Dreamers Get Some Love at Grammys, Thanks to a Big Band Album

The children of immigrants known as Dreamers have been mentioned as an aside in acceptance speeches at some awards shows in recent years, but the Grammy winner for instrumental arrangement had a better reason for broaching the subject than most. John Daversa created the 2018 big band album “American Dreamers (Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom)” as a chance to spotlight 53 DACA recipients from 17 states and 17 countries.

He brought one of the participating dreamers on-stage with him at the Grammys’ pre-telecast ceremony at the Nokia Theatre. “As the grandson of Italian immigrants, this project was very personal to me,” Daversa told the crowd and the home viewing audience watching on Grammy.com.

Although immigration issues obviously continue to be divisive, the album has not been perceived as a partisan political statement: Since its September release, “American Dreamers” has garnered fans on both sides of the political aisle, from Democratic Senator Kamala D. Harris to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

The album was produced by entertainment attorney-cum-philanthropist Doug Davis and Grammy-winning composer Kabir Sehgal. It scored three Grammy nominations in all, with its win for best arrangement, instrumental or a capella for “Stars and Stripes Forever” supplemented by nods for best large jazz ensemble and best improvised solo.

It’s an accomplishment that would bowl over almost any musician, but that these nominees are hard-working undocumented immigrants fighting to build lives for themselves in America, adds an extra dimension of meaning and pride to the experience.

“The music on the album is incredible and the message behind the music is powerful: love your neighbor as much as you love yourself,” said Daniel Mendoza, who was born in Singapore and plays trombone on the album.

“The ‘American Dreamers’ project has been remarkably rewarding to me personally,” Davis told Variety earlier. “Throughout the entire process, everyone on the project, whether it be the producers, musicians, or Dreamers, we have all created a lifetime bond.  When the nominations were announced, and we were writing to the Dreamers to let them know the incredible news, the weight of how their lives had changed struck me. Being part of a Grammy nominated album is huge for an American citizen, massive for an immigrant, but seismic for an undocumented kid. Any time one of our Dreamer musicians applies for a job, or an apartment, or anything that requires status that they would not otherwise have been given their current standing in the country, this nomination will have changed their life materially for the better. Win or lose the trophy, we have already won wildly beyond my expectations.”

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