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By Terry Dean
Last Sunday's Grammy awards ceremony in Los Angeles featured superstars performing their super hits.
The day before, many of those stars performing on the show did their usual rehearsals to polish their performances. OPRF student Hannah Rand was there watching every moment of it.
Rand, who's also a singer and songwriter herself, attended the pre-award ceremonies with her parents, having won a songwriting contest sponsored by the Grammys' foundation.
The "Teens Make Music" contest was co-sponsored by Partnership for DrugFree.org. The contestants had to write a song about how to steer teens away from drugs. Rand, who turns 18 on Friday, wrote a song about her friend and Oak Park and River Forest High School classmate who's struggling with drugs.
"I didn't want to write a song just explaining about how not to do drugs," said Rand, about her winning song titled, "Start Over." "I wanted to do more than just that. I decided to write about my friend who does drugs and drinks a lot. I'm really concerned about her but I don't feel like I can talk to her about that because I don't want it to ruin our friendship.
"I think she's perfect the way she is and doesn't have to do that," Rand said, adding that she doesn't think her friend has heard the song yet.
It was last October when Rand submitted the song to the Grammy foundation. A teacher at the high school encouraged Rand to enter, but Rand knew nothing about it. She wrote the song in a day and recorded it in her makeshift studio in her basement. She learned last month that she'd won. Along with money and gifts, the first place prize included a trip to L.A. to attend several pre-award activities.
Rand spent most of last Saturday with her parents, Lenora and Gary, watching the rehearsals. One of Rand's favorite artists, Kelly Clarkson, rehearsed.
"It was awesome," Rand said. "It was pretty cool to see them as they act off of TV. And you get a chance to see how talented they actually are and that they're able to really sing.
"They do the song four or five times, making sure the lights and sound are right," Rand added. "Some people never get the opportunity to see one concert and I felt like I saw three or four."
Rand and her parents also got a chance to go backstage of the Nokia Theater, getting a tour from a sound technician. They also got a chance to see Rihanna's dressing room. Rand's mom Lenora said it was a once in a lifetime experience to attend the Grammys, even if it wasn't the awards ceremony. It was also fun being there with her daughter, Lenora said.
She and her husband were struggling songwriters when they married, she said. Lenora was the lyricist and Gary, who also performed, wrote the music. After awhile both pursued other careers. Lenora is in advertising and her husband is associate pastor of worship and arts at LaSalle Street Church in Chicago.
"Hannah kind of grew up in this atmosphere and she realized at 12 that she could do this and got really excited," Lenora said.
Rand has been writing ever since. Her website, hannahrandmusic.com, showcases her work, including several music videos she's done. Lenora said she and her husband have encouraged Hannah to pursue her dream. Lenora was also very impressed with her winning song about her friend, whom she also knows.
"It moved me a lot," she said. "She's so able to tap into feelings with her music. She's able to say things in music and her songs that she might not be able to say to people."
Rand describes her music as "folky-pop." And though she didn't get to see all those superstars perform at the Grammy ceremony, she'd like to be up there herself one day.
"I want to be a singer/songwriter," Rand said. "I'd be happy with writing songs and selling them to other artists, but I'd prefer to be a performer and be on stage."