Eight Yale School of Music alumni won prizes at the Grammys on Jan. 28, marking one of the school’s best performances at the awards ceremony in recent years.
The winners included band leader Bryce Dessner ’98 MUS ’99, soprano-saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom ’76 MUS ’77 and orchestra members Rebecca Cherian MUS ’81, Irene Cheng MUS ’94, Louis Lev MUS ’90, Maureen Nelson MUS ’00, Kayla Moffett MUS ’13 and Joshua Koestenbaum MUS ’80. Winners interviewed by the News said they were shocked and overwhelmed by the accolades.
“It’s an amazing feeling to win a Grammy,” Nelson wrote in an email to the News. “Now all my extended family members are saying to me, ‘Wait a minute … you must be really good.’”
The Music School’s numbers this year are particularly impressive. In the 2017 awards ceremony, two alumni took home Grammys and three more received nominations. Six Music School alumni received nominations in 2016 and three received nominations in 2015, but none won awards. However, in 2015, lyricist Robert Lopez ’97 won a Grammy for co-writing “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen,” in the Best Song Written for Visual Media category.
Bloom won the Grammy for Best Surround Sound Album for her 2016 jazz trio album “Early Americans.” Sound engineers Jim Anderson and Darcy Proper were recognized as well for their role in converting the tracks — which range from the kinetic “Song Patrol” to the melancholic “Mind Gray River” — to surround quality.
“I was in a complete state of shock, to be honest,” Bloom said. “All of us assumed that it would go to someone else. But the album somehow affected people.”
Although they were not named Grammy recipients, bassist Mark Helias MUS ’76 and drummer Bobby Previte completed the trio during recording.
“Freshness during improvising comes when people know each other well,” Bloom said. “I was very fortunate to record with two musicians I’ve known for a long time.”
Bloom and Helias met at Yale while Bloom was studying under the likes of Louis Dupré, David Mott MUS ’73 and Martin Bresnick. Although she credits the success of the album to her trio, Bloom attributes her skills as a composer and an innovator to her time spent performing in New Haven.
Cherian, who won a Grammy for her work with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, expressed similar gratitude for her time at Yale.
“I have always felt indebted to my trombone teacher at Yale, John Swallow,” Cherian said. “I feel I would never have been able to win a position in a major orchestra without his exceptional guidance.”
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, which also includes Cheng and Lev among its members, won two awards in the categories “Best Engineered Album, Classical” and “Best Orchestral Performance” for their album “Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5; Barber: Adagio.”
School of Music alumni associated with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra also received Grammys this year. Violinists Nelson and Moffett and cellist Koestenbaum won in the “Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance” category for their work with the orchestra. Their winning album, “Death and the Maiden,” was arranged by featured violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and contains music by Dowland, Gesualdo, Kurtág, Norminger and Schubert.
Rounding out the group of eight was guitarist Bryce Dessner, who won “Best Alternative Music Album” with his band The National for their 2017 recording “Sleep Well Beast.”
Due to scheduling conflicts, Bloom was the sole Yale alumnus present at the award ceremony.
“It’s all pretty overwhelming,” Bloom said. “The moment the Grammy organization takes you backstage, there are slews of photography and media sessions. It was crazy.”
Although Nelson could not attend this year, she said she has fond memories of the 2010 ceremony, when she was nominated for the category “Best Chamber Music Performance” with the Enso String Quartet, a group that formed on Yale’s campus.
The Yale School of Music was founded in 1894.
Brianna Wu | email@example.com