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WHS Alumna’s Work Nominated for Grammy


Kennedy playing the bassoon.

The “Outstanding Musician” trophy on her mantle that she received at the Wylie High School band gala may soon be joined by the most prestigious, significant award in the music industry worldwide.

WHS Class of 2019 alumna Kennedy Plains will find out Feb. 5 if she and her company have won a Grammy.

Nominated for Best Orchestral Performance-Classical category, Plains’ played her bassoon on all three pieces on the New York Youth Symphony’s debut album with works by Valerie Coleman, Jessie Montgomery and Florence Price.

“I always thought of Grammy winners as pop singers,” Plains said. “I forget that there is a whole classical category. It’s cool to be a part of that.”

Kennedy holding her bassoon.

WHS Class of 2019 alumna Kennedy Plains plays her bassoon on all three pieces of a Grammy-nominated album.

Recorded during the pandemic, this album was a project that allowed students to continue playing, since they were unable to hold traditional practices and concerts, due to social distancing restrictions.

“The album includes works by composers of color, which is really cool,” Plains said. “Post-summer of 2020, people’s awareness about Black issues expanded and expanded to the music world and classical music world for sure.”

The Grammy-nominated album also features music from one of Plains’ inspirations, American Classical Composer Florence Price. Plains said that a lot of Price’s work previously wasn’t recorded, and it was special to be able to debut music from other Black artists.

Plains attributes much of her musical success to her four years in the WHS band program, where she studied music under Director of Bands Todd Dixon. 

“Kennedy was always a thoughtful student and musician,” Dixon said. “She has tremendous work ethic and natural talent. I was always amazed by her natural enjoyment of music and how she didn’t cave to pressure to pursue a profession that seems to be more lucrative by societal standards.”

Kennedy hold her bassoon.

Plains said she attributes much of her success to the Wylie ISD Fine Arts programs, especially the private instruction teachers. “I’d like to give thanks to Leslie Massenburg, my private bassoon teacher [at WHS], for teaching me everything I needed to know to go into bassoon music school.”

The Wylie ISD Fine Arts program offers band students an array of opportunities for future success.

“The biggest is our ability to take advantage of performance invitations throughout the U.S. and abroad,” Dixon said.

Her senior year, she traveled with the Wind Symphony to perform at Lincoln Center in New York.

“On that trip is when I found out that I had gotten into Manhattan School of Music,” Plains said.  

The district’s band program exposes its students to professional musicians and performances, such as trips to play in the Meyerson Symphony Center where the Dallas Symphony Orchestra performs. The band program also offers private instruction with professional musicians.   

“Wylie ISD taught me a lot of ins and outs of being an instrumentalist,” Plains said. “The typical band stuff, like how to practice, and the experience of all-region and all-state helped me going into music school. Going to lots of clinics, including the Midwest Clinic in Chicago, and just being able to do so many musical things outside of the realm of high school band was really advantageous to get me to where I am today.”

Plains’ road to the Grammys is a testament to not only her talent and skills but also to the opportunities she was provided during her time in Wylie ISD.

“The band directors were really conscious to provide so many opportunities, which was helpful,” Plains said. “They also encouraged me to apply for summer music programs.”

Plains is now a senior at the Manhattan School of Music and will graduate in May with her Bachelor of Music and Classical Bassoon. 

“Kennedy is one awesome kid,” Dixon said. “The Wind Symphony playing in New York at Lincoln Center sealed the deal for her wanting to study music. I’m so glad Wylie ISD supports these great experiences for kids. This is how it turns out in the long run. Kennedy was always aiming for the top, and that is where she landed.”

Purchase the NYYS’ grammy-nominated album here.