Local trumpet player has big Grammys moment


Miranda Agnew performing with the Ellington Big Band for the Tucson Jazz Institute. (Photo by Loc Tran/Arizona Sonora News Service)

The 59th Annual Grammy Awards welcomed a sound of Tucson.

Miranda Agnew, a University High School senior, played a solo on the Grammy stage in front of a star-studded audience and 26 million viewers. Agnew, who was picked to be a part of the Grammy High School Band after sending in an audition, was selected to play a solo snippet of “America the Beautiful” on her trumpet.

“It took a long time for the reality of what I was going to do to actually sink in,” Agnew said. “It took a lot of mental processing to prepare myself, but at the end of the week I was like “’OK, I can do this.”’

As she took the stage, Agnew admits she felt intimidated, but she found a method to calm her nerves.

“I tried to not think about anything and I didn’t look at the audience,” Agnew said. “I just closed my eyes and tried to play as nicely as I could and send that message of unity.”

Playing “nicely” is an understatement according to Doug Tidaback, Tucson Jazz Institute founder and instructor. He speaks highly of Agnew’s monumental accomplishment.

“She is an honor to work with,” Tidaback said. “We are extremely fortunate to have her as one of our students.”

Agnew is the fourth student from Tucson Jazz Institute to appear with the Grammy High School Band since Tidaback started encouraging his students to audition five years ago. She is the first to be chosen to play a solo.

Tucson Jazz Institute is dedicated to the education of music with the goal of developing and recognizing young talent. Classes are offered in jazz combo, jazz big band and music technology. They also offer private lessons for students of all ages.

Doug Tidaback directing the Ellington Big Band of Tucson Jazz Institute. (Photo by Loc Tran/Arizona Sonora News Service)

The institute’s Ellington Big Band and Concord Combo have been recognized as two of the leading high school jazz groups in the nation. The groups were featured in Downbeat Magazine, a publication dedicated to covering the world of “jazz, blues and beyond.”

Ellington Big Band and Concord Combo also won first place at multiple national competitions in previous years including the Jazz at Lincoln Center Essentially Ellington Jazz Festive in New York City, the Next Generation Jazz Festival in Monterey, CA and the Fullerton Jazz Festival in Fullerton, CA.

Agnew’s audition video features the trumpet star playing three songs. “Billy’s Bouce” by Charlie Parker, “Con Alma by Dizzy Gillespie” and “You Don’t Know What Love Is” by Don Raye and Gene de Paul.

“It was one of those things where after it’s over, I’m glad I did it and was given the opportunity to do it,” Agnew said.

Ellington Big Band. (Photo by Loc Tran/Arizona Sonora News Service)

As high school graduation gets closer, Agnew, who has been accepted to Harvard, says she plans to continue playing music and hopes to play professionally one day. She has been sure to keep this in mind as she applies to colleges.

With two extremely competitive accomplishments now under her belt, Agnew hopes to only continue to inspire and achieve.

“Getting into Harvard was definitely unexpected,” Agnew said, “but the thing that was so crazy about being able to play on the Grammy stage by myself was something I never conceived happening.”

Loc Tran is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at ltran@email.arizona.edu.


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