AE + Soundgirls: Women & The Grammy for “Producer of the Year, Classical”

published 03/05/19 at Soundgirls.org


The Grammy for Producer of the Year, Classical (originally Classical Producer of the Year) was introduced in 1979. This particular category distinguishes itself as the first technical award where a woman was nominated on the ground floor, during the category’s inaugural year.

That woman was Joanna Nickrenz.

Not only was Nickrenz the first woman to receive a nod in Production (Classical Producer of the Year – 1979), she’s also the first woman I’ve found on record to be nominated for a Grammy in Engineering (Best Engineered Recording, Classical for Edgard Varése’s “Percussion Music” – 1974).

A classically trained pianist, Ms. Nickrenz took a strong interest in the recording process during her first studio sessions. This led to her taking an assistant position at Elite Recordings, where she worked as an editor, producer, and eventually full partner to Elite founder, recording engineer Marc Aubort. Records made under the Aubort/Nickrenz umbrella carry a legacy among audiophiles as being some of the best orchestral recordings ever produced.

Affectionately dubbed “Miss Razor Ears,” Joanna was fiercely dedicated to preserving the integrity of the score. She was known to admonish musicians if they played any part of a work incorrectly or dared to improvise. When she passed away in 2002, her urn was humorously engraved with an oft-used corrective phrase: “What’s written is also nice.”

Ms. Nickrenz received 8 Producer of the Year, Classical nominations and won the award twice. In 1983, she shared the win with Aubort. In 1996, she was the sole recipient. She was additionally nominated in 1984, 1986, and 2001, but did not win during those years.

If she is indeed the first woman to break through the Grammy glass ceiling in both production and engineering, how is it that Joanna Nickrenz doesn’t even have her own Wikipedia page? Why can’t I find a single photograph of this pioneering lady?


Women account for around 14% of those nominated for Producer of the Year, Classical. A total of eight Grammys have been handed to women in the category’s 39-year history.

Five of these trophies have gone to Judith Sherman.

Nominated a whopping 12 times, Judith is a major contributor to the catalog of recorded classical music. She got her start as a broadcast engineer at WBAI-FM in New York City, working up to positions as a producer and musical director. She started her own production company, Judith Sherman Productions, in 1976. She is the second woman to be nominated for a Grammy in Engineering, receiving a Best Engineered Recording, Classical nod in 1990.

Though she’s established a long and fruitful legacy, Ms. Sherman remains a force to be reckoned with to this day. She has been nominated for Producer of the Year, Classical for the past five years in a row.


Being prolific seems almost a prerequisite when you look at the women in this category, most of whom have been nominated multiple times.

Robina G. Young has received ten nominations for Producer of the Year, ClassicalMarina A. Ledin has received eight. Young and Ledin have not yet crossed the stage to collect a trophy, but they show no signs of slowing down. 2006 winner Elaine Martone has managed over 1500 projects and offers a staggering biography. Nominee Elizabeth Ostrow is still going strong on a career spanning over 40 years. Anna Barry, who has over 500 recordings in her discography, was recently tasked to be the official recordist for the Royal Wedding. The late Patti Laursen was another important trailblazer, producing the first digital recordings made by Capitol Records in 1979.


Women in production have fared much better in the Classical division than in the category’s Non-Classical equivalent, with the percentage of wins landing at about 20%. The percentage of women who’ve won Producer of the Year, Non-Classical is still zero.

Though popular music will always have better PR, some of the most crucial and groundbreaking work has been done by women operating under the Classical umbrella. Seeing that the Recording Academy is pushing #WomenInTheMix and that March is Women’s History Month, the accomplishments of these producers should be loudly celebrated.

I invite you to dive deeper into the stories of the women nominated for Producer of the Year, Classical. Personally, I’ll be ensuring that Ms. Nickrenz finally gets her Wiki page. If anyone out there can find a picture of her, I sure would be glad to finally see it.


JOANNA NICKRENZ

1979 / 1983* (winner) / 1984 / 1986 / 1988 / 1996* (winner) / 2001

JUDITH SHERMAN

1990 / 1993* (winner) / 1994 / 1997 / 2007* (winner) / 2008 / 2011* (winner) / 2014* (winner) / 2015* (winner) / 2016 / 2017 / 2018

ELAINE MARTONE

2006* (winner) / 2014

ROBINA G. YOUNG

1993 / 1998 / 1999 / 2001 / 2002 / 2003 / 2004 / 2007 / 2008 / 2016

MARINA A. LEDIN

1999 / 2003 / 2007 / 2010 / 2012 / 2013 / 2015 / 2016

ELIZABETH OSTROW

1989 / 2018

PATTI LAURSEN

1989

ANNA BARRY

1994

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!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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?”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“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

TAPE OP: Guest Blog

Screen Shot 2019-01-21 at 4.34.23 PM

My Soundgirls blog about “Producer of the Year, Non-Classical” has been picked up by Tape Op Magazine and re-published on their blog! I’ve been given the opportunity to work on a few interviews for the magazine right now as well, centralized around women in audio.

So. Dang. Cool. <3

Thank you, Larry, for boosting the signal for women in music production! Stay tuned!

Click here to read the article at TapeOp.com

AE + SOUNDGIRLS: Women & The Grammy for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical

published January 2019 at Soundgirls.org


The Producer of the Year, Non-Classical category was established by the Recording Academy in 1974 to honor those who “present consistently outstanding creativity in the area of record production.” Non-Classical is the Academy’s designation for popular music.

267 individual Grammy nominations have been made since the category’s inception. Several producers have been selected more than once. 7 of these 267 nominations were presented to women. That means less than 3% of those considered for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical has been female.

To date, none have taken home the trophy.

+ + + + + +

Let’s take a look at the handful of women who’ve blazed the trail thus far.

Janet Jackson – Rhythm Nation 1814 (1990)

Miss Jackson was the first woman to receive a nomination in the category, with longtime collaborators Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam.

Expanding on the narrative of power established by her 1986 commercial breakthrough, Control, Janet bucked expectations even further and released a slick, socially-conscious concept album in the unlikely vein of Marin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?”

Rhythm Nation 1814 was nominated for 9 Grammys and spawned seven Billboard Top 5 singles, breaking the record previously set by her famous older brother. Five of those singles made it to #1. The groundbreaking 30-minute “telemusical” released as a video companion to the record earned Janet a Grammy for Best Music Video – Long Form.

Mariah Carey Emotions (1991)

Co-produced with Walter Afanasieff, Emotions marks the second occasion upon which a woman was up for the award, in 1991.

Upon signing with Columbia Records, 19-year-old Mariah—who co-produced the demos that got her picked up by Tommy Motolla—was obliged to take a backseat to established producers for her chart-topping debut, Mariah Carey. Hers is a classic case study in the perils of being a young woman in the record business; though she’s accomplished plenty in her own right, one wonders what she might have achieved if she’d been granted better access and support early on in her career instead of finding herself trapped in what she refers to as “the golden cage.”

After her first album’s success, Mariah sought to take more of a producer’s role on Emotions. She is credited as a vocal arranger, producer, and mixer.

Paula Cole This Fire (1998)

Though she’s technically the third nominee, Paula Cole was the first woman to be nominated as a sole producer, in 1998.

Cole was a frontrunner on the wave of 1990s women fighting for a stronger foothold in the music business. A self-proclaimed “dark horse,” the Berklee College of music alumna received backlash for her appearance at the award ceremony for sporting unapologetically hairy armpits and flipping the bird during her performance of “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?”

This Fire was nominated for seven awards, including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year. She took home the award for “Best New Artist.”

Sheryl Crow The Globe Sessions (1999)

The fourth nominee had already made an indelible mark as a singer, songwriter, and musician when she received the Producer nod in 1999.

Sheryl Crow caught her big break on backup vocals with Michael Jackson in 1987. Her first album, produced by Hugh Padgham, was scrapped for being “too slick.” However, those songs found homes with some major artists: Tina Turner, Celine Dion, and Wynonna Judd. She established her rootsy-yet-pop-sensible sound with the official 1994 debut, Tuesday Night Music Club.

On The Globe Sessions, the storied songstress took the driver’s seat; producing all tracks except for a cover of Guns N Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” (produced by Rick Rubin).

Crow was the first nominated female producer to have a woman on the album’s audio engineering team—Trina Shoemaker, who took home the first female win that year for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.

Lauryn Hill The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1999)

1999 was a landmark year for women at the Grammys, and Miseducation was the career-defining album of fifth nominee, Lauryn Hill. She was recognized alongside Sheryl Crow, marking the first time two women were simultaneously up for the award.

Stepping into the spotlight as one-third of hip-hop legends Fugees, the outspoken young singer-rapper captivated listeners with an updated rendition of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.” The group disbanded in 1997 amid interpersonal issues and power struggles. Hill was determined to distance herself from her male contemporaries and establish her own creative space.

Though her legacy has suffered quite a bit of controversy, Ms. Hill’s contributions to hip-hop are lasting. She was the first female artist to be nominated for ten Grammys in a single year. She hit yet another first when she took home five trophies that night—unfortunately, none of them were for Producer of the Year.

Lauren Christy (2004)

Lauren Christy, another singer-songwriter who found her true calling off the beaten path, was nominated in 2004 for her work with writing and production team The Matrix, which included records made with Hillary Duff and Liz Phair.

Before establishing herself as a behind-the-scenes hitmaker, Christy was an award-winning solo artist. Her contributions to Avril Lavigne’s breakthrough debut, Let Go, earned her seven Grammy nominations and cemented her place in pop history.

A prolific songwriter, she’s most recently cut records with Bebe Rexha, Dua Lipa, and The Struts. Additional credits include David Bowie, Jason Mraz, Rihanna, Britney Spears, Shakira, Chris Brown, and Korn.

Linda Perry (2019)

Like the other women on this list, Linda Perry got started on her path to Producer of the Year as an artist. She scored an international hit with the song “What’s Up?” by her band 4 Non Blondes in 1992 and has since parlayed that success into a highly regarded songwriting and production career, making records with some of music’s top artists.

The seventh nominee, Perry stands out as the first to really step into the role of Producer. She runs a professional recording studio and is credited as an engineer on multiple projects. She founded two labels, a publishing company, and an artist development organization (We Are Hear). Her catalog—featuring such artists as Pink, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Joan Jett, and Dolly Parton—imparts a pointed engagement with and championship of women.

After 14 years of no representation in the category, the 53-year-old super producer stands a chance to finally shatter the glass ceiling for an increasingly upsurgent tide of female music producers.

Will the Recording Academy “step up” and award a woman with the Grammy for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical?

We’ll have to wait and see.

* For purposes of this article, we’re focusing on the primary branch of the Grammys, established by National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences in 1957. Linda Briceño was the first female producer to take home a Latin Grammy, in 2018.

PRODUCED BY AE: “Fool’s Gold” by Alfa

Our girl Alfa just released a new single on Warner Music – Phillipines called “Fool’s Gold.” It’s a sweet song about authenticity, imparting a message of self-love that we could all stand to hear a little more often.

Shoutout to Kawai for letting us come track piano on their showroom floor!

IMG_7905.jpg

Congratulations on another beautiful release, Alfa! <3

PRODUCED BY AE: “V” by Leslie Nuss

Singer-songwriter Leslie Nuss reached out to me all the way from Indiana, seeking a female producer to help bring a collection of wise, effulgent songs to completion. Despite having never met me–save through Facebook Messenger and a few long phone calls–Leslie bravely hopped on a plane and came into our studio with her heart wide open, offering two EPs worth of material. Some of the songs were sketched mostly into place, some of them had to be reconstructed, each of them was steeped in thoughtful observation.

largeIn addition to being a voracious writer, Leslie is a gifted designer, clothes maker, and visual artist. I love watching her inspiration-lid pop open and her creativity spill out in every direction. She’s an art tornado. Anthony (who handled mixing, drums, and percussion), LN, and I have been enjoying such great synergy that we’re finishing a third and about to start working on a fourth EP! You can purchase the first EP of this series, with mastering by Greg Calbi and jaw-droppingly gorgeous art by Melissa Washburn, at CDbaby and Pledge Music.

Listen to the first single, “Glory Days” on Spotify:

PRODUCED BY AE: “Monstress” by Rie Daisies

On July 4th, 2018, Rie Daisies officially unleashed MONSTRESS!

Get yourself a physical copy via CDBaby.com or download at your favorite online retailer today!

Monstress by Rie Daisies

Rie is a rare talent. She’s equal parts introspective country gal, proud latina, elegant classical musician, weird alien priestess, futuristic folk singer, controversial composer, and spellbinding vocalist. We’ve been internet pals since she found me through CDBaby via my first record, Heartache Is Boring. She purchases more independent music than anyone else I know. She’s kinda one of my favorites, ever.

Rie reached out to me a year or two ago, frustrated by a lack of safe studios and female recording engineers in her area. She asked if I knew anyone who could help her build her demos into release-worthy productions. I told her to send me a track. She sent a bare-bones recording of “The Sacrifice.” I loved it, so I built the song up in Logic and shot off a rough mix. She loved it. Thus we collaborated on the 13 songs that became Monstress, through email / DropBox / Pro Tools / Logic and a rad engineer named Corey DeRushia at Troubadour Recording Studios, who helped Rie track her parts in Michigan. I brought my future-husband Anthony into the fold for mixing, drums, and some additional programming.

It was such a pleasure to be a part of delivering this document to the world.

Congratulations, Rie! <3

150+ Female Producers You Need To Know

Thank you to Ari Herstand at Ari’s Take for including me on this living list of 150+ Female Producers You Need To Know. 

Artists and labels:
Please take note of this list–and for your next studio project, consider hiring a female producer!

http://aristake.com/post/150-female-producers-you-need-to-know

BADASS BANDS + PLAY LIKE A GIRL + AE = Live at the Hi Hat!

26198428_10156131067766518_665561454807610532_o

With TwoLips and Laura Jean Anderson.

This is it. The last video shoot for the BADASS BANDS LIVE series; five years running.

From BB Founder, Jolynn Braswell:

“Myself and the crew have loved every goddamn second of shooting these over the last 5 years, but it’s come time call it.  In May, when we finish releasing all of our content, we’ll have released 200 videos (!!!!!!!). Pretty. Fucking. Amazing.”

BB Live teams up with PLAY LIKE A GIRL for the final video rock show, featuring LAURA JEAN ANDERSON, TWOLIPS, and AINJEL EMME.

>>>  Details:

FREE SHOW // 21+

SATURDAY JANUARY 13th
at The HiHat
5043 York Blvd,
Los Angeles, CA 90042

TOM PRETTY REPRISE: A Ladies’ Tribute To Tom Petty @ Silverlake Lounge

22894328_10215163922519622_2224992361130667468_n

The girls (and a few of our boys) are getting together again to celebrate the life and catalog of our favorite Heartbreaker, Tom Petty on Saturday November 11th at the Silverlake Lounge. $7 cover. 5pm-9pm. We go on at 6:3o. Come sing along. <3