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Central Washington University

Group Featuring CWU Music Alum Nominated for a Grammy Award 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Central Washington University alumna Amanda Taylor and her vocal quartet säje are among the five nominees in the Best Arrangement, Instruments, and Vocals category for the 63rd annual Grammy Awards.

Taylor (pictured far left) and fellow singer-songwriters Sara Gazarek, Johnaye Kendrick, and Erin Bentlage formed the group in 2019 and were nominated last fall for their first studio release, “Desert Song.”

The Grammy Award winners will be announced during a March 14 ceremony on CBS.

“We continue to feel humbled beyond belief to have learned that our original composition, ‘Desert Song,’ received a Grammy nomination,” the group — whose name rhymes with “beige” — said on its Facebook page. “Our most sincere thanks to all who supported us in the first round — and who helped to nominate the only all-female arrangers in this typically male-dominated category!”

Taylor graduated from CWU in 2013 and has become an internationally known composer, arranger, performer, studio singer, and teacher. Her passion for mentoring young vocalists led to the launch of Wicked Pigeon, a Seattle-based vocal arranging company that writes accessible, fresh arrangements for young jazz ensembles. Taylor also works with the Seattle Girls’ Choir and 
A Cappella Academy, a teen summer program for aspiring vocal performers.

Her grandfather is Jack Kunz, a CWU alum and longtime music teacher at Lake Washington High School. Her father, Kelly Kunz, also graduated from CWU and is now a college music professor and music director. He is best known for his work with the vocal ensemble Groove For Thought.

Taylor’s success comes as no surprise to her former CWU choral instructors, who watched her develop into a world-class talent during her time in Ellensburg.

“Amanda has always been very creative, not just in her performances, but also as a composer/arranger and songwriter,” Professor Vijay Singh said. “She is, quite frankly, one of the most gifted students I’ve ever worked with in my 34 years of teaching.”

“She lets everything around her go completely, and is consistently able to immerse herself in each note of each piece,” Professor Gary Weidenaar added. “Once the music starts, she climbs inside of it and builds out from its core.”

Only a select few CWU alums have been nominated for Grammy Awards. The most recent was Mike Wansley, aka “Wanz,” who worked alongside hip hop artist Macklemore on “Thrift Shop,” the 2014 winner for Best Rap Song. Another Grammy nominee with CWU ties is saxophonist Bruce Babad, who collaborated on a 2008 nomination for Best Jazz Album. 

Media contact: David Leder, Department of Public Affairs,, 509-963-1518.

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