Baylor professor nominated for Grammy Award

Posted at 2:50 PM, Jan 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-24 21:31:21-04

A Baylor University music professor has been nominated for a Grammy for the performance of an album composed by a Holocaust victim.

Brian Schmidt, 37, brought back to life manuscripts of Marcel Tyberg. Tyberg who was born in Austria and had 1/16 Jewish heritage composed two Catholic masses before being arrested and taken to the Auschwitz death camp. He died in 1944 at the age of 51.

"The last time the music had been touched was when the composer was living and when he gathered his friends to play through it, knowing that maybe in a few days he would be captured and taken away to one of the death camps,"Schmidt said.

Before his arrest, he gave his manuscripts to a friend who later passed it on to his son Enrico Mihich. Mihich moved to Buffalo, New York and stored the compositions in his basement.

The Buffalo Philarmonic premiered his Third symphony in 2008 and contacted Schmidt's recording producer about transcribing the masses. 

"I've been a long- fan of trying to perform music of unsung heroes," Schmidt said. "In my mind, he was a hero because he wrote incredible music and his life was ended way too soon."

Schmidt said he and others spent a year transcribing the manuscripts.

"It was very complicated in some way because Marcel Tyberg's handwriting was so terrible. It's beautiful music but his handwriting was very difficult to read," Schmidt said.

After they finished transcribing, his professional choir called the South Dakota Chorale performed it and recorded an album.

Tyberg: Masses is one of the five albums nominated for a Grammy. The recognition came as a surprise to Schmidt.

"I just really didn't think the Tyberg recording will gain so much attention. I think the story and the power of the music is what has made this an amazing success," Schmidt said. 

He said he knows Tyberg will be thrilled to hear his music is being performed.

"I think that would put a smile on his face knowing that his music has reached thus far to the United States," Schmidt said.

If the group wins, Schmidt who is the conductor of the choir will receive an award. 

"I would more surprised but I would be elated because in part this album is giving voice to music that may have never been heard. If we had not picked up these manuscripts, if we had not taken the time to transcribe them, the possibility it would've completely disintegrated or been lost forever was something that may have happened to this." Schmidt said.

Schmidt's student, Shannon Skillman, said he hopes he wins.

"I think nominated or not, he is the same teacher. He does the same things with us and he pushes us extremely hard and the nomination is certainly something that speaks to that, but even without he is just as incredible as he always is," Schmidt said.

The Grammy Awards will take place on Jan. 28. 

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