The New York Youth Symphony was nominated for a Grammy

On Tuesday afternoon, members of the New York Youth Symphony erupted in applause when they learned they’d been nominated for a Grammy.

“Well, I may have screamed, and I may have jumped up and kicked a chair, but yeah, I was totally cool and calm and collected,” said the symphony’s executive director, Shauna Quill.

The symphony was nominated in the “Best Orchestral Performance” category.

Quail knows it’s the highest accolade you can get in the music business.

“This is the Grammy,” said Quill. “There’s nothing bigger than that.”

What you need to know

  • The NYYS was one of 5 Grammy nominees in the category of “Best Orchestral Performance”
  • Due to COVID, the group recorded the performance under unusual circumstances, with each section of the instrument recording its part, then layering them on top of each other
  • The 65th Annual Grammy Awards is set for February 5 in Los Angeles

But perhaps this accolade is even greater, considering that this is a youth symphony, nominated alongside some of the biggest and best professional orchestras in the world.

Joshua Choi is the symphony’s lead clarinetist and now, at just 18, is a Grammy nominee.

“It hasn’t sunk yet,” Choi said. “I can not believe it.”

Choi says he grew up listening to the orchestras beside which he is now named.

“To be nominated with such big orchestras as LA Phil, Berlin Phil, it’s just mind blowing because I just saw the Berlin Phil perform at Carnegie a few days ago, and now to think I’ve been nominated alongside them is just crazy,” said Choi.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Choi began playing the clarinet in the third grade.

He joined the NYYS when he was 14 and, a year and a half later, earned the first chair.

Quill called that feat “very rare,” adding, “especially on clarinet. It’s one of the hardest things. It’s a prodigy, it’s incredible.”

Both Quill and Choi say this nod to the Grammys is all the more significant because of when and how it was made.

“This project has been a sense of hope in an otherwise dark time of the pandemic,” Quill said. “When we did that, we couldn’t perform.”

It was originally intended to be performed at Carnegie Hall in front of a live audience.

But due to COVID-19, they had to record it separately, section by section – strings first, then woodwinds, then percussion – each group listening to the others on headphones, then layering it all in post-production.

“I think it was almost all day. I remember my lips were pretty broken after that recording session,” Choi said.

It was worth it though, to now be named among the best in music, the thing Choi loves the most.

“Music, it makes me feel like home, just something I always come back to, to make me feel calm,” Choi said.

For now, he’s busy with his freshman year at Julliard and his fifth year playing with the youth symphony. But he’s safe to say that the whole group of him is looking forward to early February and their first trip to the Grammys.

“People who know me were like, ‘So what are you wearing?'” Quill said. “We’ll go there February 5 and see what happens, but the kids are ready to go.”

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