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The Story Behind UNT Professor's Grammy-Nominated Music

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DENTON (CBSDFW.COM) - Richard DeRosa is a music professor at the University of North Texas who has composed music for television, film and theater. But, there is one piece of music that is close to his heart.

"My piece, in a way, is a broader 'thank you' on, hopefully, all their behalf to acknowledge Neil and the program," said DeRosa.

The Neil that Richard is talking about is Neil Slater, the retired Chairman of the Jazz Studies Division and the Director of Lab Bands at UNT in Denton. DeRosa set out to honor his friend and mentor of 40 years by composing the jazz piece that's simply called, "Neil".

"He's famous for coming up with one word titles. And so, I figured, what am I going to call this? I have to call it Neil! One word. Short. To the point. That's Neil," said Richard as he reflected on his friend.

What did Neil have to say when he learned his friend had composed a piece of music in his honor?

"Well, I was hoping he would do it right," joked Slater.

And he did. The work was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Instrumental Composition category.

"The piece itself is a lush ballad with strong beautiful melody and with wonderful harmony. And I think it's a piece, whether you're into jazz or not, you would appreciate its beauty," explained DeRosa.

"Neil" appeared on the University of North Texas One O'Clock Lab Band's 2015 CD.

UNT Professor Richard DeRosa listens to the University of North Texas One O'Clock Lab Band perform his composition "Neil".

It's the first Grammy nomination of DeRosa's career. Monday afternoon, Richard learned "Neil" didn't win the award. But, he's keeping everything in perspective.

"If there were any pieces that I could choose to be nominated and maybe become a Grammy winner, it would be this piece. On all those levels, my friendship with Neil. The connection with his legacy to UNT. And now the legacy that I hope I'm carving out here at UNT," said DeRosa.


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