Grammys Gold Rush

UNT alumni and faculty reap nominations for music's most prestigious award in an array of categories -- from jazz and opera to metal and rap.
Written by: 
Heather Noel

Continuing the legacy of creative excellence, more than a dozen UNT alumni and faculty have earned nominations or collaborated on projects nominated in the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards.

From Best Country Song to Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, UNT faculty and alumni were recognized across 15 categories in the nominations announced Nov. 24.

Winners at the March 14 ceremony include Bobby Sessions, co-writer of the Best Rap Song; Snarky Puppy, Best Contemporary Instrumental Album; and Latonia Moore, Best Opera Recording.

College of Music faculty member Scott Tixier performed violin on John Legend’s “Bigger Love,” winner of Best R&B Album. Saxophonist Dave Pietro (’87) played with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, which won for Best Instrumental Composition and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.

Over the years, alumni, faculty and staff from the globally respected College of Music have worked on numerous Grammy-nominated and Grammy-winning projects. Seven nominations alone have gone to students, composers and arrangers in UNT's premier jazz ensemble, the One O'Clock Lab Band, in previous years.

"We're proud to see that many of our College of Music alumni and faculty members have been nominated for or contributed to Grammy-nominated projects for 2021. Although not the only measurement of success, being nominated for a Grammy is an extraordinary accomplishment and we send a heartfelt congratulations to all who were recognized," College of Music Dean John W. Richmond says.

Alumni and faculty from across UNT colleges and schools were nominated or part of projects nominated in the 2021 awards (people with UNT ties in bold):

Norah Jones
Norah Jones

Best American Roots Performance

  • Mavis Staples and alumna Norah Jones – "I'll Be Gone"

Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella

  • Jeremy Levy Jazz Orchestra – "Uranus: The Magician"
    Alumni Tom Luer (tenor saxophone) and Jeff Driskill (tenor saxophone)
  • Remy Le Boeuf – "Honeymooners"
    Faculty member Philip Dizack (trumpet) and alumnus Ben Kono (tenor saxophone and clarinet)
  • Becca Stevens featuring Jacob Collier – Talia Billig, Nic Hard & Becca Stevens – "Slow Burn"
    Alumni Justin Stanton (keyboards) and Nate Werth (percussion)

Best Contemporary Instrumental Album

  • Alumni Michael League, Shaun Martin, Justin Stanton, Chris Bullock and Mike Maher of Snarky Puppy – "Live at The Royal Albert Hall"
Lecrae Moore
Lecrae Moore

Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song

  • Alumnus Lecrae Moore – "Sunday Morning"

Best Country Song

  • Alumna Maren Morris – "The Bones"

Best Gospel Performance/Song

  • Alumnus Lecrae Moore – "Come Together"

Best Instrumental Composition

  • Remy Le Bouef – "Strata"
    Alumnus Ben Kono (tenor saxophone and clarinet)
  • Maria Schneider – "Sputnik"
    Alumnus Dave Pietro (alto saxophone, clarinet, piccolo, flute and alto flute)

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

  • Maria Schneider Orchestra – "Data Lords"
    Alumnus Dave Pietro (alto saxophone, clarinet, piccolo, flute and alto flute)

Best Latin Jazz Album

  • Poncho Sanchez – "Trane's Delight"
    Alumnus Ross Schodek (bass)

Best Metal Performance

  • Power Trip – "Executioner's Tax (Swing of The Axe) – Live"
    Alumni Riley Gale and Blake Ibanez

Best Opera Recording

  • Metropolitan Opera – "Porgy and Bess"
    Alumna Latonia Moore as Serena

Best Rap Song

  • Alumnus Bobby Sessions, Beyoncé, Shawn Carter, Brittany Hazzard, Derrick Milano, Terius Nash, Megan Pete, Jordan Kyle Lanier Thorpe & Anthony White – "Savage"

Best R&B Album

  • John Legend – "Bigger Love"
    Faculty member Scott Tixier (jazz violin)

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album

  • Harry Connick, Jr. – "True Love: A Celebration of Cole Porter"
    Alumnus Dan Higgins (saxophone)

Music Educator Award

  • Alumna Michelle Herring Folta, an associate professor of choral/general music education at Columbus State University in Georgia, is one of 10 finalists for the award recognizing educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education.

Read about how guitarist Blake Ibanez relishes the band Power Trip's Grammy Award nomination after lead singer Riley Gale's death and a tumultuous year.

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