MTSU graduates are packing their carry-ons and preparing to head west to be recognized for their work at music’s highest levels: the 62nd annual Grammy Awards, set Sunday, Jan. 26.
University alumni have been nominated for Grammys in songwriting, production, mastering and engineering this year in pop, country, roots gospel, children’s album, film score and historic album categories.
They’ll also be honored during MTSU’s seventh annual Grammy gathering, where alumni and former students are saluted and current students travel with faculty and staff to learn firsthand about the awards in both backstage and pre-show events.
MTSU will honor its alumni at a brunch Saturday, Jan. 25, at The Standard hotel in downtown Los Angeles. The event will also celebrate the appointment of alumna Beverly Keel as dean of the College of Media and Entertainment.
The university also is again partnering with the Americana Music Association for a pre-Grammy concert event Jan. 25 at The Troubadour, the legendary live music venue in West Hollywood. This year’s concert will celebrate the music of Willie Nelson and is scheduled to feature a star-studded lineup, including John Prine and Tanya Tucker.
This year’s MTSU Grammy nominees include:
• John Baldwin, a 2002 Department of Recording Industry graduate who mastered and engineered Kankyo Ongaku’s “Japanese Ambient, Environmental and New Age Music 1980-1990,” earning him a second career nomination in the best historical album category.
• Multi-Grammy winner Tony Castle, a 1995 MTSU recording industry production and technology alumnus, who’s nominated for engineering Reba McEntire’s best country album-nominated project, “Stronger Than the Truth.”
• Multi-Grammy winner Torrance “Street Symphony” Esmond, a 2003 music business alumnus who’s back on the nominees’ list for producing the Alphabet Rockers, this time earning a best children’s album nod for “The Love.”
• 2000 recording industry alumnus Jason A. Hall and 2014 audio production grad Jimmy Mansfield, who’ll be making a return trip to the Grammys this year for engineering Eric Church’s best country album candidate, “Desperate Man.”
• Billy Hickey, a 2006 recording industry production and technology alumnus who’s nominated for two Grammys for his work with Ariana Grande. He’s part of the team nominated for record of the year for Grande’s “7 Rings” single and earned a second engineering nomination for Grande’s best pop vocal album candidate, “thank u, next.”
• Jeff Hyde, a 2003 marketing grad from the Jones College of Business, who’s nominated for the best country song Grammy for co-writing “Some of It” with — and for — Eric Church. The cut also is part of Church’s “Desperate Man” album.
• 2009 Master of Fine Arts alumnus Aaron Raitiere, whose “I’ll Never Love Again,” co-written for the 2018 film “A Star is Born,” was nominated for the Grammy for best song for visual media.
• F. Reid Shippen, a 1994 recording industry graduate and multi-Grammy winner who’ll return for the 2020 ceremony for engineering Gloria Gaynor’s best roots gospel album nominee, “Testimony.”
The nominees were announced Nov. 20.
Under Grammy rules, awards for best album and record of the year go to the winning artist, producers and/or engineers. The song of the year award goes to the songwriter, and performance awards go to the artist.
MTSU 2004 music business alumna Erin Enderlin, for example, isn’t directly nominated for a Grammy this year, but she’s part of McEntire’s country album-nominated project by writing “The Bar’s Getting Lower” for the collection.
Last year’s best country song winner, 2001 music business grad Luke Laird, co-wrote “Things You Do for Love” on Thomas Rhett‘s “Center Point Road” country album nominee.
Castle also engineered Willie Nelson’s best country solo performance nominee, “Ride Me Back Home,” but only Nelson would receive that award for a win. Castle’s won two Grammys for engineering Nelson’s projects featuring the songs of George Gershwin and Frank Sinatra, respectively.
A similar positive predicament faces 2006 music business grad Sean McConnell. He co-wrote “The Daughters,” which earned a best country duo/group performance nomination for Little Big Town, but only the band would get the win.
Hall and Mansfield were nominated last year in the country album category for the Brothers Osborne’s “Port Saint Joe.” Mansfield also earned a nod for engineering Ashley McBryde’s “Girl Going Nowhere” collection.
They’re getting a second shot of Grammy respect through those projects this year, too, though no awards. McBryde’s album title track is nominated for country solo performance, and the Brothers Osborne’s “I Don’t Remember Me” from “Point Saint Joe” is included in the country duo/group performance category.
MTSU alumni, former or current students, and faculty from across the university have been a part of more than 75 Grammy Award nominations in the last decade. So far 10 have won a total of 30 Grammys, including seven repeat recipients, since 2001 in categories from classical to pop to country to gospel.
In 2019, MTSU’s recording industry department made Billboard’s annual list of America’s top music business schools for a sixth year, joining its counterparts across the country once again as top producers of ready-to-work music industry pros.
Keel, formerly MTSU’s recording industry chair, took the reins of the university’s College of Media and Entertainment as its new dean on Jan. 1. She received her bachelor’s degree from MTSU in 1988, joined the recording industry faculty in 1995 and was named chair of the department in 2013.
Keel succeeds former USA Today editor-in-chief Ken Paulson, who returned to the faculty to serve as director of MTSU’s newly created Free Speech Center.
For more information about the Department of Recording Industry in MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment, visit http://mtsu.edu/recording-industry.
The show airs live Jan. 26 beginning at 7 p.m. Central on CBS.
— Gina E. Fann (firstname.lastname@example.org)