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UNT Insider | December 2007 Issue | UNT Grammy nominations

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Two UNT music faculty members earn Grammy nominations

From a UNT News Service press release

Steve Wiest, a University of North Texas alumnus and assistant professor of jazz studies, and Joseph Banowetz, UNT professor of music and a renowned pianist, earned Grammy nominations this year.

Wiest clinched a nomination in the Best Instrumental Arrangement category for his arrangement of "Besame Mucho" from the CD The One and Only Maynard Ferguson.

Banowetz, along with pianist and UNT alumnus Alton Chung Ming Chan, received the nomination for Best Chamber Music Performance for "30 Songs of the Russian People" on the album Balakirev and Russian Folksong. In addition, two of the album's producers, Marina A. and Victor Ledin, earned a nomination for Classical Producer of the Year.

Several more of this year's Grammy nominees have UNT ties, including The Eagles (with UNT alumnus Don Henley) for Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals. Brave Combo - which includes several UNT alumni, including founder Carl Finch - was nominated for Best Polka Album for Polka's Revenge. Bubba Hernandez, a UNT alumnus and former member of Brave Combo, earned a nomination, along with Alex Meixner, in the Best Polka Album category for Polka Freak Out. In addition, UNT alumna Norah Jones performed on River: The Joni Letters, nominated for Album of the Year.

Nominees of the 50th Annual Grammy Awards were announced Dec. 6, and winners will be announced at the Feb. 10 awards ceremony in Los Angeles.

"To be nominated for a Grammy award is probably the secret dream of all musicians at one point or another in their careers," Wiest says. "To actually have this happen is a great honor and a thrill indeed. My association with the great Maynard Ferguson has been a big reason for any success in my musical life, and now here he is giving me another gift after he has passed away. I am forever in his debt and am so blessed to have been a part of his family."

Wiest was appointed assistant professor of jazz studies in Fall 2007 at UNT, where he teaches jazz composition, jazz arranging and jazz trombone. He also directs the new UNT jazz trombone band "The U-Tubes," an ensemble that consists of five to eight trombones and a full rhythm section. Wiest, who earned a master's degree from UNT, has performed extensively in the United States, South America, Australia, Japan and Europe. His new solo CD, Excalibur: The Steve Wiest Big Band, was released in August 2006 by Arabesque Jazz to wide critical acclaim.

Wiest has also served as assistant director of jazz studies at The University of Texas at Arlington and director of jazz studies and trombone at The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he was a regular member of the Doc Severinsen Big Band and recorded "Swingin' the Blues" with Severinsen on Azika Records in 2000.

Banowetz has been heard as recitalist and orchestral soloist on five continents and has performed with such orchestras as the St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) Philharmonic, the Moscow State Symphony, the Prague and Bratislava Radio Orchestras, the Budapest Symphony, the New Zealand Symphony (on a 12-concert national tour), the Beijing Central Philharmonic, Barcelona Concert Society Orchestra, the Shanghai Symphony and the Hong Kong Philharmonic. In 1992, Banowetz was awarded the Liszt Medal by the Hungarian Liszt Society in Budapest, in recognition of his outstanding performances of Liszt and the Romantic literature. He is a graduate with a First Prize from the Vienna Academy for Music and Dramatic Arts.

"It's obviously one of the most prestigious international awards that I think any musician could get," Banowetz says. "It's equivalent to the Academy Awards. Just a nomination alone is an extremely high honor. I've had e-mails from friends and musicians around the world already, so it's a very high honor."

He has served on the juries of major piano competitions, including the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition (United States), Arthur Rubinstein Master Piano Competition (Israel) and the Scottish International Piano Competition (Glasgow) and has been invited to teach and lecture at many schools, including the St. Petersburg Conservatory, the Juilliard School of Music in New York City and London's Royal College. Banowetz has recorded more than 30 records for the Naxos, Marco Polo, Toccata Classics, Warner Brothers and Altarus labels.

UNT News Service Press Release
Ellen Rossetti can be reached at erossetti@unt.edu.

Read other stories in this issue:

December 2007

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