Fingers pointed as youth orchestra wins a coveted Grammy

Fingers pointed as youth orchestra wins a coveted Grammy


norman lebrecht

February 06, 2023

There were furrowed brows and much muttering when Michael Repper and the New York Youth Symphony were shortlisted weeks ago for an orchestral Grammy, ahead of most of America’s finest professional orchestras.

Last night, the youth orchestra won – for a recording of works by Florence Price, Valerie Coleman and Jessie Montgomery.

Members of the orchestra are aged 12 to 20. Questions are being asked about what appears to be an astonshingly professional campaign to whip up the votes.


  • Kenneth Griffin says:

    This news has lifted my mood!

  • PS says:

    It’s a successful social science fair project. They figured out exactly how to win a Grammy, and they did. A+

  • Dominic Stafford says:

    The whole process behind the Grammys has long been laughably ‘Tammany’.

    Miles David won fewer Grammys in his entire career than some artists now win in one evening. All so a record label can put ‘Grammy-Winning Artist’ on the CD cover.

    So this news, that a young orchestra has won with a recording of some, until recently, neglected composers is good news.

    • Bone says:

      I’m fine with youth orchestras being recognized for their excellence: a German youth orchestra has long been recognized as having one of the finest recordings of Mahler 5.
      As for this group, it’s exciting to consider that this victory may point towards continuing classical music development in the US. I worry, however, that the contents of the CD are the main motivator for the award: voting for black female composers in this era is an easy way to virtue signal, regardless of the quality of their music.
      ( caveat: I haven’t heard this CD so I’m not judging – just speculating).

  • MacroV says:

    Of course it’s political, but what are the criteria for a Grammy? Good playing, sure. But noteworthiness is a reasonable factor. Playing new and/or previously neglected repertoire is a perfectly reasonable grounds on which to judge.

    • Tamino says:

      No it’s not perfectly reasonable.
      ‘Best Orchestral Performance’ leaves not much room for interpretation.

      The Academy could create a new category: ‘Best New Classical Artist’ for instance, catering to the next generation.

      But what they did here makes them just look bad and unprofessional, not to say corrupt.

    • sabrinensis says:

      Grammys are a recording award. While the performance itself needs to be superlative, the actual recording plays a huge role in determining the worthiness of the award. The repertoire can draw interest but it is the quality of the recording that is supposed to have more weight for the committee’s decision-making. This has changed sharply in the last fifteen years with other criteria being considered for qualitative reasons other than audio.

      • Tamino says:

        Incorrect. There are specific ‘Best Engineering’ awards where the quality of the recording takes the highest priority. But for all other categories, while an excellent representation through recording artistry is of course important, music and performance take priority there.

        • sabrinensis says:

          You are wrong. A great performance in a subpar recording will not be nominated. Ever been on the committee? I have.

          • Tamino says:

            You fight straw men. You claimed the quality of the recording bears more weight than the music/repertoire, also in the performance and composition categories. Nobody talked about subpar recordings.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    No fingers pointed. That a fine youth orchestra can represent their generation in music, representing various composers and delivering a first class product, is worthy of recognition. It also makes a statement for musicians of all ages, levels across the board. Brava tutti, to the team that makes such things happen. We can always have more positive in the world – and tomorrow’s adults are indeed today’s youth.

  • EK says:

    The recording itself is subpar and alone should not even have been nominated. With that being said, kudos must be given to the intelligence of the team for creating the project and its contents that had to win in this current political climate.
    The youth orchestra supports its students and I am certain that this win will bring in a huge sum of donations and grants to continue the program for years to come.
    This is a huge win for the future of classical music and student programs. Would life have changed if Dudamel won? No. But, the impact of this win could. We should be happy!

  • drummerman says:

    There have been countless “astonishingly professional campaigns” to get votes for a Grammy over the years. (Full disclosure: I was a member of the Recording Academy for about 20 years.) It’s old news.

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    “Let’s vote for woke programming!”

    “Only if it’s not old people playing.”

    “Ahh, here we have it. A youth orchestra playing underrepresented composers. Who needs another Philadelphia does Tchaikovsky when we can devour this?”

    “And just imagine, the kids didn’t even get paid.”

  • Karden says:

    People, things, places, companies and organizations have always been political. But not as political in the past as they are today.

    In 2023 (and not necessarily even the case with this group and their award) examples abound of people dealing with other folks’ ideological form of a fetish to satisfy one’s Woke emotions.

    Look at what the author of the Harry Potter stories is going through. She’s seen by some as negatively controversial for merely agreeing with the concept that humans who give birth to children are known as women-females.

    People like JK Rowling are going through today’s version of Mao Tse-tung and his Cultural Revolution of 1960’s China.

    • MB says:

      The youth orchestra has nothing to do with JK Rowling, except that it’s got a lot of Harry Potter fans in it.
      This orchestra is not only full of fabulous talent, but full of passion and youthful exuberance — the kind that is often missing in the usual established orchestras. I don’t know what’s more ideologically fetishistic: choosing to explore the works of musically deserving but underrepresented composers, or being so knee-jerk antagonistic to anything you might be able to label as “woke,” that you have to muzzle all expression of anything that isn’t old-school status quo.
      What it took to create this pandemic project is highly admirable in and of itself.

      • Tamino says:

        Much ado about nothing.
        Best performance is best performance.
        Must be possible to evaluate it blindly.
        Considering this, the Grammy winning performance is the worst of all nominated performances.
        Just listen to the recordings.
        A farce.

  • QB says:

    The Grammys for classical music is completely irrelevant for classical music listeners. There are simply too many great performances (commercial and non-commercial) and too much great music on record and on video. In the past several years of the pandemic there has been no commercial recordings of Bach cantatas that has given me more joy than the videos on youtube none of which can be nominated because they are non-commercial releases and didnt contribute to executive pyramid scheme paychecks.

  • sonicsinfonia says:

    Grammy Awards in the classical music field are worthless. No mainstream artists, orchestras or conductors win through as the majority of active voters are US-centric, mostly social media-driven, popular or contemporary music people who have probably never listened to or even heard any of the major international releases that get to the listings.

  • E Rand says:

    This is great – now the curtain has been lifted and the world gets to see how the sausage has always been made. The difference now is that those who are winning are so clearly being rewarded for worshipping at the altar of a DEI God that cares nothing for quality or achievement. It has made it all so transparent. Chalk this up to yet another institution completely bankrupted by Leftism.

  • Carl W says:

    What a fantastic result – not just for the young musicians and the composers, but also for the future of classical music!

    (Do we REALLY need another Dvorak 9 in this day and age – as great as the quality was)

    The cynicism and pretentiousness behind the tone of this non-article is the real problem in our industry.

  • Siobhan says:

    I smell a grant.

  • zandonai says:

    grammy is to classical music what popcorn is to movies.

  • Haha says:

    When the Vienna Philharmonic is releasing Bruckner recordings with Christian Thielemann and the youth symphony of New York has the best orchestral performance