(My apologies for letting this post sit in my drafts...)
Friday afternoon December 5, I was sitting at Starbucks in Lincoln Center occasionally hitting the refresh button on my browser window set to the LA Times Grammy announcements. Throughout the day, categories were announced in short bursts every 30minutes or so. All of a sudden the entire remaining categories were posted all at once. As I continued to scroll down the page, I got closer and closer to the one I was waiting to see, Category 81 "Contemporary Classical Composition".
I burst into tears, sobbing so loudly that a woman came over with a handful of brown Starbucks napkins and asked if I was ok. I called my wife immediately to share the news and she could hardly understand my words through my tears. Let me explain a a bit of what is behind these tears.
Stephen Paulus was one of the sweetest men in classical music. Without fanfare, he compiled a catalog of 500 beautifully crafted works of soul touching beauty for chorus, chamber ensembles, orchestra and several critically acclaimed operas. At the same time, he was championing the works of ALL contemporary composers through his founding of the American Composers Forum. That he passed away before being able to walk the red carpet and to enjoy this honor in person is a shame.
The entire disc "Fantastique" was conceived to center around this one remarkable work. Once introduced to it, I became totally enthralled and it became a mission to get it performed and recorded. In clustering several other wonderful works from less well known (at the time) composers around it, my hope was to gain exposure for everyone else involved; composers, soloists, conductor and students. Little did I suspect that the faculty and students of University of Massachusetts would ever reach such a large audience.
I am so very proud of our students who performed so valiantly on this entire project under difficult time pressures and more. Congratulations! To my co-soloists, thank you so much for sharing your artistry. To our conductor James Patrick Miller, thanks for taking the leap of faith to embrace this project even before your first rehearsal!
I am often asked for advice by my former students as they go out in the world and find the difficult decisions that are often put to us. My advice most often is to "stay true to the music and the rest will take care of itself." In this project, which was 10 years in the making, I did just that. I believed in the product of Stephen's soul and of all four remarkable composers featured on the disc. It seems that the music has taken care of itself.
Stephen, I again mourn your passing and hope that the Academy sees fit to honor you on February 8 with the actual GRAMMY Award. Fingers crossed and we have you in our hearts.