Sunday, May 31

UCLA alum Louis J. Horvitz set to direct 52nd annual Grammy Awards

Grammys director
Elizabeth Packer / Daily Bruin

When viewers tune in to catch this year’s Grammy Awards on Jan. 31, they’ll have a Bruin to thank for the show’s production.

UCLA alumnus Louis J. Horvitz was recently tapped to serve as director for the music industry’s biggest night. For Horvitz, who received his undergraduate and master of fine arts degrees from UCLA, the honor caps a career in the industry that began more than 40 years ago.

“When they asked me to direct, I was elated. The reality is that I first started out in music … so it’s come complete circle for me now, doing the top show in music. It’s kind of sweet,” Horvitz said.

While Horvitz has a prolific resume and ample experience directing live events for television ““ he has directed the Academy Awards 12 times and such special events as the Kennedy Center Honors and coverage of a concert special for Obama’s inauguration ““ the Grammys will present a special challenge with all of the musical performances scheduled.

“It’s the hardest live music show on television because there are as many as 22 musical performances. So the challenge is getting all the bands set up, smoothly transitioning into giving awards, and then smoothly transitioning into the next performance,” Horvitz said.

The opportunity to direct the 52nd annual Grammy Awards opened up when Walter Miller, who directed the show for nearly 30 years, decided to retire. A pioneer in the field and a friend of Horvitz’s, Miller will serve as a consultant for this year’s broadcast while Horvitz assumes the helm. Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the Recording Academy, is confident that Horvitz will succeed as director.

“Lou just really stood out as being somebody with great experience. At the heart of a lot of the things he has done, and as an individual, Lou is a true music fan. … Obviously that’s a key component to (the Grammys),” Portnow said. “We think he’ll just be a really good fit for the kind of show we want to do, keeping the bar very high.”

In order to pull off directing an event as big and complex as the Grammys, Horvitz will rely on the support of his staff to manage the multitude of cameras and microphones necessary to broadcast the event live.

“As a director in live event programming, you’re really subject to the success of the team you put around you,” Horvitz said.

In a recent conversation with Miller, Horvitz said he and his predecessor discussed the importance of having a dependable network in order to be successful.

“When directing live events, it’s a team sport. The director is the quarterback, if you will, but it’s a team that puts it on the air,” Horvitz said.

Myrl Schreibman, a producer, director and professor in the School of Theater, Film and Television, first met Horvitz more than 40 years ago when they shared an apartment during their student days at UCLA. Even then, Schreibman said he recognized Horvitz’s talent and is not surprised at the success his friend has found.

“Lou’s always had a sense of theater about him, and that’s what makes him the director that he is. … He’s always had the ability, while directing non-fiction events, to really find the drama in the people. I’ve always admired Lou for his innate ability to go for that,” Schreibman said.

Though Horvitz is a big music fan who has been involved with the music industry since the 1960s, witnessing the invasion of the Beatles and going on to cover some of today’s hottest performers and concerts, he anticipates that the end of the Grammys, not a particular performance, will be his favorite part of the big night.

“I’m most looking forward to the credits, because that means the show’s over, and hopefully I’ve done it successfully, and there’s a big round of applause for all of our participation,” Horvitz said.

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