When Lawrence University voice professor Estelí Gomez arrives at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday, she’ll be wearing a good luck charm—a necklace made by one of her students, sophomore Ava Wadia.

“I’m so happy to carry a special Gomez Studio talisman with me,” Gomez said.

Wadia and other students in Gomez’ voice studio in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music will be cheering for that necklace to bring luck in the form of a win at the 66th annual Grammy Awards. Gomez’ vocal ensemble, Roomful of Teeth, is nominated in two categories—Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance for the album Rough Magic, released in May 2023, and Best Contemporary Classical Composition for the recording of “Psychedelics.”

Estelí Gomez models the necklace she'll be wearing to the 2024 Grammy Awards.
Estelí Gomez models the necklace she'll be wearing to the 2024 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. 

It’s familiar territory for Gomez and other members of the popular ensemble. Roomful of Teeth won a Grammy in 2014 in the same ensemble performance category for their self-titled debut album, and they were nominated in two other categories. They were nominated again in 2016 following the release of their second album, Render.

“I’m so glad to have this album out in the world finally, after eight years between our second and third albums,” said Gomez, who moved to Appleton in 2019 to join the Lawrence faculty. “We’re really proud of it. It’s an honor for our group to have been nominated for Grammys for all three of our albums, but this one is such a special mix of music that we’ve gotten to tour and dig into over years of live performances, commissioning projects, and artist residencies.”

Gomez is excited to be part of the 2024 Grammy festivities at Crypto.com Arena, a day-long commitment sandwiched between the ensemble’s Saturday night performance in nearby Santa Barbara and a series of performances that kick off less than a week later in Paris with Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra.

“I’ll be on a redeye at midnight following the Grammys, flying back to Wisconsin to teach class the next morning,” Gomez said.

She then will fly to Paris a few days later, where she will teach remotely—in between rehearsals and performances—before her schedule brings her back to Appleton.

“I wanted to be sure to teach in person between the Grammys and the trip to France,” Gomez said. “It will be wonderful to see my students, get in a few meetings, and water my plants.”

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Gomez is doing her best to bring her students along for the ride. The performing she does with Roomful of Teeth—striving to improve and grow as a vocal performer—informs her teaching. That, she said, is at the heart of being a mentor.

“I really feel a sense of symbiosis with my teaching and singing work—both types of work are about communication and self-expression, and connecting with people,” Gomez said. “The kinds of connections I get to make with Roomful’s collaborators directly inform and inspire the way I think about singing, and the way I think about teaching. That makes my teaching always more creative and alive upon my return.”

Watching Gomez build those connections between her performances and her teaching has been a joy to witness over the past five years, said Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory. The Grammy experience is a bonus.

“Estelí Gomez is one of the most versatile and virtuosic singers in the world,” Pertl said. “Classical, jazz, musical theater, throat singing, and heavy metal. She literally can do it all.  When she is not performing at the most famous concert halls around the world, she is here at Lawrence teaching. And her teaching is as virtuosic as her singing.”

Gomez’ students share the Grammy excitement.

“She has spent so much of her time caring for her students and showing us love and compassion, and I think this nomination is a good way for her to receive that love and appreciation back,” said senior Damian Islas, a music performance (voice) major from Houston. “Aside from her nurturing persona, she has put so much hard work into mastering the art of singing and knowing her voice and body inside and out, which is the hardest job for a singer. Some singers spend their entire lives trying to figure that out, but with one single beautiful soprano note, Prof Gomez shows us all that she has cracked the code.”

Wadia, a sophomore from San Diego, said she’s thrilled to see Gomez and the Roomful ensemble recognized at the highest levels of the music industry.

“It's inspiring as a student to see the payoff of all the techniques that she imparts to us in our lessons,” Wadia said. “It's also a point of pride I think for me, like I get to shout, ‘That's my voice teacher!’ at people.”