Updated February 23, 2017
Three Eastman School of Music alumni, Sean D. Connors, Geoff Saunders, and Shane Shanahan, were winners in the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc.’s 59th GRAMMY Awards Sunday, Feb. 12. I
Connors (BM 04) is a member of the ensemble Third Coast Percussion, which won the Best Chamber Music / Small Ensemble Performance Grammy for the album Steve Reich. Formed in 2005, the ensemble champions new music and has collaborated across a wide range of disciplines with engineers, architects, astronomers, and more, enhancing performances with cutting edge new media.
Connors has performed with Amphion Percussion, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, eighth blackbird, the International Contemporary Ensemble, Signal, and Metropolis Ensemble, and he was the percussionist for two summers with the prestigious Aspen Music Festival Contemporary Ensemble. As an educator, he served for two years as assistant professor of percussion at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, and taught elementary school and middle school music in the Chicago suburbs.
Shanahan (BM 95) is a member of The Silk Road Ensemble, which won the Best World Music Album award for Sing Me Home. The ensemble was founded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who was inspired by the exchange of ideas and traditions along the historical Silk Road to explore how the arts can advance global understanding and can be used to connect the worlds through musical performances, learning programs, and cultural entrepreneurship.
Shanahan has combined his studies of drumming traditions from around the world with his background in jazz, rock and Western art music. An original member of the Silk Road Ensemble, his playing can be heard on all four of the group’s top-selling recordings for the Sony/BMG label. Shanahanis also a member of frame drum master Glen Velez’ TaKaDiMi Ensemble and cellist Maya Beiser’s Provenance Project. He has performed and/or recorded with Bobby McFerrin, Aretha Frankin, Philip Glass, Alison Krause, Sonny Fortune, Deep Purple, Jordi Savall, Fantasia, Chaka Khan, G. E. Smith, Simon Shaheen, Jamey Haddad, Cyro Baptista, Anindo Chaterjee, Sandeep Das, Shahram Nazeri, Alim Qasimov, Kayhan Kalhor, Howard Levy and Steve Gorn, among others.
Saunders (BM 09), a double bassist, is a member of the O’Connor Band with Mark O’Connor, which won the Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album for Coming Home. The album was at the top of Billboard’s bluegrass album chart for nearly half a year.
In addition to O’Connor, Saunders has worked with such artists as Chick Corea, Bobby McFerrin, Gloria Estefan, Steve Miller, Larry Rosen, Phil Ramone, Dave Grusin, and Terence Blanchard. He is an active freelance player in Miami and is a founding member of the local folk/pop group The Wynwoods. Saunders has performed for the Miami Light Project, Miami Nice Jazz Festival, Miami Made Festival, and other local festivals. He has also performed with the New World Symphony for the premiere of Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind, composed and conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. Saunders is currently pursuing his DMA in jazz studies at the Frost School of the University of Miami.
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(Eastman musicians are among musicians who perform on Grammy-winning albums: Assistant Professor of Jazz Saxophone Charles Pillow is a member of the Ted Nash Big Band, which won the GRAMMY for Ted Nash for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for Presidential Suite: Eight Variations on Freedom. Oliver Hagen BM 08 MM 10 plays one of the piano parts on a Reich piece on Third Coast Percussion’s Steve Reich. Jared Schonig BM 05 is a drummer on The Color Purple, which won Best Musical Theatre Album for the principal soloists and producers.)