Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition Awarded to Montclair State Professor Robert Aldridge

February 13, 2012; Montclair, NJ—Professor Robert Aldridge of Montclair State University’s John J. Cali School of Music received the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony held February 12 in Los Angeles. He was awarded the Grammy for his opera, Elmer Gantry, along with librettist Herschel Garfein.

Additionally, the CD of the opera, “Aldridge: Elmer Gantry,” won the Grammy for Best Engineered Album, Classical. The CD’s producer, Blanton Alspaugh, had received a Grammy nomination for Producer of the Year, Classical, but did not win in that category.

“On behalf of the entire John J. Cali School of Music, we congratulate Bob Aldridge on this extraordinary achievement,” said Robert Cart, director of the John J. Cali School of Music. “Winning the Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition is yet another achievement for this acclaimed opera and we are extremely thrilled for Bob and Herschel that Elmer Gantry has been honored with this award.”  

Based on the novel by Sinclair Lewis, the idea for turning Elmer Gantry into an opera first came to Aldridge in 1991. “I’m originally from the South and a minister’s son so the idea of religion in America was interesting,” he said, adding that he wanted to create a “distinctly American opera, not just an homage to the European form, but one that combines American vernacular, gospel music, and an operatic story.”

After many starts and stops, the production was commissioned by Peak Performances and premiered in Nashville in 2007 and at Montclair State in 2008 to glowing reviews. The opera’s 16-year odyssey culminated in the Grammy Award-winning 2.5-hour CD, featuring the Florentine Opera Chorus, the Florentine Opera Company, and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
Elmer Gantry was a Peak Performances Commission, and had its East Coast Premiere here at Montclair State University in January of 2008.

Aldridge has written over 60 works for orchestra, music-theater, chamber, string quartet, voice, and dance ensembles.

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