Dominic M. Calabro: Grammy wins highlight unsung part of state’s economic success

Last month, the 58th Annual Grammy Awards aired across the nation. And they had a certain Florida flair thanks to the hard work of various Full Sail University graduates.

The school, known for preparing students for careers in entertainment and media, announced that 14 graduates worked on 13 projects that won a Grammy during the awards program. Graduates worked on projects ranging from rising rap icon Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” to Christian rock group TobyMac’s “This Is Not a Test.” One, Brendan Morawski, earned his own Grammy award for his work on the Grammy Album of the Year, Taylor Swift’s “1989.”

And just last weekend, 117 Full Sail graduates were credited on 21 Oscar-nominated films and 51 graduates were credited on eight Oscar-winning films recognized at the 88th annual Academy Awards. Graduates of Full Sail University have participated in industry roles on 14 Best Picture winning films over the last 21 years, including this year’s Best Picture winner, Spotlight.

The successes of these graduates prove that key investments by business and education leaders into our students and businesses will provide the keys to tremendous opportunities in these high-growth fields.

Another great example is occurring daily at Florida State University, which provides students significant opportunities to succeed in the music industry, ranking as the 12thbest music school in the country. Investments in the program have given students the opportunity to pursue their dreams

The FSU College of Music is home to two Grammy award winners, a former concert master of the New York Philharmonic, a Pulitzer prize-winning composer, a Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship recipient, and the world’s preeminent scholar in medical music therapy.

U.S. News & World Report has ranked the FSU College of Music 12th in the nation and fifth among programs at public universities. The opera program in the College of Music ranks fifth in the nation and third among programs at public universities, according to the same report.

Florida needs to invest in the incentive providing a full sales tax exemption on the purchase of certain equipment used in the production of motion pictures, television productions, commercial advertising, and music video or sound recordings.

State economists estimated that qualified production companies could have approximately $250 million in tax-exempt purchases per year in Fiscal Years 2010-11 through 2012-13, resulting in annual tax exemption amounts of about $15 million. The return on investment is very high for this particular exemption, helping to create high-paying jobs in this high-growth area.

Congrats to these students and schools for making Florida proud of this sometimes “unsung” but vital part of our economy.


Dominic M. Calabro is president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, research institute, where he has served for more than three decades. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Dominic Calabro

Dominic M. Calabro is President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.


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