Yale Daily News

The 2021 Grammy Awards list of nominations, announced in late November, includes 28 Yale affiliates.

Each year, the Grammys recognize notable musical artists, recordings and compositions in a ceremony where winners are determined by a vote of Recording Academy members. This year’s awards ceremony, originally scheduled for Jan. 31, will be held on March 14.

Many of the Yale-affiliated nominees are graduates of the School of Music. Several were nominated as part of musical groups, including the Oregon Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Still others were chosen as solo musicians or as part of chamber music ensembles.

“It wasn’t even on my radar,” cellist Brandon Vamos MUS ’94 said. “We make recordings every year, and to get that [Grammy nomination] call out of the blue was a shock and really exciting.”

Vamos is part of the Pacifica Quartet, whose album “Contemporary Voices” secured a nomination for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.

Vamos recalled forming the Pacifica Quartet during his time at Yale and holding the first rehearsals in his New Haven apartment. Vamos noted that in its early days, the quartet moved across states for music competitions, with members rehearsing six hours a day. Now, they hold a Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance from 2008 along with their 2021 nomination.

Another nomination, for Best Orchestral Performance, went to the LA Philharmonic, whose roster includes four Yale alumni — Paolo Bortolameolli MUS ’13, Vijay Gupta MUS ’07, Edith Markman MUS ’73 and David Howard ’77 — and Jin-Shan Dai, who studied at the School of Music but left before graduating.

“It’s a source of pride to be recognized for something that you’ve done within the community,” said Howard, who plays clarinet in the orchestra.

Howard added that the nomination is meaningful because the jury that determines the nominations is composed of professional musicians. “Your peers have listened to it and decided that it’s worthy of nomination, so that’s a good feeling,” Howard said.

Howard noted that the LA Philharmonic’s nomination was likely due to its “impressive” performance of the complete symphonies of American minimalist composer Charles Ives, class of 1898, an uncommon choice for orchestras. Howard added that the LA Philharmonic is unique because its performance repertoire includes a large proportion of contemporary music.

Composer Lori Laitman MUS ’76 wrote several pieces on singer Stephen Powell’s “American Composers At Play” album, which was nominated for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album.

Laitman, Howard and Vamos all said their Yale experiences greatly influenced their careers and Grammy nominations.

Laitman said a Yale course, “Writing Music for Film and Theater,” influenced her career “more than anything else.” Laitman said the class taught her how to write dramatic music, which became an essential lesson in helping her write music to be sung.

Howard, who majored in Russian literature during his undergraduate years, said his music education was largely self-motivated. His first professional job was in New Haven — a position in the New Haven Symphony Orchestra that he held during his time at Yale.

“I can remember walking across campus on a cold evening — cold was really cold — to find a deserted classroom to practice in the night,” he recalled.

According to Vamos, it was during his time at Yale that he developed the desire to perform in a chamber ensemble rather than a large orchestra. Years later, he still maintains the same passion for chamber music — relating his musical experience in a string quartet to having dialogue in a conversation.

“Those three years [at Yale] were a big part of my development and education,” Vamos said.

This year will mark the 63rd Grammy Awards ceremony.


Marisol Carty | marisol.carty@yale.edu