camp, featuring 80 to 90 of some of the most talented musicians in the country who gather once a year at the University of Southern California. The camp covers everything from music composition to careers in music, teaching kids who will most likely become professional musicians in this business. We also have Grammy Camp weekends, which are nine-hour camps for any student who wants to attend throughout the country. At the other end of the spectrum are our school tours, after-school sessions and workshops. We also have a songwriting course called Music Revolution Project. What I’m most proud about is the fact that our education programs are not confined to the walls of the Museum.”
In addition to enhancing and preserving the history of recorded music, he’s excited to establish a Department of Community Engagement considering how naturally the idea of giving back has influenced him from childhood through college.
“A major tenet of UD is community, so it’s been ingrained in me that community is very important,” Sticka said. “We’re already seeing the fruits of our labor at the Museum. We’re particularly creating programs for children with autism, working with an occupational therapist who informed us how to make the sound and lighting levels more accommodating to people on the autism spectrum. Collaboration only makes us stronger.”
Getting to know the Grammy Museum
Located in downtown Los Angeles near the Staples Center in a bustling area known as the L.A. Live district, the Grammy Museum is a sprawling site beckoning music lovers with stellar exhibits ranging from interactive experiences and terrific wardrobe displays to fascinating overviews of historical archives including rarely seen footage of past Grammy ceremonies. Current exhibits include special salutes to John Coltrane, Cheech and Chong, Jermaine Dupri, and music photographer Jim Marshall’s legendary photos of Johnny Cash’s historic prison concerts at Folsom and San Quentin.
Also, some of the biggest acts in the music industry routinely perform inside the intimate 200-seat Clive Davis Theater, named in 2011 for the Grammy-winning veteran producer behind such icons as Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Santana, Bruce Springsteen, and Whitney Houston.
“The Museum is one of the hottest tickets in town,” Sticka said. “We present over 80 concerts every year. We had (Grammy-winning R&B vocalist/songwriter) Estelle here the other night. We’ve also had performances by Shawn Mendes, Lady Gaga, Barbra Streisand, and John Prine. The music industry is still going strong. Music has the amazing power to make us celebrate, relax and even mourn. We love and celebrate all of these aspects at the Museum.”
In anticipation of the 61st annual Grammy Awards, to be held Feb. 10 at the Staples Center, Sticka is pleased with the Recording Academy’s diverse slate of nominees spanning multiple genres. This year marked the first in which the top four general fields (Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist) were expanded from five nominees to eight. “I’m thrilled for all the incredible artists that were nominated,” he said. “We’re so grateful to have had so many of them play the Clive Davis Theater as part of our Public Programs this past year.”
Bringing hometown concepts to Hollywood
Before joining the Recording Academy in March 2014, Sticka spent five years at Blackbaud, Inc., serving as a financial and fundraising consultant for more than 200 nonprofits throughout North America. After leaving Blackbaud, he served as Vice President of the leadership and management consulting film Strategic Leadership Associates in Dayton.
On reflection, he particularly remains grateful for a conversation he had in 2006 with remarkable local visual artist/craftsman D. Tristan Cupp. As discussions evolved, the duo ultimately laid the creative foundation for their forward-thinking, puppet-centric Zoot Theatre Company, an engaging, quirky, thought-provoking, and delightfully outside-the-box troupe continuing to broaden the local arts landscape. While serving as Zoot’s Executive Director, Sticka notably implemented the organization’s 2012 move to the Dayton Art Institute, where they served as its resident theater company for two years. Noteworthy productions included “The Hobbit,” “A Christmas Carol,”
“The Rocky Horror Show,” and “Animal Farm,” among the shows directed by J. Gary Thompson, John Faas and Zoot founding artist Aaron Vega.
“Tristan reignited a sense of artistic inspiration for me and working with Zoot was two of the most fun years of my life,” said Sticka, who produced in-school performances for more than 100 schools throughout the Miami Valley working with such groups as Dayton Philharmonic, Human Race Theatre Company and Victoria Theatre Association. “One thing I believe Dayton does very well is its collaborations between the various arts organizations, which always amazed me when I lived there. A major part of my vision at the Grammy Museum is applying Dayton’s community-collaboration model in L.A. I learned so much from Dayton, which is a cradle of innovation. I miss Dayton, but I’m always so happy to go back and visit. It sounds cliché, but I’m reminded that anything really is possible. I drive into work every day thinking I’m just this guy from Xenia, Ohio running one of the most well-known, branded museums in the world and it’s very humbling.”
For more information about the Grammy Museum, visit grammymuseum.org.