GRAMMY Winners Blog: Sharon Isbin

The Recording Academy asked a number of 52nd GRAMMY Award winners to share their thoughts on winning, performing, and simply experiencing the excitement of the telecast.

It was an honor to participate in this year's Pre-Telecast at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and to represent classical performance at the 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards.

Weekend highlights for me included Saturday's Special Merit Awards at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. Among 12 performers and industry mavericks honored were Bobby Darin, whose son Dodd's acceptance speech moved the audience to tears, and Leonard Cohen, who claimed our souls with his devastating poetry.

At the Nominees Reception that followed, guests enjoyed a feast in the packed and celebratory courtyard setting. Those of us performing in the Pre-Tel left early to rehearse at the Convention Center.

The next day, we huddled in a freezing backstage to run through our number with two additional band members. About an hour into the show, I was ushered onstage to perform a solo, after which the stellar band of bluegrass musicians — Jim Lauderdale, Alison Brown, Bryan Sutton, Gabe Witcher, Ray Benson, Melvin Davis, and cowboy king Michael Martin Murphey — joined me for a high octane version of "Sitting On Top Of The World."

Nine years ago when I received my first GRAMMY, I'd imagined hearing each of the other candidates' names as the winner. It had been 28 years since a classical guitarist received a GRAMMY, and I didn’t want to get my hopes up. When my name was called, I was stunned, elated, and wondering is this really happening? The following year, I felt the same excitement for Christopher Rouse when he won for my recording of his guitar concerto.

This year, I almost missed the award. After performing, I changed into a gown, returned backstage, and realized I’d left the tickets in my guitar case, which in the meantime had been locked away somewhere. After what seemed an eternity, the guard with the key finally showed, and I raced in heels (which I can barely walk in) through corridors, stairs and the audience to take a seat in the auditorium. Breathless and with just minutes to spare, I watched Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (Without Orchestra) flash on the screen along with the names of my fellow nominees (all women — a first?): pianists Ursula Oppens, Maria João Pires, Yuja Wang, and violinist Carolyn Goulding.

Roberta Flack opened the envelope, announced my name, and as I ran to the stage, I thought: how amazing is this to receive an award from the legend whose Killing Me Softly I've cherished since college? Before the packed audience and hundreds of thousands watching the live stream worldwide, I thanked Joan Baez and Mark O'Connor for their beautiful performances on Journey To The New World, the inspiring composers and arrangers, all who participated, and added:

"This is a great honor not only for me, but for the guitar as it's the first time in 43 years a guitarist has received a second classical GRAMMY. Thank you members of The Academy for helping me share this music and a project that is so close to my heart."

During the evening show, it was a thrill sitting second row while Pink twirled and sang overhead defying laws of gravity, Lady Gaga and Elton John made duo heaven, and Beyoncé blew the roof off. A Cirque de Soleil-themed after party was a celebration in colorful décor and astounding acrobatics.

This year, voting members of The Academy had the opportunity to hear hundreds of nominee recordings streamed at It also offered the chance to explore something new. I, for one, found myself dancing about to the music of Lady Gaga….

The 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards is a reminder of how treasured music is in our lives. I feel proud to be a member of The Recording Academy and its family of artists.

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