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Alumna Shauna Quill Part of Historic Grammy Win

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Dan Fernandez
School of Music

Though the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of the New York Youth Symphony's scheduled Carnegie Hall performance in 2020, the NYYS kept making music.

Shauna Quill, the executive director of the NYYS and a 1997 graduate of the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music(opens in new window), remembers the start of a recording project back in 2020.

"The recording was made when performance wasn't possible — even being in the same room with the 100-person orchestra wasn't possible," recalled Quill, who majored in flute performance at CMU. "Anyone who took courses in music recording and engineering with Riccardo Schulz(opens in new window) at CMU will know it took quite a feat to make this recording work."

The Youth Symphony, comprising musicians ranging in age from 12 to 22, notched a major achievement simply by being nominated for a Grammy in the Best Orchestral Performance category against the likes of the Berlin Philharmonic and L.A. Philharmonic.

On Sunday night, the symphony's young musicians waited expectantly as they watched the live Grammy broadcast, gathered in their rehearsal room. As their category came up, "The Grammy goes to... 'The Works of...'"

The remainder of the announcement was inaudible over the cheers and shrieks of the ecstatic youths.

A symphony

The New York Youth Symphony performs on May 22, 2022.

The NYYS became the very first youth orchestra to ever win a Grammy Award, for their untitled album featuring the works of three Black female composers: Florence Price, Jessie Montgomery and Valerie Coleman. It took a major effort by conductor Michael Repper, producer Judith Sherman (who also won a Grammy for Producer of the Year, Classical), and engineer Isaiah Abolin in order to put the many individual recordings together to create the final product.

For Quill, the historic win provided an opportunity to reflect on how Carnegie Mellon influenced her path.

"My memories of CMU are filled with gratitude for the tremendous faculty who allowed a transfer student like me to explore my many different interests," Quill said. "I remember loving taking piano lessons and dance classes — even though I was a flute major — and reading through incredible orchestral works (in a repertoire class with oboist Cynthia DeAlmeida(opens in new window))... I love that while some (CMU alumni) are performing and teaching, others are tackling water and environmental issues in Michigan, or are working in arts administration like me. It's an amazing community of people and CMU is our lifelong bond."

Executive Director Shauna Quill speaks at the New York Youth Symphony Gala in 2022.

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