By Gina Fann


Two pairs of the music industry’s best “ears,” trained at Middle Tennessee State University, will be hearing plenty of congratulations as they figure out the best locations for their newly acquired Grammy Awards for engineering two spectacular albums.

Both Brandon Bell and Tony Castle, graduates of MTSU’s internationally recognized Department of Recording Industry, have already won Grammys for their expertise in getting records to sound right.

Middle Tennessee State University recording industry alumnus and Grammy-winning audio engineer Brandon Bell (’04)

At the 65th annual Grammy Awards Sunday night in Los Angeles, they added to their collections: Bell received the best Americana album award for engineering Brandi Carlile’s “In These Silent Days,” and Castle earned his latest Grammy for perfecting icon Willie Nelson’s new country album, “A Beautiful Time.”

Carlile’s project received seven total nominations, including album of the year. The second single from it, “You and Me On the Rock,” released last summer, got nods for record of the year, best Americana performance and best American roots song.

MTSU alumnus and mutliple Grammy winner Tony Castle

She also won the best rock song and best rock performance Grammys for “Broken Horses” from the same album.

Bell, a 2004 graduate who’s engineered projects for artists ranging from Amythyst Kiah to The Lonely Island to the Zac Brown Band, earlier won the bluegrass album Grammy for mixing “Nobody Knows You,” the Steep Canyon Rangers’ 2012 release.

He was singled out for recognition this weekend by MTSU leaders for his successes in a special reception held on a hotel rooftop near Hollywood. 

Castle, a 1995 MTSU alumnus, has won two Grammys for engineering Nelson’s projects featuring the songs of George Gershwin and Frank Sinatra, respectively.

He was also among the 64th annual Grammys’ best traditional pop vocal album nominees with “That’s Life,” Nelson’s second tribute collection of Frank Sinatra’s music, and in the traditional blues album category that same year for engineering Blues Traveler’s release “Traveler’s Blues.”

Under Grammy rules, awards for best album and record of the year go to the winning artist, producers and/or engineers. The song of the year award goes to the songwriter, and performance awards go to the artist.

Additional MTSU-connected nominees at the 65th annual Grammy Awards included:

• Music business alumnus Rob Williford, right-hand band man and songwriting partner of reigning two-time CMA Entertainer of the Year Luke Combs, who was nominated as a co-writer for best country song.

• Grammy-winning Master of Fine Arts in Recording Arts and Technologies alumnus Aaron Raitiere, whose songwriting and singing are integral to Ashley McBryde’s best country album nominee.

• Multi-Grammy-winning former student Hillary Scott, who’s won her awards as part of the band Lady A and for her solo contemporary Christian music performance work and was back in that category with the sibling duo for KING & COUNTRY.

The 2023 Grammys aired live Sunday from the Arena in Los Angeles. The nominees were announced last November.

MTSU once again took a contingent of College of Media and Entertainment students, faculty and administrators to LA for a long weekend of gathering with local alumni and attending backstage and pre-show Grammy events. 

The number of MTSU-connected Grammy winners since 2001 currently stands at 15 people with a total of 39 Grammys, including 10 repeat recipients, in categories from classical to pop to rock to country to gospel.