AE + SOUNDGIRLS: Women & The Grammy for “Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical”

Written by Ainjel Emme for SOUNDGIRLS.ORG, February 2019.

Since the original publication of this article, we’re happy to announce that Emily Lazar won the Grammy, and is the first female mastering engineer to win in this catagory! YEAH!

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A GOLDEN AGE: Women and the Grammy for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical

The first person to win a Grammy for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical was Ted Keep for “The Chipmunk Song” in 1959, the year of the inaugural ceremony.

Sound engineering has come a long way since the days when creative usage of variable tape speed was a cutting-edge production technique. The audio engineer, in turn, has become more than just a technician. The quality of a production can—and often does—make or break a record.

Though audio has made many advancements, women’s representation is still playing at a low volume: Out of 415 nominations, only 10 women have been counted as nominees for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.

When we shuffle through the history of recorded music, it’s hard not to notice that female engineers are largely unaccounted for. Stories of Delia Derbyshire, Ethel Gabriel, and Cordell Jackson occasionally glimmer through to the surface, but they’re few and far between. Seeing as women have been systematically gatekept from STEM fields, this makes historical sense. Even so, it’s a bit shocking that there was a complete absence of female presence in the Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical category for 40 years, until Trina Shoemaker was nominated for and won the first award in 1999.

Women only comprise about 3% of studio engineers. Breaking into and advancing in the studio environment continues to be challenging for women, especially as the competition to get into the room is already fierce even among men.

The good news is that our numbers are going up. The past decade has seen more female engineers receiving Grammy nominations than ever before. Women have been consistently represented in Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical for the past four years in a row. In 2019, three of the five projects up for the award have featured female tracking, mixing, and/or mastering engineers. Efforts are being made towards inclusivity—the Recording Academy launched a Diversity Task Force and hosted open forums in multiple cities, and a growing number of producers and studio owners have pledged to focus on diversifying their staff.

How’s that for a “step up?”

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“BEST ENGINEERED ALBUM, NON-CLASSICAL”

Female Nominees / Winners Timeline 

2019

All The Things That I Did And All The Things That I Didn’t Do (The Milk Carton Kids) – Ryan Freeland & Kenneth Pattengale engineers); Kim Rosen (mastering engineer)

Colors (Beck) – Julian Burg, Serban Ghenea, David Greenbaum, John Hanes, Beck Hansen, Greg Kurstin, Florian Lagatta, Cole M.G.N., Alex Pasco, Jesse Shatkin, Darrell Thorp & Cassidy Turbin (engineers); Chris Bellman, Tom Coyne, Emily Lazar & Randy Merrill (mastering engineers)

Head Over Heels (Chromeo) – Nathaniel Alford, Jason Evigan, Chris Galland, Tom Gardner, Patrick “P-Thugg” Gemayel, Serban Ghenea, John Hanes, Tony Hoffer, Derek Keota, Ian Kirkpatrick, David Macklovitch, Amber Mark, Manny Marroquin, Vaughn Oliver, Chris “TEK” O’Ryan, Morgan Taylor Reid & Gian Stone (engineers); Chris Gehringer & Michelle Mancini (mastering engineers)

2018

Every Where Is Some Where (K. Flay) — Brent Arrowood, Miles Comaskey, JT Daly, Tommy English, Kristine Flaherty, Adam Hawkins, Chad Howat & Tony Maserati, engineers; Joe LaPorta, mastering engineer

No Shape (Perfume Genius) — Shawn Everett & Joseph Lorge, engineers; Patricia Sullivan, mastering engineer

2017

Dig in Deep (Bonnie Raitt) — Ryan Freeland, engineer; Kim Rosen, mastering engineer

Undercurrent (Sarah Jarosz) — Shani Gandhi & Gary Paczosa, engineers; Paul Blakemore, mastering engineer

2016

Recreational Love (The Bird and the Bee) — Greg Kurstin & Alex Pasco, engineers; Emily Lazar, mastering engineer

2015

No Women Nominated.

2014

The Blue Room (Madeleine Peyroux) — Helik Hadar & Leslie Ann Jones, engineers; Bernie Grundman, mastering engineer

The Moorings (Andrew Duhon) — Trina Shoemaker, engineer; Eric Conn, mastering engineer

2013

No Women Nominated.

2012

No Women Nominated.

2011

No Women Nominated.

2010

Ellipse (Imogen Heap) – Imogen Heap
***WINNER

2009

No Women Nominated.

2008

No Women Nominated.

2007

No Women Nominated.

2006

No Women Nominated.

2005

No Women Nominated.

2004

No Women Nominated.

2003

C’mon, C’mon (Sheryl Crow) — Trina Shoemaker & Eric Tew, engineers

2002

No Women Nominated.

2001

No Women Nominated.

2000

No Women Nominated.

1999

The Globe Sessions (Sheryl Crow) – Andy Wallace, Tchad Blake & Trina Shoemaker, engineers             ***WINNER

1998

No Women Nominated.

1997

No Women Nominated.

1996

No Women Nominated.

1995

No Women Nominated.

1994

No Women Nominated.

1993

No Women Nominated.

1992

No Women Nominated.

1991

No Women Nominated.

1990

No Women Nominated.

1989

No Women Nominated.

1988

No Women Nominated.

1987

No Women Nominated.

1986

No Women Nominated.

1985

No Women Nominated.

1984

No Women Nominated.

1983

No Women Nominated.

1982

No Women Nominated.

1981

No Women Nominated.

198

No Women Nominated.

1979

No Women Nominated.

1978

No Women Nominated.

1977

No Women Nominated.

1976

No Women Nominated.

1975

No Women Nominated.

1974

No Women Nominated.

1973

No Women Nominated.

1972

No Women Nominated.

1971

No Women Nominated.

1970

No Women Nominated.

1969

No Women Nominated.

1968

No Women Nominated.

1967

No Women Nominated.

1966

No Women Nominated.

1965

No Women Nominated.

1964

No Women Nominated.

1963

No Women Nominated.

1962

No Women Nominated.

1961

No Women Nominated.

1960

No Women Nominated.

1959

No Women Nominated.

 

 

When I was compiling data for this article, scrolling through the empty space where no women were nominated had a profound impact on me. Thus, I felt it was important to include it here. – AE

  

A ROUNDUP OF THE NOMINEES:

Trina Shoemaker (Winner)

Imogen Heap (Winner)

Emily Lazar (Winner)

Leslie Ann Jones

Shani Gandhi

Kim Rosen

Patricia Sullivan

Kristine Flaherty

Michelle Mancini

Amber Mark