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Grammys preview: Duke artists and more make up nominees

<p>9th Wonder, pictured performing in 2008, helped produce Kendrick Lamar's album "DAMN.," which is nominated for Album of the Year at the upcoming Grammys.</p>

9th Wonder, pictured performing in 2008, helped produce Kendrick Lamar's album "DAMN.," which is nominated for Album of the Year at the upcoming Grammys.

The Grammys will hold its 60th ceremony Jan. 28, and as you sit anxiously and excitedly in front of a screen to watch Lady Gaga, P!nk and Childish Gambino perform and confirm your predictions, be sure to pay attention to two Grammy-nominated Duke musicians: Christopher Jacobson and Patrick Douthit.

Duke Chapel organist Christopher Jacobson’s album “Tyberg: Masses,” a collaboration with Brian Schmidt, who was assistant conductor of music at Duke Chapel when they first started the project, is nominated for Best Choral Performance. Sung by the South Dakota Chorale, the album is also nominated for Best Engineered Album – Classical and Best Surround Sound Album, and is associated with a nomination in the category of Producer Of The Year – Classical.

“Tyberg: Masses” features Viennese composer Marcel Tyberg’s masses. Equally as beautiful as Tyberg’s music is his story: At the height of World War II and the Holocaust in 1943, Tyberg was a young, neo-romantic Catholic composer. Anticipating his possible capture, Tyberg gathered his friends in a nearby church and played through his music one last time. Then he gave all his compositions to his friends, hugged them and bid farewell. Two days later, he was arrested by the Gestapo. His death was recorded at Auschwitz.

Six decades later, Tyberg’s life works traveled to the United States with Enrico Mihich and was eventually rediscovered in a basement in Buffalo, N.Y. Jacobson and Schmidt were thoroughly enthralled by Tyberg’s sacred music and story and decided to present them to the rest of the world for the first time since Tyberg played them himself.

Douthit, known in the music industry as 9th Wonder, is a lecturing fellow in the African & African American Studies department. As Professor Douthit, he co-teaches “The History of Hip-Hop”; as 9th Wonder, he produced the final track “Duckworth” on Kendrick Lamar’s best-selling album “DAMN.,” which has been nominated for Album of the Year. In 2015, his work on another Lamar album, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” was also honored by the Grammys. Likewise, Douthit produced many of the songs on North Carolina-based rapper Rapsody’s album “Laila’s Wisdom,” which is nominated for Best Rap Album.

However, this is not the first time that the Grammys have recognized Duke musicians. Eric Oberstein, associate director of Duke Performances, has won four Grammys in the past two years in Latin jazz and instrumental.

Will Duke staff have the honor of bringing trophies back home Jan. 28? According to the experts at the betting website Gold Derby, the Grammy nominations announced in November were surprising, with especially tight competition in the general field.

Jacobson faces tough competition in the Best Surround Sound Album and Best Engineered Album – Classical categories; his competitor “So is my love” in Best Surround Sound Album is sung by the second-time Grammy-nominated chamber choir Ensemble 96. In the Best Engineered Album – Classical category, Gary Call’s “Danielpour: Songs Of Solitude & War Songs” is hailed as the likely winner, as Call has won two Grammys before. However, “Tyberg: Masses” might have a good chance to win Best Choral Performance, as all nominees in the category have no Grammys on their resume and stand at the same starting point.

Meanwhile, for Album of the Year, Gold Derby’s writer Charles Bright and senior editor Daniel Montgomery supported Kendrick Lamar as the winner, which means that Douthit might receive the honor of contributing to a Grammy-winning album in a few weeks. The experts’ only worry is Bruno Mars (“24K Magic”) and the over-performing Jay-Z (“4:44”), who might split votes with Lamar.

But the most unpredictable category is Record of the Year, from which Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” is shockingly omitted. The ones who did make it are Childish Gambino (“Redbone”); Lamar (“Humble”); Jay-Z (“The Story of O.J.”); Bruno Mars (“24K Magic”) and Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber (“Despacito”). The Gold Derby experts predicted that it would be a contest between “24K Magic” and “Despacito,” though they felt the ubiquitous “Despacito” might prevail. The two experts debated in the category of Song of the Year but believed that “1-800-273-8255” (Logic featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid), “4:44” (Jay-Z), “Despacito” and “That’s What I Like” (Bruno Mars) are all possible winners. When it comes to Best New Artist, the experts agree that Alessia Cara will be triumphant. Her only threat is SZA, who has presented herself very strongly in the R&B categories.

But no matter the results, with the two Grammy-nominated Duke musicians, this year’s Grammys is bound to bring much excitement.


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