Hunter Alumnus Wins a Grammy for Woody Guthrie Album

Hunter alumnus Jorge Arévalo Mateus (BA, MA ’98) has won a 2008 Grammy Award for Best Historical Album for his work on “The Live Wire: Woody Guthrie In Performance 1949.” Arévalo Mateus served as a compilation producer for the album, which features the only known recording of folk music icon Woody Guthrie performing before a live audience.

“The Live Wire” was produced by the Woody Guthrie Foundation, where Arévalo Mateus has worked as an archivist since 1996—concurrent to his studies in music and ethnomusicology at Hunter College. His work on the “The Live Wire” began in 2001 after a man named Paul Braverman approached the Foundation with two wire recordings he claimed contained a live Woody Guthrie performance held in Newark, New Jersey in 1949.

“No one had a sense of what Woody Guthrie sounded like as a live musician—how he communicated to people, and how they responded to him,” said Arévalo Mateus. “The idea that this gentleman had a live recording… it was exciting. But I thought, I’ll believe it when I hear it.”

The recordings turned out to be the real deal, and—digitally restored—they became “The Live Wire” album, which comes with a 72-page book primarily written by Arévalo Mateus.

“We wanted it to be the best possible recording, and have the best packaging and scholarship around it,” he said. “The Grammy is really an acknowledgement of the effort that goes into this kind of historical work.”

Arévalo Mateus credits his mentor, Hunter Ethnomusicology Professor Barbara Hampton, with instilling in him a sense that he “had something to contribute culturally and educationally.” In addition to serving as curator for the Woody Guthrie Archives, Arévalo Mateus is a PhD candidate at Wesleyan University and a curator at the MAC650 gallery in Middletown, New Jersey. An audio installation featuring his musical compositions will be on exhibit starting February 28 at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York. “The Live Wire” is only available for purchase through the Woody Guthrie Foundation website: www.woodyguthrie.org.