From Cream and Crimson to Grammy Gold

Gold gramophone in front of a golden-yellow brick wall.

Indiana University is home to one of the nation’s most prestigious schools of music, the Jacobs School of Music. So it may come as no surprise that IU alumni, faculty, and sometimes even students are frequently in the running for the music industry’s highest annual honor: a Grammy Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Two IU Jacobs School of Music alumnae are up for Grammys in 2018.

In this composite of two separate photos, Sarah Caswell is pictured at left, seated on a couch, holding her violin. At right, Laura Sisk is in a studio leaning back on ledge in front of numerous buttons and dials.
At left, IU alumna Sarah Caswell is celebrating her first Grammy nomination as a solo artist. (Photo by Emma Mead.) Laura Sisk, right, is up for her second Grammy. At IU, Sisk received the Barbara and David Jacobs Scholarship. (Photo by Lauren Wade.) Courtesy IU Jacobs School of Music.

Violinist Sarah Caswell, BM’00, is looking to make Grammy history by being the first woman to win in the Best Improvised Jazz Solo category.

Laura Sisk, BS’10, is nominated for Album of the Year for her engineering work on Lorde’s album Melodrama. If Sisk wins, this will be her second Grammy; she won Album of the Year in 2015 for Taylor Swift’s 1989.

Read more about the nominees here.

This won’t be the last time IU goes to the Grammys—and it’s certainly not the first.

A Tale of Two Leonards

Leonard Slatkin and Leonard Bernstein, two internationally acclaimed conductors and composers with a connection to IU, have earned nearly 100 Grammy nominations between them.

From his 33 nominations, Slatkin has won six Grammys, including one in 2007, the same year he began his tenure as a professor in the Jacobs School of Music. Slatkin is now serving as directeur music honore with the Orchestre National de Lyon in France.

With eyes closed and arms outstretched, Leonard Slatkin stands on a raised platform conducting an orchestra.
Former Jacobs School of Music faculty member Leonard Slatkin has won multiple Grammys for his work as a conductor. Courtesy IU Jacobs School of Music.

Leonard Bernstein—often cited as one of the most accomplished musical minds of the 20th century—has been nominated for 63 Grammys and won 16 times, including several awarded posthumously.

The West Side Story composer was an artist in residence at IU for two months in 1982. He would compose at night and have students workshop his music the next day. Now, IU’s Jacobs School of Music is home to artifacts from the legend’s Fairfield, Connecticut, studio. Items in the collection include the desk where he wrote West Side Story, 39 Grammy nomination plaques, and a conducting stool from the Vienna Philharmonic that is said to have been used by Johannes Brahms.

Leonard Bernstein's 1967 Grammy award. Inscription reads: National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences; Leonard Bernstein; Album of the Year, Classical—1967; Mahler: Symphony No. 8 in E Flat Major; London Symphony Orchestra.
Leonard Bernstein’s 1967 Grammy is part of IU’s Bernstein collection. Thousands of items were donated to IU by the Bernstein family in 2009. Courtesy IU Jacobs School of Music.

Bernstein’s family gifted this priceless collection to IU in 2009. Several items from the collection are on loan to the Grammy Museum as part of their touring display “Leonard Bernstein at 100.” The traveling display is in celebration of what would have been the icon’s 100th birthday.

Big Names Love Booking This IU Grad

When country star Willie Nelson decided to record an album of American standards in the late 1970s, he turned to his Malibu neighbor to produce it. That neighbor? IU alumnus Booker T. Jones, BME’68, who also received an honorary doctorate from IU in 2012.

“Georgia On My Mind,” one of the songs on that now-classic Nelson album, won the 1978 Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male. The entire album Stardust was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2015.

Booker T. Jones, wearing a white button-up shirt, green jacket, and black newsboy-style cap, smiles at the camera.
IU grad Booker T. Jones, BME’68, is an accomplished musician and producer who’s won multiple Grammys. Courtesy IU Jacobs School of Music.

Nelson isn’t Jones’s only connection to Grammy gold, though. In the 1960s alone, Jones was featured on more than 600 recordings, including Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay,” which won two Grammys in 1968. And as a sought-after producer and bandleader, he’s worked with Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Bill Withers—just to name a few.

Jones is also a Grammy winner himself: Best Pop Instrumental Album in 2009 for Potato Hole and in 2011 for The Road From Memphis. With his group Booker T. and the MG’s, Jones won Best Pop Instrumental Performance for “Cruisin’” in 1994 and earned a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. In 1999, their song “Green Onions” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

See a list of other IU alumni, faculty, and staff who won Grammy Awards from 1963 to 2015.

Written By
Andrea Alumbaugh
A native Hoosier, Andrea Alumbaugh is a graduate of IU (BAJ’08) and a senior writer at the IU Foundation.