The children of immigrants known as Dreamers have gotten mentions in awards acceptance speeches in recent years, but rarely as actual participants in a winning project. John Daversa, who won all three Grammys he was nominated for on Sunday, brought up five Dreamers who played on his 2018 big band album “American Dreamers (Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom).”
The album was conceived in part as a chance to spotlight 53 DACA recipients from 17 states and 17 countries of origin who have become musical prodigies. Daversa’s “American Dreamers” won during the Grammy’s pre-telecast for best large jazz ensemble album, best improvised jazz solo (“Don’t Fence Me In”) and best arrangement, instrumental or a cappella (“Stars and Stripes Forever”).
The album was produced by entertainment attorney-cum-philanthropist Doug Davis (far left in photo above) and Grammy-winning composer Kabir Sehgal. Accepting the third of the three Grammys as several of the young musicians filed onto the stage, Davis called them “talented and courageous role models” and said that participating in a Grammy win is something that’s “incredible for a citizen, but seismic for an undocumented America.”
“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 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 prior to the ceremony. “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.”