February 26, 2022

Ray & Vivian Chew: A Love Supreme

Editor- In-Chief Musa Jackson @iammusajackson has an in depth Q. & A with the dynamic husband and wife RAY CHEW & VIVIAN SCOTT CHEW. Ray Chew, is the legendary Harlem born music conductor, composer and producer having worked with megastars Queen Latifah, Lenny Kravitz, Stevie Wonder, Justin Beiber, Jennifer Hudson, Quincy Jones and the late Aretha Franklin to name a few. On hits TV shows like American Idol, Dancing With The Stars and It’s Showtime at the Apollo. He’s went from music direction for historical moments NAACP Image Awards, The Emmy Awards, The Grammy’s, Obama’s 2008 Inaugural Neighborhood Ball to composing for the Noble Peace prize in Norway.


Vivian Scott Chew, is a visionary pioneer in global music and the entertainment industry. Having worked at ASCAP, Polygram, Epic Records and Sony Music. She is founder of Timezone International making her the first US based African American owned company to provide recording artists with international promotion and marketing services around the world. Ray and Vivian Chew are the founders of “A Night of Inspiration” at Carnegie Hall. A successful evening that brings a star studded concert exposing the fabled venue to the most diverse audience they’ve ever had. Their non profit, Power 2 Inspire Foundation nurtures the next generation of young creatives from around the globe via zoom with internship mentoring programs learning from some of the best in the entertainment industry. This power couple is leaving an indelible mark for generations to come.

I was one of the few women and absolutely one of the few Black women and definitively the only Black woman with dred locs sitting in these rooms when I first started. It was a magical time.


MUSA Where are you guys from?
VIVIAN New York! But I claim Queens.
RAY I’m from New York also. I claim Harlem and the Bronx.
MUSA How important was music growing up? And who were some of your musical influences?
VIVIAN My first love of music came from the church. Being the choir director who could not sing. It was through being the director that led me to being a behind the scenes kind of person that led me to the career that I have now. But my biggest musical influence outside of gospel music would be George Clinton. I discovered his music as a teenager who I’m very blessed to be working with now.
RAY I grew up listening to many types of music. So the answer would be all music. I grew up playing classical music. Classical music being Euro Russian classical music and American classical music which is jazz. That would be Quincy, Miles, Dizzy. We heard that in our house everyday. And then growing up in the era of protest music hearing Hendrix, Curtis Mayfield and Motown. All of those things influenced my musical palette and taste. My mother and father opened up my musical ears up to the world.
MUSA How did you get your start in music & entertainment industry?
VIVIAN I was a executive assistant to an African American female music industry attorney by the name of Louise West. This was back in the ‘80s and she was one of the few Black women. She took a shot on me with no music industry experience and she molded me into who I am. So that’s how I got started.
RAY I got started when I was in High School. I auditioned for a position to play piano for Melba Moore who was coming off her Tony award winning run, a TV show. So that was a big gig. I was sixteen years old at the LaGuardia High School of Music and Art when I got the gig. I told my mother and she saw the schedule and it was like every day. The producers knew I was young but didn’t know I was still in High School. My mom said you’ve been in music study all your life. I think you’re ready to go. And I went out and that’s how I got started.
MUSA Ray you’ve provided musical offerings, direction across many TV networks FOX Its Showtime at the Apollo, I Can See Your Voice, American Idol, ABC Dancing With The Stars and BET Sunday Best to name a few. What’s your approach to each of these diverse projects?
RAY I never take the approach of what I normally do. There is no what I normally do. There are templates, parts of how you go about doing tasks. How you prepare what your exercises are. How you put a team together. How you contact the artists. How you interact with the TV executives. So a lot of my walk before we even play a note is being Switzerland in the process. I’m working with artists so I got to speak artist language. Speak to them the way they get it. Have their respect so that they really trust me. Then when I go to a board meeting I have to talk production with people to make sure the understanding is clear. If we have to do something and it has to come in at two minutes and fifty seconds and not two minutes and fifty three seconds. Very specific detail and approach to that. That’s a part of the preparation. If it’s a live event we have to do all of that and pull the trigger and let it go. That’s one of the amazing things as to why I love what I do on live TV. That’s the fun part.
MUSA Vivian as a pioneer and innovative figure in global music and entertainment marketing and promotion. What unique perspective do you offer your clients that differs from your counterparts?
VIVIAN I’m one of the few people that does what I do. Involving international marketing and promotion for artists. I started my company Timezone International in the late ‘90s. A lot of the work that I do was to educate people that Black music sold outside the country. That wasn’t that long ago. We have definitely proven not only Black music but Black culture. Everyone wants to be us around the world. I was working with artists who had very small viewpoints of how far their music could reach. They were thinking if I can just break in NY, LA and Atlanta I got it. I then opened their eyes to that there is London, Berlin Paris, Johannesburg and Tokyo. This is very cliche but it’s true. Think globally but work locally. So I was giving people very eagle eye view of what their career could be and then would zero in on what we needed to do from a very detailed standpoint.

The Carnegie Hall relationship started when they brought me in to produce a number events from them with Jessye Norman for her “Honor: A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy”. I produced the opening night at Carnegie Hall and closing night at the Apollo.

MUSA Ray you’ve helmed some award winning musical events with some of the worlds most popular artists such as Rihanna, Lenny Kravitz, Justin Beiber, Pharrell Williams, Jennifer Hudson, Quincy Jones, Shirley Cesar and the late Aretha Franklin. Which crosses genres and decades. What are some of the differences and similarities between the veterans and this new guard?
RAY The similarities is that they are artists. As a consumer of Art you know that the artist is appreciated as it’s displayed who it’s displayed to. People can disagree when they see a painting on the wall. A Picasso for instance some people may not get it. That looks like he’s got a funny eye and what is that. Other people are like Whoa, are you kidding me! They can see the depth in it. The similarities are that in any genre and any decade there are people with the depth of their art that it may take others to consider or realize. So my approach is I appreciate all of it. What I like to see from an artist is their commitment to the art and the craft. All those you’ve mentioned I cited those in particular because they stand out to me of their commitment to the art and craft and how they display that. It’s a joy and pleasure to working with those people you listed.

MUSA Vivian when you started there were very few Black women in the positions and places you belonged to ASCAP, Polygram and Sony Records. What was that like and has it changed?
VIVIAN I was one of the few women and absolutely one of the few Black women abd definitively the only Black woman with dred locs sitting in these rooms when I first started. It was a magical time. It was artist development, I was doing A&R. So I was given a big bag of money to go out find artist and to develop them. We had Black music divisions then. And those were critical for the growth of executives like myself. Because we were family. And what happens in family stays in family. So we got corrected in love. Taught many many lessons that I carry on today. Once Black music departments were strategically done away with. Black executives were left on their own. There was no one there to direct you. That’s when we started seeing what being an executive at a record company how that changed. And then you add in this whole digital streaming world where labels are running after artists who have the biggest numbers, biggest followers and biggest views as opposed to that are the most creative people that we can sit and take a year or two and cultivate. It’s not that anymore. The breath of the music industry is new talent all the time. And that’s always out there. You have the girl who can wail in church that you can up to the front or the pretty girl that you can give a half way decent song to but her image is so dope that it’s just going to work. Doesn’t matter as long as it works. But I do see a big big difference. I’m really happy that I was able to be in the music industry during the time that I was. I was taught very very well.
MUSA Ray you’ve been a part of many historical musical moments 65th Emmy Awards, Grammy Awards Premiere Ceremony, 2008 Democratic National Convention, The President’s Inaugural Neighborhood Ball, 44th Annual NAACP Image Awards. How does that feel?
RAY They felt very significant and historical. Especially specifically the Inaugural Ball. We had a chance while we were setting up to do that. The producers had the foresight to stop the entire preparation for production. Which never happens. When you’re preparing for a TV show everything is in motion. Lights, the construction, the set, rehearsals. The executive producers stopped everything. He had on the big screen when President Barack Obama was sworn in. In a little bit if time he will be over here and we are going to have the worlds greatest artist perform Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, Sting, Maroon 5. Everybody was there to celebrate this wonderful moment. It was something that was very significant as it was happening but of course while I’m in it I’m in the moment to do what I have to do to make that vehicle go. If you’re driving a vehicle you could be driving down an amazing highway and you can’t really see all the wonderful scenery your passenger can look and see the beauty you have to keep your eyes on the road. I kept my eyes on the road I glanced over and after the event I’ll look back and think that was kind of nice. Fortunately for me I usually have something waiting right behind that. What I do is I look back at some of the pictures and I’ll go back watch the show and say wow that was pretty cool.
MUSA Please tell us about your company Timezone International and how it is beneficial to recording artists?
VIVIAN Timezone was started when record companies did not believe that our music could sell outside of the U.S. So there were no budgets. I was at Epic when Michael Jackson was the only Black artist that had an international budget. Not Babyface, Luther, not people who were having number one records. It was not until I signed an international artist, a Jamaican artist that already had an international career I had to go all the way and prove them wrong. So it was pulling down a barrier. I’ve done that a lot in my career. I was the first to do something when someone says I can’t. This was one of those situations so I learned my International craft thing while still working at Sony being the liaison between Black music department and international department. Because neither department wanted to work with the other one. So I took that opportunity and branched off started this company and Sony was my first client. And this was during another magical time when there was a lot of touring going on. Marketing, promotion and radio stations doing things the way we did it in the U.S. I got the opportunity to go abroad. And for me it was a life changing experience to be amongst people of other cultures and other languages and taste other food. And to bring that kid who had never even had a passport and take them overseas. No baby we are not going to McDonalds tonight we are having escargot tonight. And to see them grow right in front of my face is such a significant part of what I love to do.
MUSA You created “A Night to Inspiration” an enormously successful all -star concert that promotes diversity and unity at the iconic Carnage Hall. How did that come to be?
RAY The Carnegie Hall relationship started when they brought me in to produce a number events from them with Jessye Norman for her “Honor: A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy”. I produced the opening night at Carnegie Hall and closing night at the Apollo. After that that opened the door that was the corridor that led to us starting our own events at Carnegie Hall. They liked what I did. They asked me to bring in some of my ideas and produce a couple of shows here. I said to them I have a show idea. I spoke to Viv and they said wow. We can fill the stage with some great artists. We can bring secular and inspirational artists together on the same stage. We can have a big orchestra in the back with mass choir. Then she said not mass not that big. ( laughs) Then she said that’s going to be pretty expensive. ( laughs) I said it’s going to be what it’s going to be and together we went after it. It was a gravel road. Be we got there together and we are going to do our fourth iteration of this.
VIVIAN I’ve gone to Carnegie Hall and experienced Black artists. I’ve gone and I’ve experienced Tituss Burgess, Angelique Kidjo. But that audience, that two thousand eight hundred set of eyes are not our eyes. What A Night of Inspiration has brought since 2010 is diversity in their audience that have never experienced before. And we’ve allowed our community to come down to Carnegie Hall to experience what we give them. Every single time Ray and I sit back in the dressing room afterwards and take a breath and know that we’ve done some good. That we’ve opened some peoples eyes and given them an experience that would of never had before. Every year we end with Richard Smallwood’s “Total<br /> Praise”. To look out in that audience and see that Black hand holding that white hand together at that moment we know that we’ve changed people.
RAY By the way that entire audience Black and White sings that along with us. We fill the aisle with choir and on that big stage. It’s big big moment. It’s truly wonderful. That is one of my most fulfilling moments where as I’m conducting the orchestra I’ve actually turned around and just drank that in. I’ve watched the entire audience sing Total Praise.
MUSA Tell us about the mission of your philanthropic Power 2 Inspire Foundation?
VIVIAN In 2013 Ray and I were having a moment and thinking about how incredibly blessed we’ve been in our careers. We have always had young people come to us and say they want to do what we do. We would say we want you to what we do but better. So it was like how do we make them better. In 2019 we decided to do an in person internship mentorship program. So we secured positions. We had Carnegie Hall, American Federation of Musicians, Island Records and then the pandemic hit. It was the best thing that could of happened actually for this foundation. Instead of just giving a small amount of New York and New Jersey based kids this opportunity we were able to open up to the world. In 2020 we had 25 young people from the U.S. and U.K. Last year we had 60 from U.S. Jamaica, Ghana all the way to New Delhi, India. This young lady logged on 9 hours ahead of us. And we do it via zoom and we expose them to some of the most incredible singers, songwriters, musicians, producers, and music industry leaders for four weeks virtually. These young people have gone on to make us so proud. Power 2 Inspire’s mission is to enrich the lives of any young person that wants to be involved in music. But in the response to the George Floyd’s murder Ray and I very strategically said this is an opportunity that we have to give our Black and Brown babies. Our summer internship program is specifically for that but Power 2 Inspire offers masterclasses. Ray and I travel we talk to kids of all ethnicities. It’s one of the things we are very proud of that.
RAY It actually precedes that. It started when I would be asked to go to schools during Black History Month. That was kind of the genesis and the spirit of this. My mother instilled a sense of altruism in me. Because she was a social worker amongst many things. She would take me into the most struggled part of the community and teach me how to give to the community. To contribute something positive. I remember when my daughter was in school and the teachers would invite me and say do you have a program during Black History Month. I would say sure I have a program. The school would put on a little reel of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. That was Black history. I was like I think we’ve missed a few things here. I would had a program I gave them African Hip Hop. It was a chronology of American music through the Black experience. From the drums of Africa to jazz and hip hop. In knowing that that experience it certainly rang a bell in my system. If we don’t do this then who will. So that’s why we kind of focused after the death of George Floyd. Let’s get this message. Let’s talk to some Black and Brown people. There are other programs but if we don’t collectively educate and talk to young Black people who will? They’re not doing it in regular schools so it’s incumbent upon us to do that.
VIVIAN 2020 was a very powerful year that we were able to start this. Yes we were talking to these young people about what they wanted to do creatively but we also road that ride that we did of such pain and horror of what we had experienced. Ray and I not only became mentors to them in their careers but to them in life. One of the things that came out was the need to have the conversation in our community about mental wellness. So there is a woman that we’ve engaged named Shante Dass. She has an amazing organization called Silence The Shame. Shante works along with us in identifying Black therapists for a lot of our kids. In our closing one we have our Assistant Pastor from our church come and just put a seed into these young people. So that this is the last day of the program we are not going to let you go we got you covered. It’s more than just learning how to make a beat or how to write a lyric. We really put everything we have into these young people. And they give it back to us. We have some that are working in our studio right now. Ray has used one of the young men on Dancing With The Stars. We are getting ready for the next one this year.

MUSA You are both leaders, pioneers, trailblazers. What advice would you give to this new generation of leaders in the music industry?
RAY We are stewards of this industry. It belongs to us at the moment and then it belongs to others. As a steward you have the responsibility to make sure that this wonderful craft and industry itself has the kind of integrity that we would always wish and hope for. I instill that in young people. Go for it. But make sure you go for it with some real integrity and intent.
VIVIAN I had a very stern father. I would come home very excited with a 90 on a test. He would say that’s cool. Did anyone get 100? I would say yes. He said, “You figure out what they did to get that 100.” I have taken that mentality that 99 just isn’t enough. I learn from Ray the art of being intentional. That is definitely something we talk about a lot and how precious time is and how it’s something you can never ever regain. To use your time, be intentional and be at that 100 percent.
TALENT: RAY CHEW @raychewlive
VIVIAN SCOTT CHEW @vivianscottchew
Photographer @marcbaptistephoto
Creative direction: @iammusajackson
Hair: @jgnycsalon
Makeup: @facepicasso
Stylist: @mykel_c_smith_creative_
Assistant: @lord_of_labels
Cover look:
Vivian: Jacket – White Fox Dyed Pink @usa_raw_skin
Earrings- @EricksonBeamon @showroomseven
Ray: Coat – @Roberto_Cavalli
Shirt – @Boss
Pants: @ClarkSabbat RAY & VIVIAN CHEW:

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