UVA Wise Strings Instructor Nominated for Grammy Awards

Dave Eggar
Photo Credit: Ken Yanagisawa

A UVA Wise strings instructor has garnered two Grammy nominations for his second album.

This Sunday, Feb. 5, Dave Eggar, UVA Wise adjunct strings instructor, will be attending the 2023 Grammys in Los Angeles, where he could bring home the iconic golden gramophone.

Eggar, a world-renowned pianist, composer and cellist, is nominated alongside Michigan State University Assistant Professor of Chamber Music and Clarinetist Tasha Warren in the Best Instrumental Composition category for two works: Paquito D’Rivera’s “African Tales” and Pascal Le Boeuf’s “Snapshots.”

Both compositions are part of Eggar and Warren’s 2022 album, “Ourself Behind Ourself, Concealed,” inspired by a line in Emily Dickinson’s poem, “One need not be a Chamber to be Haunted.” The album has been compared to a short story collection featuring a half dozen musical compositions by six diverse composers.

“It's really like I can't believe it. This was a project that had a strong intellectual, authentic goal and was a personal journey for me,” Eggar said. “My dad's a writer and I really see music as storytelling—I always have. Having a record rewarded in this way has been very meaningful to me.”

Warren and Eggar have played together for years in the American Modern Ensemble and discovered they both have a passion for various musical styles. They wanted to collaborate and bring more of their own personal experiences into the process.

“She came to me with the idea of applying for a grant to commission new works for ourselves, but also the idea was to commission high-level chamber music works that were relevant to young people today—works that used vibrant voices to tell personal stories from other genres of music, works that helped unheard voices be heard,” he said.

Warren applied and received a 2020 MSU Humanities Arts and Research (HARP) Development Grant to bring new voices to the classical stage.

“It is a really thrilling feeling that something so important to me didn’t just affect us but touched others as well. It feels very meaningful, gratifying and I’m so appreciative. It’s surreal,” Warren said.

They commissioned works from composers and performers D’Rivera and Le Boeuf, Cornelius Boots, Martha Redbone, Meg Okura and Nathalie Joachim.

Produced by Phil Faconti and released by Bright Shiny Things label, the album explores the struggle to survive during the global pandemic featuring a wide scope of musical influences from Appalachia, the Far East, the Haitian Caribbean, plains of Africa, Cuba and New York. Many of the works were recorded in Bristol, the birthplace of country music, which has special meaning for Eggar.

“I’m feeling very blessed. It’s an ultimate collaboration and I’m so proud of this because there is no way I could have possibly done this on my own,” he said. “It just makes me realize that it’s still possible in music to have really interesting content that has intellectual merits break through.”

The project became more personal and emotional in part because it began when the pandemic hit and everything shut down.

“The whole world was changing and it became an existential crisis. It was always about how to bring new voices to the classical stage. Tell the intense story where we are now,” Warren said.

That meant all collaboration occurred on Zoom while everyone was living through the pandemic. One composer’s home flooded while another was forced to evacuate from California wildfires.

“Because we had so much time and we were trying to internalize this new music and linguistics, part of the project was learning how to take our instruments and make them speak these other languages,” Eggar said. “We became a part of each other's lives in ways we never would have. So the actual recording of these pieces was this really emotional experience.”

This is Eggar’s second album to be nominated for a Grammy. His first album, “Kingston Morning,” with the legendary late Ralph Stanley, landed him his first nomination in 2011.

Eggar has recorded it all—rock n’ roll, classical, jazz, country and bluegrass. He’s played and toured with some of the biggest names in music including Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, John Legend, Lewis Capaldi, U2, Rolling Stones, Bebe Rexha, Molly Tuttle and worked on numerous movies and shows.

Eggar is known for layering lots of cellos to sound like an orchestra. It’s the sound he played on the now famous introduction to Coldplay’s international hit “Viva La Vida.”

While Eggar’s been around the world, he’s also becoming more of a familiar face in Southwest Virginia—playing numerous shows with Pro-Art after he first came to Appalachia to record with Ralph Stanley at Alan Maggard Sound, a recording studio in Big Stone Gap.

“You know what happens when people come to the Appalachian region. They fall in love and they come back again and again. It's happened to everybody I've brought here. It's just what happens—especially with musicians,” said Eggar who now lives in Bristol. “This region has become a very big part of my heart.”

Over the past decade, Pro-Art has brought Eggar back to SWVA through several residencies often playing for thousands of school children in Wise and Lee counties, he said.

In December 2020, UVA Wise music professor Peter Ryan asked Eggar to don a mask and make music videos together in the College’s Black Box Theater for fun and to cheer folks up. That led to Ryan asking Eggar, who has taught at The Juilliard School, to teach at UVA Wise. Eggar, who holds degrees from Juilliard and Harvard University, has taught there for the past two years.

“There is something so magical about teaching string instruments in the heart of the bluegrass region and it’s been wonderful,” said Eggar. “It’s a lot of learning for me as well as them.”

Eggar said working on the recent album has changed his approach to teaching—focusing more on personal narrative in student’s work along with technical music composition. It’s also provided new insight into the commissioning process by producing more unheard voices.

“In my UVA Wise class today, we had a really interesting conversation about the relationship between Beethoven and Hip Hop. It’s about being able to bring open discussion with students about music of all genres and not just putting things in predetermined boxes like high art versus commercial art,” Eggar said.

On Sunday, March 26, UVA students and others will get a chance to hear Eggar and Warren, along with UVA Wise Associate Professor of Music and pianist Peter Ryan and Knoxville Symphony Orchestra violinist Sean Claire, perform their Grammy-nominated works at the College’s Cantrell Hall as part of Pro-Art’s W. Campbell Edmonds Concert series which is free and open to the public. Attendees must register: www.proartva.org/dave-eggar-tasha-warren

The Grammy Awards will be broadcast at 8 p.m. Sunday on CBS.