Tuesday afternoon, members of the New York Youth Symphony erupted into cheers, as they found out they were nominated for a Grammy.

“Well, I may have screamed, and I may have jumped up and kicked over a chair, but yeah, I was totally calm cool and collected,” the symphony’s executive director, Shauna Quill, said.

The symphony was nominated in the category of “Best Orchestral Performance.”

Quail knows it’s the highest recognition you can get in the world of music.

“This is the Grammys,” Quill said. “There’s nothing bigger than that.”

What You Need To Know

  • The NYYS was one of 5 Grammy nominees in the category “Best Orchestral Performance”

  • Because of COVID, the group recorded the performance under unusual circumstances, with each instrument section recording their own part, then layering each one on top of another

  • The 65th Annual Grammys Awards are set for February 5th in Los Angeles

But perhaps this recognition is even bigger, considering this is a youth symphony, nominated alongside some of the biggest and best professional orchestras in the world.

Joshua Choi is the symphony’s principal clarinetist, and now, at just 18-years-old, he’s a Grammy nominee.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Choi said. “I can’t believe it.”

Choi says he grew up listening to the orchestras he is now nominated alongside.

“Being nominated with such big orchestras like the LA Phil, Berlin Phil, it’s just mind-blowing because I just saw the Berlin Phil perform at Carnegie a few days ago, and now to be thinking that I’m nominated alongside with them is just crazy,” Choi said.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Choi started playing clarinet in third grade.

He joined the NYYS when he was 14, and a year-and-a-half later, earned the spot of the first chair.

Quill called that feat “very rare,” adding, “especially on clarinet. It’s one of the hardest things. He’s a prodigy, he’s incredible.”

Both Quill and Choi say this Grammy nod is even more meaningful because of when and how it was made.

“This project was a sense of hope in an otherwise dark moment in the pandemic,” Quill said. “When we did this, we couldn’t perform.”

It was originally intended to be performed at Carnegie Hall in front of a live audience.

But because of COVID-19, they had to record it apart, section by section — first the strings, then the woodwinds, then percussion — each group listening to the others with headphones, then layering it all together in post-production.

“I think it was almost the whole day. I remember my lips were pretty busted after that recording session,” Choi said.

It was all worth it though — to now be named among the best in music, the thing Choi loves most.

“Music, it just feels like home, just something I always come back to, to make me feel calm,” Choi said.

For now, he’s staying busy with his first year at Julliard and his fifth year playing with the youth symphony. But it’s safe to say his entire group is looking forward to early February, and their first trip to the Grammys.

“People who know me were like, ‘So what are you wearing?’” Quill said. “We’re going there Feb. 5, and we’re going to see what happens, but the kids are ready to go.”