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SMTD alumni, faculty win GRAMMY Awards

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (BFA '06, musical theatre) are on their way to becoming "EGOTs": winners of Emmy, GRAMMY, Oscar, and Tony Awards. Photo by Dirty Sugar Photography.

Alumni of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance were named winners at the 60th GRAMMY Awards, which took place at New York City on Sunday, January 28.

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (BFA ’06, musical theatre), composers and lyricists for Dear Evan Hansen, won the GRAMMY for “Musical Theater Album,” for the show’s original cast recording, for which they were also producers. The songwriting duo previously won Tony Awards for Dean Evan Hansen (Best Musical and Best Original Score). During the prime time broadcast of the GRAMMY Awards, Ben Platt, who originated the lead role of Evan Hansen, performed live.

Last year, Pasek and Paul won a Golden Globe and an Oscar (Best Original Song) for “City of Stars” from the film La La Land, for which they wrote the lyrics. In January, they won a second Golden Globe in the same category for “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman, which is also nominated for an Academy Award.

At this early stage in their careers, Pasek and Paul are on their way to becoming “EGOTs”: winners of Emmy, GRAMMY, Oscar, and Tony Awards. It’s a feat they may achieve this year if they are nominated for and win an Emmy Award for the music they wrote for A Christmas Story, which aired in December on FOX TV.

Also winning a GRAMMY Award this year, in the category of “Choral Performance,” is the PRISM Quartet, comprising former students of SMTD saxophone Emeritus Professor Donald Sinta, including Timothy McAllister (BM ’95, MM ’97, DMA ’02), who is Sinta’s successor as professor of saxophone at SMTD. The album, Gavin Bryars: The Fifth Century (ECM), conducted by Donald Nally, features the quartet with the mixed choir The Crossing, which includes alumna and current SMTD doctoral student in voice, Kelly Bixby (BM ’06).

SMTD professor Timothy McAllister won his second GRAMMY Award in the “Choral Performance" category with the PRISM Quartet.

SMTD professor Timothy McAllister won his second GRAMMY Award in the “Choral Performance” category with the PRISM Quartet.

A rare recording of works by Bryars, an English composer and double bassist, the album features compositions set to the words by 17th-century English mystic Thomas Traherne. In addition to McAllister, the PRISM Quartet includes Matthew Levy (BM ’87, MM ’88), Zachary Shemon (BM ’07, MM ’09), and Taimur Sullivan.  

McAllister previously won a 2015 GRAMMY Award (Best Orchestral Performance) with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra as soloist on the album John Adams: City Noir/Saxophone Concerto. Joining PRISM on the recording is another SMTD saxophone alumnus and former Sinta student, Robert Young (MM ’08, DMA ’10).

Other SMTD alumni connected to GRAMMY-nominated albums this year were Ian Eisendrath (BM ’03, conducting), music supervisor and arranger for Come From Away, and Gavin Creel (BFA ’98, musical theatre), who plays a leading role in the new cast recording of Hello, Dolly! Both albums were nominated in the Musical Theater Album category.

In addition, tenor Nicholas Phan (BM ’01, voice) was nominated in the category of “Classical Solo Album” for Gods & Monsters with his accompanist Myra Huang. The work reflects Phan’s life-long fascination with myths and legend and features Lieder by the great Romantic composers of the Germanic tradition including Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, Mendlessohn, Schubert, Schumann and Wolf.