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Sangeeta Kaur brings home Grammy gold to Austin and the Vietnamese community

Two days after winning her first Grammy Award, Austin’s Sangeeta Kaur was still basking in the glow. 

“I am feeling elated, exhausted, happy,” the classically trained soprano said over the phone on Tuesday. 

Kaur shared the trophy for best classical vocal solo album with her friend and fellow soprano, Hila Plitmann. They won for “Mythologies,” an album composed by another close friend, Danaë Xanthe Vlasse.

Vlasse, who is half Greek, created the album to honor her father’s heritage, capturing in song the stories he told to bring the myths of his homeland to life when she was a child. She composed the music for Kaur and Plitmann’s voices.

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Kaur described the trio of collaborators as “the bestest of friends.”

“We were basically her muses,” Kaur said. 

Sangeeta Kaur, from left, Hila Plitmann and Danaë Xanthe Vlasse pose with their Grammy Awards for best classical solo vocal for "Mythologies" on April 3 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The three woman are close friends who collaborated on the album during the early days of the pandemic.

Within the world of classical music, it’s highly unusual to feature two sopranos on the same album, but Kaur and Plitmann have always had a relationship that is supportive rather than competitive. The process of creating the album, which happened while the women were locked down during the early days of the pandemic, was magical. 

“It wasn't work for us,” Kaur said. “It was a discovery. It was an experience of sisterhood and friendship.”

Kaur grew up and built her career in Los Angeles. She arrived in Austin with her husband, a University of Texas alum, about five months ago. They bought a house and a recording studio that once belonged to Steve Hennig, son of Heart of Texas Music store owner Ray Hennig. Studio Hill, helmed by engineer Gerhard Joost, whom Kaur has worked with for years, will be open to the public soon.

Kaur was relieved to leave the hectic pace of L.A. behind. 

“Austin has really just brought me much more tranquility and a place to actually get creative and write,” she said, adding that she finds the city “serene” and “much more nurturing for an artist.”

Hai Nguyen, left, and Sangeeta Kaur arrive at the 2022 Grammy Awards ceremony. Kaur grew up in a large Vietnamese family in Los Angeles and her win has been celebrated around the world.

Kaur considers the spiritual practices of meditation and yoga her “ultimate life force,” and she tries to promote wellness through her work. In 2016, she wrote, produced and appeared in “Niguma,” a work celebrating the life of 11th-century Tibetan Buddhist teacher and yogini Lady Niguma. The show transformed mantras into opera.

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“I studied classical music and opera for many, many, many, many years. But during that path, I was able to find meditation and yoga and the practice of Tibetan Buddhism. And in a beautiful way, the two worlds sort of merged,” Kaur said. “And it just really gave me much more foundation and clarity of what music really meant to me, and how powerful it is, and how I wanted to choose the way that I used music in this world.”

Kaur is of Vietnamese descent, and her win on Sunday was celebrated around the world, with many publications proclaiming her the first Vietnamese American woman to win a Grammy Award. (A representative from the Recording Academy said the organization does not track demographic data for award recipients.) 

“I feel so proud,” Kaur said. 

Both of her parents left Vietnam in 1975 after the Fall of Saigon. She grew up in a large extended family surrounded by a community full of people who braved “intense, crazy dangerous circumstances to even make it to America,” she said.   

“Just being here alive in general, it's kind of a miracle,” she said. “And then to be able to bring something like a Grammy win into our community, it's huge for me.”