Five Berklee Faculty and Staff Share Their Grammy Moments

Hundreds of people from the Berklee community have won or been nominated for Grammys. Here five of them share their stories.

January 26, 2018

Each year, the Grammy Awards bring together music's most acclaimed musicians and recording professionals. Considering the enormous talents present at the ceremony, the show is memorable not only for honoring the best of the past year's musical moments, but for the often unpredictable stories that emerge around, at, and after the presentations. While not every year gets a Kanye moment or a Soy Bomb, the experiences have a way of changing the lives and careers of those who get a nod from the Grammys.

Here are five people from the Berklee community telling their own stories about their Grammy experience.

Terri Lyne Carrington ’83 ‘03H Blazes a Trail for Women

BGJI Zildjian Chair in Performance

Best Jazz Vocal Album (2011)
Best Jazz Instrumental Album (2013)
Best Jazz Vocal Album (2014) – Producer

When I found out I was nominated in 2011 for Best Jazz Vocal Album, I was alone in my laundry room and literally dropped to the floor. I was shocked and happy because it had been 22 years since my first nomination in 1989. When I won the award, I felt like it was recognition for all the accomplishments in my career, not just for The Mosaic Project. The Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue, in 2013, was even more significant because I was the first woman ever to win in that category. I decided to work even harder to acknowledge and support women pursuing careers in jazz in hopes that wins in this category by women will not continue to be an anomaly. The third win was for producing Dianne Reeves’s CD Beautiful Life, which was important, as well, because I felt it solidified me as a total musician, not just a drummer or solo artist. All three were really special and I am incredibly honored to have had this kind of validation from my peers and industry professionals.

Gary Burton '62 '89H Gets a Surprise in the Mail


Best Jazz Performance by a Soloist (1972)

Before live telecasts became the norm, the Grammy Awards were held simultaneously in New York and Los Angeles. George Benson, who was scheduled to play in Boston on Grammy night in 1972, called me, told me he was nominated in the Best Jazz Small Group category, and wondered if my band could play his gig so that he could be in New York in case he won. I said yes and George went to the Grammys. Days later, a box arrived in the mail. Inside was a Grammy Award! I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know I had been nominated. And, George didn’t win in his category as he had hoped. I’ve often wondered what he thought when my name was announced as the winner of the Grammy for Best Jazz Performance by a Soloist for my album Alone at Last while I was playing his gig in Boston, and he sat expectantly at the Grammy ceremony in New York.

Oscar Stagnaro's Award-Winning Idea

Professor, Bass

Best Latin Jazz Album (2001 Latin Grammy)

The first Latin Grammy that we won with Paquito D'Rivera, for Live at the Blue Note in 2001, has great meaning in my musical career. It was a live performance at one of the world's most prestigious jazz clubs. Besides the superb musical performance by the band, I was the one who thought of the idea to record a live album. It was a dangerous risk but the Grammy win demonstrated that success depends on confronting challenges and the value of working with a team.

Sara Caswell Frightens Baristas

Associate Professor, Strings

Nominated: Best Improvised Jazz Solo (2018)

Berklee is inextricably linked to my Grammy experience—I was in line at Pavement Coffeehouse the morning of November 28 fueling up for my commute back to NYC when a friend texted “CONGRATS!!! We're so excited for you!” Having no clue what he was referring to, I asked for clarity, to which he replied with a phone call sharing the news about my Grammy nomination. I screamed with joy and immediately ran outside so as not to further frighten the coffee crew.

To be nominated for a 2018 Grammy for Best Improvised Jazz Solo for my performance on the track “Can't Remember Why” from the album Whispers on the Wind by Chuck Owen & the Jazz Surge is truly humbling, as is being in the company of the other nominees in this category. In looking back at the path that has led to this nomination, each step has been made with the love, guidance, and support of family, friends, teachers, bandmates, and colleagues—a communal network that has defined me, my decisions, and my music.

Carl Beatty Works Mix-Wizardry for Steve Vai '79

Assistant Vice President, Artist and Music Industry Relations

Best Rock Instrumental Performance (1993): "Sofa" by Steve Vai – Mix Engineer

Zappa’s Universe was a live album tribute to Frank Zappa. It was mixed with a low budget at breakneck speed over a short period. Once completed, Steve Vai wished to replace his lead parts, mainly for sound, not performance. As a result those songs had to be remixed. The original project masters were analog. Steve’s new parts were delivered in a digital format. In recalling the former mixes—for consistency with the rest of the album—it was discovered that his tape was pitched much higher than the original. I had to varispeed the tape and match it by ear to the original. It won a Grammy, in no small part because it was the year Frank Zappa died. It was the culmination of efforts by many to recognize his genius, and Steve Vai’s virtuosity made the award a reality.

Other contributors to this story include Lesley O'Connell and Allen Bush.

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