by Nina M. Riccio
It’s safe to say that when Herb Grant graduated from Springfield College in Massachusetts, he didn’t envision himself having a career in entertainment. In fact, Springfield was well known as a YMCA training school, and Grant followed the natural progression of many of Springfield’s graduates when, after 10 years in the Air Force, he became an outreach worker for the Stamford (Conn.) YMCA.
“I was hired largely to increase minority membership,” he recalled. “I hung out at parks, at beaches, anywhere the local kids would gather, and I got them to come to the ‘Y’ to swim and play basketball, and to provide counseling and information on how to obtain scholarships. It meant I had to get very involved with the community.”
Grant’s community connections eventually led to a job in business development with United Way, a job that proved to be a springboard for others in the corporate world. One of those positions was working in community relations and philanthropic giving for CBS Inc., where he worked for the legendary Dr. Peter Carl Goldmark, the man credited with recognizing the value of the LP record and making it marketable to the public. As it happened, Goldmark was a visiting professor of communication at Fairfield, and challenged Grant to complete all 36 credits (including a thesis) needed for his master’s in communication in a record-breaking two years.
“I was looking to broaden my career in business, and the Jesuits really challenged me to step up to the plate,” he recalled. “I loved the communication program because it meant working on multiple skills – writing, research, clarity, and focus, for example.”
Grant’s 37-year expertise in marketing and community relations gave him the confidence to tackle a whole new challenge in 2003 when his son Damon, a jazz vibraphone percussionist, left his year-long London gig and prepared to branch out on his own as a jazz performer. “He didn’t want to be known as a theatre performer,” said his father, who described Damon’s style as “a cross between Lionel Hampton and Tito Puente, with an Afro-Caribbean flair.” But knowing the pitfalls of the music industry and with the belief that he could shield Damon from them, he and his son formed a partnership: DMG and Associates. Herb manages the business, handling contracts, bookings, and negotiations for Damon and other artists, while Vice President Damon maintains control over his own artistic productions as well the events undertaken by the company. Herb’s wife, Brenda, is financial manager, and daughter Elise, with her degree in graphic design, has responsibility for design development.
How’s it working out so far? “Damon has performed in Canada, where he opened for George Clinton. He’s also opened for Isaac Hayes and David Sanborn, and performed with John Mayer. He’s appeared at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He plays weekly at Webster Hall in New York and conducts music classes,” noted a pleased father.
Yet despite the work and commitment it takes to start a new company, community involvement has not been relegated to the back burner. Grant launched the Norwalk (Conn.) Jazz Festival in 2007, and was recently named 2010 MS Corporate Achiever by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society – one of only eight business leaders in Fairfield County to be so honored.
“They were looking for community achievers with healthcare experience,” explained Grant, who worked in administration in several hospitals during his long career. “There’s a new bill before the FDA to support a liquid medication as an alternative to the vast number of pills many patients must take daily, and I’ll be working with the Connecticut chapter to support it.” With Grant’s combination of experience and determination, he’s clearly the guy they want on their team.