November 26, 2018
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When the night of the Grammy Award nominations rolled around in December, Justin Roberts ’92 decided to unplug. He turned off his phone and went to a concert down the street from his home in Chicago instead of waiting by the computer to see if his name was on the list.
“I didn’t want to be thinking of it,” he said.
But when he turned his phone back on later that night, it lit up with messages of congratulations. “Recess,” Roberts’ most recent children’s album, produced by Liam Davis ’90, had received a Grammy nomination.
This is the second nomination for Roberts; his first was in 2011 for “Jungle Gym.”
Roberts’ music has been compared to other alt-turned-kiddie-rock bands such as They Might Be Giants. The Washington Post called Roberts “the best of the bunch” in the genre. USA Today described his music as appealing to “the young and the young at heart.” And the New York Times wrote that he has “a remarkable ability to see through a child’s eyes.”
Roberts is using his gift of perspective in upcoming projects as well. He’s working on a children’s musical for Emerald City Theatre in Chicago and, in the fall, will release his first picture book, The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade, being published by Putnam. He is also planning his next album, which will be his tenth in the children’s music category.
And while he may have tuned out for the Grammy nomination ceremony, he’ll be present for all the festivities in Los Angeles later this month. He’ll play at the Children’s Grammy Nominee Concert on January 25 to benefit Mister Holland’s Opus Foundation to raise money to keep music in schools. And he’ll attend the Grammys themselves at the Staples Center on January 26.
“It’s really fun,” he said. “It gives me the excuse to wear the tux I purchased a couple of years ago.”
Watch the video of the title song here. Be sure to look for the girl in the Kenyon T-shirt who is the daughter of Chris Toft ’89 – or, as Roberts calls him, “the crazy Kenyon guy” – and Nicole Toft ’92.