MSU alumnus wins Grammy for best opera
By snagging the win for best opera, MSU alumnus Brad Sayles secured the Houston Symphony their first Grammy award. Five years after its recording, “Berg: Wozzeck” is getting the recognition Sayles knew it deserved.
“It was only supposed to be for archives,” Sayles said. “Until I heard some of the rehearsals and realized it was something a little bit special.”
Intended as a going away present back in 2013 for the then-outgoing music director Hans Graf, Sayles said he saw the piece’s potential. Renting some additional equipment to stitch together a CD recording, Sayles spent the following year working on an edit for radio.
Acting as both sound engineer and producer, Sayles hacked away at the project until its release in 2017. The music gained some attention and earned the symphony their first nomination for the Grammys.
“For everybody else, it was not expected. For me, I kept telling people this was at least going to get nominated,” Sayles said. “It’s a unique piece. It’s very unusual to have it performed so well by an American orchestra, let alone a southern orchestra from down here in Texas.”
Originally a German play by a similar title, “Wozzeck” is a look into madness, morality and murder. Transformed into an opera by Austrian composer Alban Berg in 1925, the piece tells the story of malice and love in the title character’s life and what the interaction of both can look like.
Looking forward, Sayles has already begun new enterprises and plans to release another recording with the Houston Symphony in June. Reflecting, he said he’s had a good run so far, starting his career whilst attending MSU.
In his acceptance speech, Sayles included a thank you to his first mentor who got him started in recording at MSU, John McDaniel.
With opportunities at MSU from the College of Music, College of Communication Arts and Sciences, Wharton Center, WKAR and Spartan Marching Band, Sayles said he gives credit to MSU for giving him training to pursue his passions.
Taking what he learned pursuing a telecommunications degree at MSU with him, Sayles made the move to Texas to start a recording business.
“I may have only been recording middle school orchestras back then, but it was a start,” Sayles said. “That was 20 years ago and I’ll say it’s been a good, slow, steady climb.”
To purchase the award-winning recording, click here.