Classical Grammy Awards nominations for Jon Batiste, a pianist most widely known as the bandleader on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” and Curtis Stewart, a violinist who has worked in classical, jazz and other musical genres, have prompted protests from a number of classical musicians.
Batiste’s “Movement 11” was nominated in the Best Contemporary Classical category, Stewart’s album “Of Power” for Best Classical Instrumental Solo.
Both artists are conservatory-trained – Batiste at the Juilliard School, Stewart at the Eastman School of Music – and both have performed with classical ensembles and in classical series; but neither’s career has followed a conventional classical trajectory.
Apostolos Paraskevas, a professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston, told The Observer’s Dalya Alberge that nominating works that aren’t classical by long-accepted definition “jeopardi[z]es the credibility of the Grammy Awards.” Asgerdur Sigurdardottir, a talent manager who works with classical guitarists, said that those who vote on Grammy nominations are not required to be well-versed in the styles they are judging, so “people that have no classical expertise are able to vote in the classical fields.”
Stewart told Alberge that he seeks to “connect a divide that has hurt and ostracised classical music from a world of listeners for decades. . . . My work attempts to draw question marks to categories. I think of myself as a classical musician.”