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Sangeeta Kaur, Richard Carpenter Honored in Long Beach

Long Beach, CA – Soprano Sangeeta Kaur and musician Richard Carpenter, formerly of The Carpenters, were honored as Distinguished Alumni by the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music during its annual spring concert. 

Sangeeta Kaur, RIchard Carpenter Honored in Long Beach
Sangeeta Kaur, Richard Carpenter Honored in Long Beach 4

Kaur and Carpenter are both Grammy® Award-winning artists and graduates of California State University, Long Beach, whose music program is now housed at the Conservatory. 

University officials presented Kaur with the distinguished “Celebrating Music Award” for 2024 while Carpenter received the Inaugural Medal for Exceptional Achievement in the Arts.

“Since 1991, the “Celebrating Music Award” has been bestowed upon distinguished alumni, faculty members, and music industry leaders who have left an indelible mark on the field of music,” noted Dr. Jermie Arnold, the Conservatory’s Director.

“This award serves as a symbol of our deep appreciation for your unwavering dedication, exceptional talent, and profound impact on the world of music,” Arnold said to Kaur in announcing the award.  

During the ceremony, Dr. Jonathan Talberg, director of the Conservatory’s Choral Activities, said that in addition to her Grammy® recognition, Sangeeta Kaur had developed into “a world-class singer, multimedia artist, and producer.”

She got her start right here (CSULB),” said Talberg, “where she completed her Bachelor of Music in Opera Performance.” Eventually, he said, Kaur earned her Master of Music in Vocal Performance at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee.

Her list of credits since that time is incredible,” said Talberg. “She has produced five albums, performed on world tours, and has original works that range from contemporary songs in multiple genres to full operas,” he added.

“It’s been a joy to watch her career blossom and to see her transition from a driven, hardworking, talented, extremely kind, and very respectful college student to a performer of the first order,” the Choral Director said. 

In addition, Talberg said Kaur has produced her own PBS special and collaborated with legendary musicians like Jon Anderson, Ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro, and Stewart Copeland of the Police. 

She and her husband Hai now own a state-of-the-art recording studio in Austin and she now sits on the Austin Opera’s Board of Trustees,” he said. 

Sangeeta has also been elected to a second two-year term as a governor of the Grammy Recording Academy’s Texas Chapter,” said Talberg.  

She was always a bright light,” he added, “whether she was singing in the choir, performing in the opera, or giving a recital.”   

“Sangeeta always knew how to light up the stage,” said Talberg in presenting Kaur with the “Celebrating Music” Award. 

Kaur, who spent a significant part of her youth in the Orange County area, is passionate about supporting her local music communities such as the Vietnamese American Philharmonic as well as the Seal Beach Symphony, in which she and her husband are major patrons. 

She became the first Vietnamese American soprano ever honored with a Grammy Award in the category “Best Classical Solo Vocal” in 2022 for her work on the album “Mythologies” and took the opportunity to thank everyone who played a role. 

“I want to say ‘thank you’ to the Bob Cole Conservatory for this honor,” said Kaur, “recognizing this incredible journey with which I have been so blessed.” 

“It is quite surreal to be standing on this stage tonight,” she said.

“The Bob Cole Conservatory of Music was not a conservatory when I was here. It was a music school. It was a place that showed me what gifts I was born with,” the singer said.

Kaur, a 2006 graduate, also thanked her professors for giving her the inspiration to succeed. 

“This was a place that nurtured me and where my teachers, like Dr. Talberg, saw something in me, “said Kaur.  “They were the ones who instilled in me what I needed to go out and do something in the world of music,” she added.  

“The journey of art and music is a powerful one. It takes a village of people that love you and that you can trust,” she continued, “and a school and university that believe in you.”

She also expressed gratitude to her mom and dad, who were in the audience.

“All these years since, and they have seldom missed a performance,” said Kaur. “I would not be standing here without my family, my friends, and my community,” she noted.

“I’m just so honored. It’s been quite a beautiful journey,” said Kaur.

Kaur recently returned from London where she completed work on “Mythologies II.” She said her latest album is expected to be released this summer.

Dr. Royce Smith, Dean of Cal State College of Arts, introduced Dr. Richard Carpenter, who gained global recognition performing as “The Carpenters” with his late sister Karen.  By overdubbing harmonies and other groundbreaking studio techniques, Carpenter created a music sensation.

“It is a very rare occasion for an Arts Dean to meet one of his longtime heroes,” said Smith, “but I feel honored and privileged to do that tonight.”

“I had my first taste of their musical magic as a young boy with my 45-rpm record,” he said.  

Smith said he could never forget the lyrics of the Carpenters hit, ‘Close to You, which embraced a sense of “kindness and compassion” that a world coming out of immense conflict needed more than ever.” 

“Their work contributed to the collaborative environment that was, and continues to be, a hallmark of the College of the Arts,” the Arts Dean said.

“Dr. Carpenter embodies the frontline musicianship and behind-the-scenes support,” said Smith, through production, arranging, and composition that has elevated the musical careers and accomplishments of others in equal measure.” 

Carpenter’s career accomplishments include 14 studio albums, two live albums, 16 compilation albums with the Carpenters, and three solo albums, one of which included contributions from Dusty Springfield, Dionne Warwick, Scott Grimes,” said Smith.  

“His time and treasure have contributed to this amazing facility that we are in this evening,” he said. Overall, Carpenter is credited with over 100 million records sold worldwide. 

“Dr. Carpenter’s support of the students and professional excellence, make him a most worthy recipient of our inaugural College of the Arts Award for Exceptional Achievement in the Arts,” said Smith.

 Carpenter applauded the advances in technology and music skills in recent years.

“Music has changed so much for the better since I was a music major,” said Carpenter, standing at a podium in the Performing Arts Center that today bears his name and that of his late sister Karen. 

 “Not only the variety has changed,” said Carpenter, “but so has the musicianship of all the groups that my wife Mary and I have had the pleasure to listen to on this magnificent night.” 

“I just want to say thank you to everyone involved. I never thought I deserved this, but it is very nice,” he said, clutching the bronze medal now hanging around his neck.

As a special tribute to the Carpenters, students from the Conservatory’s music program performed a special arrangement of the Carpenter’s hit, “Rainy Days and Mondays.”                

After the ceremony, Carpenter wistfully stood for quite a while near the “silver flake” drum set bearing Karen Carpenter’s name which is permanently encased in glass in the building’s lobby.

“I remember how hard my mom and dad had to work to get Karen those drums,” he said while pointing them out to his wife. “Those are exactly the ones she wanted,” he said.

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