The album artwork for Josh Groban's "Noël" (left) and Sufjan Stevens' "Silver and Gold" (right).
With Thanksgiving behind us, it’s time to haul out the holly and turn our attention to the holiday season.
Perhaps the most iconic element of the holiday season is the music. Many radio stations break out the holiday tunes as soon as Halloween ends. It’s the soundtrack of our shopping, baking, wrapping, and decorating for well over a month.
As you’re building your holiday playlist, add some tracks from these albums by Interlochen alumni.
Josh Groban (IAC 97-98)
Josh Groban has made his career in singing, but his first love—and major at Interlochen Arts Camp—was theatre. “My experiences at Interlochen were incredible,” he said. “It’s just a dream location for any young person to share that passion for arts and for theatre. It opened up my eyes to so many things I wanted to learn, needed to learn. It became so crystal clear where I wanted to devote my energy.”
Groban’s sole Christmas album, “Noël,” was released in 2007. In the United States, its accolades include best-selling overall album of 2007 and the best-selling holiday album of 2008. In 2017, Groban released a deluxe tenth-anniversary edition of the album featuring six new tracks.
Jewel (IAA 90-92)
Singer-songwriter Jewel honed her vocal and guitar chops at Interlochen Arts Academy before heading to Los Angeles to enter the commercial music industry. “It was amazing for me to see how dedicated other young artists were,” she said of her time at Interlochen. “I’d never seen discipline like that. It was very inspiring on every level. It made me rise to try to be better myself.”
The first of Jewel’s two holiday albums, “Joy: A Holiday Collection,” achieved platinum status in December 1999. It’s a classic Christmas album that features traditional tunes alongside three original songs by Jewel. Fourteen years later, Jewel released her second holiday album, “Let it Snow.”
Sufjan Stevens (IAA 89-90)
In 2001, Stevens started a tradition of recording an EP of holiday tunes as a gift for his family and friends. In 2006, Stevens publicly released five of the EPs as the boxed collection “Songs for Christmas.” In its two-hour playtime, the album includes 17 original songs by Stevens interspersed with traditional carols. In 2012, Stevens released another five holiday EPs as “Silver and Gold.” The album includes colorful original tracks such as “Christmas Unicorn,” “Particle Physics,” and “X-Mas Spirit Catcher.”
Ellen Kushner (IAC/NMC 69-70)
Writer and radio host Ellen Kushner teamed up with the Shirim Klezmer Orchestra to create “The Golden Dreydl: A Klezmer Nutcracker for Chanukah.” Kushner’s original story about a young girl who receives a magical dreydl is accompanied by klezmer arrangements of Nutcracker tunes.
Jessye Norman (UNIV 68)
In 1987, soprano Jessye Norman released her debut holiday album, “Christmastide.” The album is primarily rooted in standard carols, but also includes an original carol written for Norman by Donald Fraser. The New York Choral Society, American Boychoir, and Empire Chamber Ensemble round out a spectacular performance.
Norman’s second Christmas album, “In the Spirit: Sacred Music for Christmas (1996),” dives deep into holiday tradition: Many of the songs and carols included on the album performed in their original languages, including English, German, Latin, and French. Norman is accompanied on this album by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and the St. Thomas, St. Barnabas and New York and Riverside Choirs.
Dan Ponce (IAC 90)
Interlochen alumnus Dan Ponce returned to music in 2008 after a video of his college a cappella group, Straight No Chaser, went viral on YouTube. “Holiday Spirits,” the ensemble’s reunion and debut album, peaked at No. 46 on the U.S. Billboard 200. Ponce arranged many of the songs on the album. Following the smash success of “Holiday Spirits,” Ponce and Straight No Chaser returned to the studio for “Christmas Cheers" (2009). The album is a mix of traditional holiday songs and playful modern charts like “Who Spiked the Eggnog?” “Hey, Santa!” and “The Christmas Can-Can.”
Bonus tracks: singles by alumni
For some musicians, getting into the spirit of the season means dropping a single rather than recording an album. Here are a handful of the holiday singles performed by our alumni.
- Norah Jones (IAC 94-95) - “It’s Not Christmas ‘Til You Come Home,” “Peace,” “December,” “Wintertime”
- Rufus Wainwright (IAC 90) - “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”
- Allie X (Alexandra Hughes [IAA 01-03]) - "Last Xmas"
- Bob Mintzer (IAA 69-70) - “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”
- Alec Duffy (IAC 91) - “Every Day is Christmas”
- Divinna Rosales [Vinny Rose (IAA 14-16)] - “That’s All”
Do you know of other albums or singles featuring Interlochen alumni? Let us know by submitting a motif.