A Spectacular Night at the 2024 Grammy Awards
By Evan Calbi
USC Thornton faculty and alumni were celebrated at the 66th annual Grammy Awards.
On a rainy night in Los Angeles, USC Thornton faculty and alumni were celebrated at the 66th annual Grammy Awards. The televised ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 4 featured performers, songwriters, arrangers, composers and music industry professionals from across the school. With over 15 awards, from artists to composers to industry professionals representing winners, it was an exceptional showing.
On music’s biggest night, a nomination can often be as important as a win, particularly for young musicians, and both are highlighted here. The awards this year included multiple collaborations, both artistic and professional, in a night that offered a key takeaway: No artist makes it to the podium alone. Music is made possible by collaboration, cooperation, and community.
First-Time Winners & Nominees
Celebrated acapella group Tonality took home their first award as a performing ensemble. Founded by alum Alexander Lloyd Blake (DMA ‘19), the group won in the category of New Age, Ambient or Chant Album for So She Howls by Carla Patullo featuring Tonality and the Scorchio Quartet. This win follows their first nominated arrangement two years ago with “A Change Is Gonna Come,” arranged by 2021 Grammy nominee and Popular Music alum Tehillah Alphonso (’20).
Composer Gordy Haab (GCRT ‘02) earned his first award in the category of Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media for the score to action-adventure game, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, written with Stephen Barton. This is the second year of this new category. In 2023, two of the five nominees studied at USC Thornton. This year, three of the five nominees featured Thornton composers, including the first-time winner.
Faculty member, cellist Seth Parker Woods, earned his first individual nomination in the Classical Instrumental Solo category for Difficult Grace, and his album was included in Elaine Martone’s Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, Classical.
Composer Ludwig Göransson (GCRT ‘08) won an award for Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media (Includes Film And Television) with his remarkable score for Oppenheimer that featured performances from numerous Thornton alumni and faculty. Göransson received multiple nominations, even competing against himself in one category, while fellow composers Bear McCreary (’02) received two nominations, Austin Wintory (’07) was nominated for the third time, and Leo Birenberg (GCRT ’11) received his first nomination.
Composition alum Peter S. Shin (MM ‘17) had five works featured in Roomful Of Teeth’s Rough Magic, which won for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.
An Exceptional Year for Thornton’s Music Industry Program
Alumni and faculty from USC Thornton’s Music Industry program were well represented at this year’s ceremony.
Music Industry alum Keaton Smith (’16), general manager of Top Dawg Entertainment, represents SZA who led the field with nine nominations and won three awards, including Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, Best R&B Song, and Best Progressive R&B Album.
Billie Eilish, alongside her brother Finneas O’Connell, took home two awards for “What Was I Made For?” from the Barbie original motion picture soundtrack, winning Song Of The Year and Best Song Written For Visual Media. Eilish, who was nominated for a total of six awards, was discovered by alum Justin Lubliner (’12). She was the second artist he signed to his record label, The Darkroom, launched at USC Thornton when he was 20 years old.
Music Industry faculty member Jonathan Azu represents Leon Thomas, who won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song for SZA’s “Snooze,” while several of his artists received nominations.
Alum Billy Childs (‘79) won an award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for The Winds Of Change, while alum and former faculty member Sara Gazarek (’04) won as part of the vocal group säje’s performance of “In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning,” taking home an award in the category of Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals.
Faculty and alumni from USC Thornton’s Jazz Studies program were featured in multiple nominations, including nominations for Louis Cole (‘09) and faculty members Vince Mendoza, Luciana Souza, and recently retired faculty member Russell Ferrante.
Thornton Alumni Performers Celebrated in Grammy Wins
Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which features numerous alumni and current faculty members, won an award in the category of Best Orchestral Performance for Adès: Dante. Likewise, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra won Best Regional Roots Album and the Louisville Orchestra won Best Classical Instrumental Solo, with both performances featuring alumni.
Across the ceremony, in almost every category, USC Thornton performers were celebrated. Paramore’s This Is Why, which won Best Rock Album, features alums Brian Robert Jones (’15) on bass and Henry Solomon (’18) on multiple reeds and woodwinds. Another alum, Peter Lee Johnson (’13) played strings on Victoria Monét’s Jaguar II, which won two awards including Best R&B Album. Popular Music alum Karina DePiano (’16) spent much of last year as the keyboardist for Taylor Swift’s record-breaking Eras Tour, supporting the release of Swift’s Midnights album which earned the artist a record-breaking fourth Album of the Year award.
Music’s biggest night is, indeed, big, shining a light on all aspects of professional music, from the stage and concert hall to mixing booth, industry offices to touring buses and studio sessions. USC Thornton musicians were everywhere last night, and we celebrate this partial list of highlights as representative of so many alumni and faculty who contributed to these nominated and award-winning works. Click here to read more about this year’s nominations, and learn more about 2023’s nominees here.
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