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On the Red Carpet: BSU music professor, wife, experience Grammy Awards first hand

BSU Music Professor Del Lyren, left, and his wife Betsy, fourth from left, were able to attend the Grammy Awards in New York City. They are pictured with members of the Grammy-nominated band, MONK'estra, including, from left, Bijon Watson, Adam Schroeder, James Ford, Terreon Gully, Tom Luer and Lorna Chiu. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
While at the Grammy Awards in New York City, BSU Professor Del Lyren, left, and his wife, Betsy, stopped for a photo with John Beasley, leader of the Grammy-nominated band MONK'estra. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

BEMIDJI—The last concert BSU Music Professor Del Lyren attended had a slightly higher seating capacity than that of Bangsberg Hall where he's taught for the past two decades.

Lyren attended the 2018 Grammy Awards in New York City along with his wife, Betsy. The Jan. 28 show is arguably the largest event in the music industry, spanning genres from classical to rap. The entertainment trade magazine Variety reported that even though this year's event drew lower ratings than years past, there were still some 19.8 million viewers who tuned in to watch the show at Madison Square Garden.

Others, like Lyren, had a "golden ticket" to attend in person.

"The whole experience was surreal," Lyren said. "It's something that I've had on my bucket list, and didn't know if I'd ever have the opportunity to go."

It was an experience that wouldn't have been possible just a few months beforehand. Grammy tickets usually can't simply be purchased off the open market. Luckily, Lyren had made a new connection.

In addition to his work as a professor, Lyren has a artist management agency called DGL Artists. Several months before the Grammys took place, he became connected with John Beasley, a jazz artist who's part of the band MONK'estra. It turned out to be an opportune introduction for both of them.

"I was a big fan of the band," Lyren said, who'd reached out to Beasley through Facebook. After some initial correspondence, Lyren offered representation through his agency, and Beasley accepted.

"He said, 'Actually, you're timing is perfect," Lyren described Beasley as saying.

Beasley was nominated for two Grammys, including Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella; and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. However, he didn't win either category.

Since not all Beasley's band members were able to travel to the Grammy's in New York from Los Angeles, Lyren was given the chance to go. And he went in style. Thanks to his connection with the band, Lyren walked the same red carpet as all the musicians who would go on to win the awards just several hours later.

Perhaps not widely known, there are actually two Grammy Award ceremonies, and Lyren attended both. In the first event, the Grammys are awarded in categories such as jazz and country. Lyren had a seat that was only six rows deep, located just seats away from singers such as Reba McEntire and Chris Stapleton.

After that, they moved into the large auditorium, where the televised portion of the event began. The Lyrens were seated up in the balcony section.

"The first one was more intimate. The hall was packed and I'm assuming it must have held 2,500 to 3,000 people, but it just seemed more intimate," Lyren said of the first ceremony.

One after one, the awards were distributed and the performances took place. Like many experiences, there were both breathtaking moments as well as a few that were somewhat less impressive.

"There was somewhere I thought, 'Good grief, why are they even up there?' and then there was some I thought was just really great," Lyren said about the performances. "I think a lot of my friends and colleagues would be surprised—I thought Kendrick Lamar was incredible. His rap music just has such deep meaning."

For as special as the experience was, the actual Grammy ceremonies weren't even the whole experience for Lyren. There were multiple casual encounters outside the ceremonies he didn't necessarily expect. In the hotel elevator, Lyren met Josh Scruggs, a producer for the artist Khalid, which led the two to a conversation that lasted a couple hours. Lyren hopes that encounter could lead to some further networking opportunities.

"I was thrilled with that opportunity to connect," Lyren said.

Although it may not have been directly linked to the Grammys, Lyren's overall experience even bled into his return home.

On the plane back to Minnesota, Lyren was bumped up to first class, where he met and spoke with the tour manager for Justin Timberlake, who is set to sing at the Super Bowl halftime show in Minneapolis.

And then, not long after he'd pulled back into Bemidji, Lyren turned right around and drove back to the Cities.

"I got a phone call from the trumpet player from Dave Matthews band. He said, 'I'm in Minneapolis. I'm hanging out with Justin Timberlake's horn section. Come down and join us," Lyren said.

Jordan Shearer

Jordan Shearer covers crime and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. A Rochester native and Bemidji State grad, he previously spent several years in western Nebraska writing for the Keith County News. Follow him on Twitter @Jmanassa

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