Four with Eastman ties win Grammys

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Three musicians and a composer with ties to Eastman School of Music were honored with the National Academy of Recording Arts & Science’s Grammy Awards.

Sarah Brailey, Maria Schneider, Christopher Theofanidis and the late Christopher Rouse, who taught at Eastman for many years, were among this year’s winners

Photo: Recording Academy

The 63rd Grammy Awards ceremony was held March 14 in a scaled-back event due to the pandemic. As in years past, the event aimed to celebrate and honor various music genres. 

Trevor Noah of “The Daily Show” hosted the event.

Recognized for her role as featured soloist on the “The Prison” by Ethel Smyth, Brailey graduated from Eastman in 2004. The soprano has lent her voice to various compositions, including Handel’s Messiah with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Anton Webern’s “Drei Lieder Gedichten von Hildegard Jone” at the Times Arrow Festival. “The Prison” features a vocal symphony, a dialogue between a wrongfully-convicted prisoner and his soul. Brailey’s voice is the soul.

In a review, the Guardian’s Erica Jael says Brailey’s soprano “radiates assurance.” Several others also have commended her performance and Smyth’s work in creating “The Prison.”

Schneider, another Eastman alum, won Grammys for Best Instrumental Composition for “Sputnik” and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for “Data Lords.” Schneider is known for her ability to meld advocacy and art. “Data Lords” is one such example. A double album, it is divided into two themes: The Digital World, where data lords are in a race to amass information, and the Natural World, where beauty makes itself known when silence is embraced.

“Listening to the two sets, a few bars of either is enough to confirm which world you have entered, both are absorbing musical experiences,” writes Mike Collins for the London Jazz News, calling out Schneider’s writing and performance with the orchestra.

Theofanidis took home the prize in the Best Classical Instrumental Solo category. The Grammy was given to Richard O’Neill and the Albany Symphony’s performed Theofanidis’ Viola Concerto. A composer, Theofanidis has been prolific around the globe. He has had several performances by orchestras including the London Symphony, the New York Philharmonic and the Moscow Soloists. For the Albany Symphony, the win marks the fifth time in seven years that its recording won a Grammy nomination.

The Best Contemporary Classical Composition was Symphony No. 5 by Rouse. A Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, Rouse taught at Eastman from 1981 to 2002 and served as the composer-in-residence for New York Philarmonic from 2012 to 2015. He is most known for his orchestral compositions that spanned various moods from romantic reflection to the rock-infused “The Nevill Feast.” Rouse died in 2019.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

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