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Alumni Get Shot at Grammy Glory

By From the Lowell Sun

By Rachel R. Briere

And the nominees for Album of the Year are: Amy Winehouse, Kanye West, Foo Fighters and Adam Ayan. Who?

Ayan is a University of Massachusetts Lowell graduate who got the nod for his work as mastering engineer on country artist Vince Gill's These Days. In this particular category, the Grammy not only goes to the artist, but to the producer, recording engineer, mixer and mastering engineer as well.

This is not the first time Ayan will rub elbows with red carpet-worthy acts like Dave Grohl. He won a Grammy two years ago in the Best Historical Album category for his work on a box set of jazz great Jelly Roll Morton's music. He was also awarded two Latin Grammys last November for recordings with Juan Luis Guerra.

"We average nominations in the double digits almost every year," said Ayan who works at Gateway Mastering Studios in Portland, Maine. "This year, we have 35 nominations spanning rock to country music for projects mastered in our studio."

Ayan will be joined in Los Angeles for Sunday's Grammy Awards by Mark Donahue, another graduate of the university's sound recording technology program. Donahue is nominated for his work as mastering engineer Lorraine Hunt Lieberson Sings Peter Lieberson: Neruda Songs in the Best Classical Album category. He lives in Malden and works for Soundmirror Inc. in Boston.

Ayan was in a recording session when his boss, Bob Ludwig, came in to tell him the news. His whirlwind trip begins when he leaves for Los Angeles this morning, attends the 50th annual awards show Sunday afternoon, then returns to the East Coast Monday morning. The majority of awards are given out before the live broadcast. Ayan will arrive four hours before chart-toppers like Beyoncé. He's excited that while he's there, he'll see the Foo Fighters' perform.

"It's a long day, but it's a surreal experience and a lot of fun," he said. "I'm anxious, nervous and extremely honored to nominated for the most prestigious award in the music industry."

He may not get a televised acceptance speech, but Ayan credits his alma mater for his success.

"Two things come to mind with the sound recording program. One is it opened my ears to listening to music as an audio engineer, as opposed to a lay listener or even a musician. How you listen as an engineer is a very different way," he said.

"Second, the program is structured in a way you really have to work hard to do well and I think that's indicative of the industry itself. I felt really well-prepared when I got out for how hard I was going to have to work in the industry. They have a pretty solid reputation."