GRAMMY Nomination

The School of Music’s Professional Choral Institute is in the running for Brahms’ German Requiem CD.

By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Dec. 12, 2011) – Bring some of the best singing talents together for a few days and great things can happen. In the case of the Professional Choral Institute, a professional two-week long intensive program held at the University of South Florida, a GRAMMY-nominated CD was the result – right out of the box. 


When the nominations for Best Choral Performance were announced the night of Nov. 30, the institute’s singers’ performance of Brahms’ German Requiem was on the list. The collaboration between USF’s College of The Arts and Miami-based Seraphic Fire merited consideration for what is known as the most prestigious and only peer-recognized award in music.


USF’s top vocalists couldn’t be happier.


Two USF professors sang on the CD – James Bass, director of Choral Studies in the School of Music and artistic director of the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay and Brad Diamond, assistant professor of voice – along with nine USF students among the 30 voices. Bass served as choral master.


Diamond and Bass designed the institute which had its first session from May 23 to June 5. It was established to prepare singers to break into the growing and very competitive field of professional choral singing. The nation’s top graduates of conservatories and university music programs compete for spots that allow them to work side-by-side with the professional musicians of Seraphic Fire.


“Professional choruses are on the rise in the United States,” Diamond said. “We do more than work on singing technique. The Professional Choral Institute shares the tools, the information and even the personal contacts that are so important to breaking into a truly successful career.” 


The institute’s leadership team is impressive. With Bass and Diamond are Seraphic Fire’s Artistic Director Patrick Dupré Quigley and Peter Rutenberg, producer/conductor of the Los Angeles Chamber Singers who has a GRAMMY of his own. They are responsible for Seraphic Fire's hit recording of Claudio Monteverdi's Vespers.


“We set out to create an experience that no other summer institute offered,” said Bass. “To that aim, we promised the participants that they would be involved in a high level recording with a professional vocal ensemble.”


Diamond added, “The CD was in fact an important part of the project from the outset. When recruiting student musicians for the program, it was an important element to attract the best singers. The level of preparation for the program was extremely high in part due to the fact that the students knew the final product would have to be professional studio quality.”


What contributed to the high quality of the recording was that it was done in the School of Music’s new Concert Hall, a great achievement in acoustic design completed last spring.


“When the program began, we knew we had a special group of singers gathered with an excellent work ethic and attention to detail. We were hopeful that the recording would be well received, but we didn’t have any particular expectations,” Diamond said. “It is a great honor to receive the nomination. The nomination is truly inspiring.”


For Bass’s part, “on one hand I am surprised. We would be considered the ‘little guy’ or the newcomer. In order to compete for a nomination we were going up against huge names in the recording industry, like the London Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale, yet we received the nomination. This is huge for us.”


He sees the collaboration between a public university and a private professional arts group as a model for the future and added, “One of the things that makes me the most proud is to see and hear the reactions of the students involved. Their Facebook pages and Tweets are filled with pride and optimism. For a teacher, it is the greatest reward. For USF, this helps showcase what an excellent program we have here.”


Diamond also notes that the nomination is “extremely significant for each of the singers on the recording. The career impact will have to be measured with the test of time. If USF can remain committed to the high level of program quality represented by the Professional Choral Institute, then this could be the first of many awards and accomplishments garnered by the University and its talented faculty.”


Though acknowledging the enormous amount of work he and Bass put into the teaching and coaching of the singers in the Professional Choral Institute, Diamond makes it a point to sing the praises of his USF colleague. “Dr. Bass is an excellent friend and colleague. USF is fortunate to have him on faculty. My own involvement in the project was small in relation to his. He deserves the majority of credit and praise for this excellent award,” he said.


This isn’t the first time USF has shown up on GRAMMY’s radar. USF’s Center for Jazz Composition’s first CD project, The Comet’s Tail: Playing The Compositions of Michael Brecker featuring Chuck Owen & The Jazz Surge rated a GRAMMY nomination in 2009. We’ll all have to wait until Feb. 12 to find out who will win in this category along with the rest of the world. 


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.