Updated February 7, 2023 at 12:50pm
Northport High School senior Kaitlyn Ruiter is officially a member of a Grammy-winning orchestra. A bassist in the 2020-2021 New York Youth Symphony, which recorded “Works by Florence Price, Jessie Montgomery, Valerie Coleman,” Ruiter and her orchestra mates earned the award for Best Orchestral Performance during the February 5 Grammy Awards ceremony. Class of 2008 graduate Stephanie Economou also celebrated, following her win for Outstanding Original Score for Interactive Media.
“It feels surreal,” said Kaitlyn, who learned of the win while watching the show at home with her family. While hopeful for the award, she said she would have been happy to be nominated alongside such talented musicians regardless of the outcome.
“When we first learned of the nomination, the excitement was palpable,” said NHS Orchestra Director Michael Susinno. “When her win was announced at the ceremony… so many emotions came to light. Having a current student win a Grammy is something we never expected to experience.”
To add to the outstanding evening, Northport High School alumna Stephanie Economou won a Grammy for Outstanding Original Score for Interactive Media for her work on video game “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarok.” In her acceptance speech, she thanked the many individuals who fought to create the category, which recognized music and original scores in video games and other interactive media platforms.
“Stephanie has been a trailblazer in an entirely new and recently recognized genre of music,” Sussino said. “She is gracefully and graciously setting the standard for video game score and soundtrack composition.”
The article below was originally published on November 21, 2022.
While some of the most accomplished and successful musicians of our time dream of being nominated for a Grammy Award, Northport High School senior Kaitlyn Ruiter has already checked that box on her resume. As a bassist in the 2020-2021 New York Youth Symphony, Kaitlyn was a member of the group that recorded “Works by Florence Price, Jessie Montgomery, Valerie Coleman,” an album nominated for Best Orchestral Performance at the 2023 Grammy Awards.
Traditionally, the New York Youth Symphony practices every weekend over several months for a final performance at Carnegie Hall. Due to the pandemic, students were not able to hold the performance. Conductor Michael Repper decided that in lieu of the prestigious performance, the group – separated into two for spacing – would instead record an album. That album has garnered the attention of the prestigious Recording Academy, leading to the nomination.
After rehearsing for three to four hours nearly every Sunday for the 2020-2021 school year, Kaitlyn and her peers concluded the season in a professional recording studio. The recording took many hours over several days.
While the original plan was to digitally mix the two separate groups of performers, the conductor ultimately decided to have each group perform half the album. Kaitlyn was the bassist in the group which performed the songs “Ethiopia’s Shadow in America” and “Umoga.” The album, released in April 2022, included four separate works from three African American female composers: Florence Price, Valerie Coleman and Jessie Montgomery.
“When we first started recording, [conductor Michael Repper] said maybe one day we would be nominated for a Grammy and the idea seemed so far-fetched,” Kaitlyn said. When Northport High School Director of Orchestras Michael Sussino gave Kaitlyn the news of the nomination, she felt honored. “I’m honestly just excited that we’re even nominated. We’re against John Williams and the Berlin Philharmonic, which is insane, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Dudamel. Even just being nominated and seen alongside these huge names is something I never thought I would experience,” she said.
Kaitlyn has been playing the bass since age nine and began her orchestra career at East Northport Middle School; she is also an accomplished pianist. She expressed gratitude for her teachers and the district music program for supporting her. Kaitlyn is currently enrolled in the Juilliard Pre-College Program and intends to major in string bass after graduation.
The Grammy Awards will take place Sunday, February 5 in Los Angeles.