East Tennessee has an impressive talent for producing award-winning musicians and storytellers, and at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards this was evidently clear.
Jennifer Higdon, one of America's most acclaimed contemporary Classical composers, took home her second Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition on Sunday for her composition "Viola Concerto."
"It's a pretty amazing thing it just happened so I'm trying to process but I won a Grammy for best contemporary composition which is in classical music," Higdon told 10News. "I wrote a viola concerto, it's work that features the viola which is between the size of a violin and a cello and it was for that piece so it was very adrenaline inducing and a lot of fun but just kind of an amazing experience."
While originally born in Brooklyn and raised in Atlanta, Higdon's family eventually made their way to Seymour, Tenn. where she played flute and percussion at Heritage High School. She eventually graduated and pursued a music degree at Bowling Green State University.
"I was actually in the band. I started in the Heritage High Band so it was under Larry Hicks... it was Heritage's first year, they were combining a lot of schools and I remember just having a complete and total blast playing band," she said. "I graduated in 1981 and I went off to go to school in Bowling-Green, Ohio at BGSU and after that I got a Bachelor's Degree and I went off to Philadelphia to study at Conservatory."
"Viola Concerto" was co-commissioned by the Library of Congress and the Curtis Institute of Music where Higdon teaches at. The concerto was performed by soloist Roberto Díaz with the Nashville Symphony and conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero.
Higdon won her first Grammy at the 52nd Awards in 2009 in the same category for her composition "Percussion Concerto." Including her first nomination in 2004, she's been nominated for a Grammy a total of five times.
"I have to say it was amazing to look out across the audience when you're standing on the stage but I thought of my band mates from high school, as I often do as I'm doing these things when I have to face people, I think about what that was like being in the marching band and I kind of breathe deep and think about them and it keeps me grounded," Higdon said.
She said she often thinks about Hickman, her Heritage High School Band Director, and how her education in her high school years and everything leading up to them was full of really formative people.
"I tend to reflect back, I think about that when I'm in these situations when I've won something because I realize those people laid the path for me so I feel fortunate to have a lot of really good people showing me the way," she said.
Higdon wasn't the only person with East Tennessee ties up for a Grammy this year. Bradley Reeves, the co-founder of the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound (TAMIS), and WDVX host Wayne Bledsoe were both nominated for the Best Album Notes for Arthur Q. Smith: The Trouble With the Truth. Also in the running for the same category was ETSU professor Ted Olson for his notes in Big Bend Killing: The Appalachian Ballad Tradition.
Knoxville native Kenny Chesney's album Cosmic Hallelujah was up for a Grammy for Best Country Album this year. Kentucky native Chris Stapleton ultimately took home that award with his album From A Room: Volume 1.