Boston's Grammy Award Nominees Prepare For Their Big Night

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Advisory: The video below contains explicit language and subject matter not suitable for all ages.

The Grammy Awards are Sunday night in Los Angeles, and sure, big national music names like Eminem, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Neil Young will be waiting to hear if they've won. But Boston's talent will be well-represented, too.

And The Nominees Are... Harpist Sarah Schuster Ericsson

Harpist Sarah Schuster Ericsson, with her daughter, shows off the gown she'll wear to the Grammys Sunday. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)
Harpist Sarah Schuster Ericsson, with her daughter, shows off the gown she'll wear to the Grammys. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)

It was a big decision, but harpist Sarah Schuster Ericsson finally settled on what to wear to the star-studded ceremony in LA — a long, light-gray silk gown with a scooped back. She even modeled it for me in her bedroom.

"It had a lot of glamour to it, I thought," she said as she justified her decision, "and it's very simple, it packs easily."

The Brookline resident’s latest recording, "20th Century Harp Sonatas," is one of five in the "Best Instrumental Soloist Performance" category. She was nominated once before — five years ago — but didn’t win. She admits this year she didn't predict the performance on her CD would earn her another Grammy nod.

"It's never full-proof, you always hope that what happens on the recording is actually what you try to achieve live," she said. "I always hold my breath until I hear back. The playbacks always give me a very funny feeling."

Now the harpist, a former member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, is holding her breath about Sunday night. She'll be in LA with her husband and three children.

Gil Rose, Director Of The Boston Modern Orchestra Project

Gil Rose's date will be his 13 year-old daughter. He directs the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. The contemporary classical group runs a small record label, BMOP Sound. Their recording of composer Steven Mackey's piece, "Dreamhouse," is nominated in three big categories — including Best Classical Record of the Year and Best Orchestral Performance.

"We're in with ensembles like the Chicago Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra. It's a real honor and a thrill and we're glad to be the David to their Goliath," Rose said.

Rose's tiny label produced a big, lush sound on the "Dreamhouse" project with an army of talent from Boston.

"How many people took part in this?" I asked.

"Well the orchestra is an orchestra of over 90," he said, continuing, "there were nine soloists, the crew of engineers, editors — oh gosh, this project involved 150 people probably," Rose said. A fair number of them have connections with the New England Conservatory.

So, what if "Dreamhouse" and Gil Rose's record label wins?

"I never won a Grammy before so I'm not sure what happens. I'm told the statue is really heavy, though," he said with a laugh.

Don Gorder of Berklee College of Music has a bead on what a Grammy could do for a winner.

"Well you know, I mean there's no question that the exposure that they get from it, they're going to get a spike in interest, I'm sure," he said. But Gorder, chair of the Business Management Department at Berklee, warned, "They have to maintain it, you know, in today’s business it’s all about staying connected."

Songwriter Makeba Riddick is up for two Grammys as a songwriter for rapper Eminem. (Courtesy of Berklee College of Music)
Songwriter Makeba Riddick is up for two Grammys as a songwriter for rapper Eminem. (Courtesy of Berklee College of Music)

Songwriter Makeba Riddick

The Gorder points to his former student, Makeba Riddick, as someone who’s doing just that. She's up for two Grammys as a songwriter for rapper Eminem.

"I think she's an interesting case because she was a business major and she had a real talent for songwriting," Gorder shared, adding, "but she consistently maintains that what she learned about business has given her a leg up in many ways in building her career."

Gorder is proud of Riddick's success. She graduated from Berklee in 1999 and is actually competing against two other alumni for Album of the Year. Miles Walker and Lewis Tozour engineered Katy Perry's, "Teenage Dream."

It's a banner year for Berklee, it seems. In total 33 faculty, students and alumni earned Grammy nominations in a slew of categories and genres — everything from Best Contemporary Jazz Album, to Best Hawaiian Music Album, to Best Musical Album for Children. John Mayer, a 1998 graduate, is competing in a few of those most high-profile categories, including Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

"It makes us look like we're doing something right, I guess," Gorder said for the school. And for Boston in general.

Harpist Sarah Schuster Ericsson agreed. Getting a Grammy nomination is sturdy affirmation for any hard-working musician, she said. It's also a little nerve-wracking. The artist was amped up and glowing the day we met. She was also trying to keep cool about her chances Sunday night, and even mused about what might happen if she actually goes home with a Grammy in her suitcase.

"Probably more people would return my phone calls if I won," she said with a giggle, "other than that, I think it's just the moment of knowing you won, that that year you really were the best."

This program aired on February 11, 2011.

Headshot of Andrea Shea

Andrea Shea Correspondent, Arts & Culture
Andrea Shea is a correspondent for WBUR's arts & culture reporter.



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