Back on campus after collecting a Grammy in Los Angeles on February 12 for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for his opera, Elmer Gantry, Montclair State University Professor of Music Robert Aldridge was greeted by a huge sign in the lobby of the John J. Cali School of Music congratulating him on his “gigantic victory” and cheers from students in his classes.
“It felt great to win. There was a tremendous feeling of pride and vindication that we had done something very good and received recognition for it,” says Aldridge, speaking of the opera’s “long and rocky” 16-year odyssey to fruition. He is grateful to the University for its financial and production support as well as for the faculty and student participation in the opera’s successful co-premiere here in 2008.
Aldridge shared the Grammy with the opera’s librettist, Herschel Garfein. The CD of the opera also won the Grammy for Best Engineered Album, Classical. Other Montclair State faculty have played roles in Grammy-winning music projects in the past, but Aldridge is the first to win the award under his own name.
Nicole DeMaio, a 20-year-old music education and composition major from Toms River, New Jersey, says she was “very happy” that he won. “It definitely means a lot for Montclair State. Any publicity we get helps boost our name as one of the big music schools in New Jersey and even the tri-state area,” she adds.
It was a memorable weekend for Aldridge who was at the Grammy Awards with his 17-year-old daughter, Micaela, a newly enrolled vocal performance major at Montclair State.
When he heard his name announced as the Grammy winner, Aldridge recalls feeling stunned and admits he hadn’t expected to win. “It seemed like it took forever to process the fact that my name was called,” he says. He and his daughter hugged each other before he walked on stage to deliver an impromptu thank-you speech.
“I didn’t have a speech ready,” he says. “I didn’t prepare anything because I was superstitious and I didn’t want to be carrying around a speech, and then not win, so my speech was rather short.”
At the pre- and post-Grammy parties, his daughter had fun pointing out current music mega-stars like Lady Gaga and Rihanna to her father. “I wouldn’t know Lady Gaga if I tripped over her,” Aldridge laughs.
He had his hands on the Grammy for only a few moments before it had to be given back to be inscribed with his name. When his Grammy finally arrives in the mail, it will have pride of place on his fireplace mantle.