A casual conversation with a friend of his wife Jana has led Philip Enloe on a great journey.
Enloe, the choral music director for Bingham Middle School in the Independence School District, is now hoping to bring home a share of another Grammy Award as part of his work in the Kansas City Chorale, a local professional choir.
The Chorale, for which Enloe sings tenor, has been nominated for the 58th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Choral Performance and Best Classical Engineered Album for its best-selling recording “Rachmaninoff: All Night-Vigil” in collaboration with the Phoenix Chorale under the direction of Charles Bruffy, which was recorded in May 2014 at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Kansas City, Kansas.
Enloe and the Chorale also won a Grammy in 2013 for its recording “Life & Breath – Choral Works by René Clausen.”
Enloe, though, may not have been a part of two-Grammy nominated recordings if it hadn't been for that conversation.
“I moved back to Kansas City from college and one of my wife's friends, we were just talking, and he said he sang with a group, the Kansas City Chorale,” Enloe said. “It so happened to be one of the only contract choirs in Kansas City that pay you for your time. So I auditioned (in 2011) and got in. I've been in it ever since.”
Enloe, an Independence native and Fort Osage High School grad, graduated from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., in 2009 and soon after was hired at Bingham, where he is in his sixth year of teaching music.
Because of his and the Chorale's performances, he has gone from rubbing elbows with middle school kids to rubbing elbows with some of the biggest names in the music business – well, sort of.
The ceremony is Monday, Feb. 15, in Los Angeles but the Chorale's ceremony will not be televised like the awards for popular music will that night on CBS. Still, Enloe says that top celebrities are also part of that ceremony, including Mumford and Sons and Taylor Swift in 2013.
“The area we're in with classical music, we don't always get a lot of recognition, so it's nice to be recognized, but kind of on a different level with the pop music,” Enloe said.
“Every time I say I'm going to the Grammys, my kids think that I'm going to hang out with Taylor Swift,” he added with a laugh. “I went in 2013, and I saw Sting, he drove by in an Escalade, and I got my picture taken with a guy from LMFAO. You see a lot but it's not exactly the VIP experience you picture, with everybody hanging out together. But it's nice to be on that level of recognition.”
Enloe still shakes his head and has a hard time believing he is part of a Grammy-nominated group.
“This is my fifth year with the Chorale, and it just never came across (my mind) that we would be recording albums and be on the charts,” he said. “We were No. 1 on iTunes when it came out. We were on Amazon and on Billboard, on the classical music chart, like (No.) 1 and 2 for the first few weeks. It's pretty surreal.”
It is as well for his students. In fact, his students, when the Chorale was nominated in 2013, weren't buying that he was going to the Grammy Awards.
“The last time I went, they didn't believe me until I brought pictures back. (They said) 'I guess you really did go.' They were beside themselves,” Enloe said with a laugh.
His current students are somewhat awed that their teacher is up for a Grammy.
“I think it's so cool that one of my teachers is nominated for a Grammy and gets to go there. That's pretty awesome,” said Emily Bryant, one of his students at Bingham.
“I'm not surprised. He sings every day in class with us and helps us get our notes, so we know he's good,” said another student, Aislynn Hobbs.
“I think it's impressive and mainly the reason I want to be in this class is to be taught by a person who's nominated for a Grammy. He's obviously good at singing and he's just an amazing teacher,” said Kelsie Holloway, another student.
He insists that he is no big shot, though, and that it is proven that he had to purchase his own ticket to the Grammy Awards ceremony because, as a teacher, he is not a full member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which runs the Grammys.
Enloe said he is just happy to have an outlet for performing music, which he said was fostered by his time at Fort Osage and his time as a student in the Music Arts Institute in Independence, where he now directs the children's choir, the Young MAIster Singers. He said music is what got him through college as well.
“It's an amazing feeling to be part of something that gets recognized,” he said. “I never thought this would happen. The first time I got a paycheck for singing in a choir, I thought that was the weirdest thing. You grow up just wanting to sing. Then he (Bruffy) hands you this contract and paychecks, and it's just a crazy feeling to be recognized on a professional level for doing what you love to do.”
In addition to loving his profession as a teacher, he is happy to share the experience with his fellow Chorale singers, who perform regularly at Kansas City area churches and occasionally at the Kauffman Center downtown. He's also happy that Kansas City is now recognized as a top bastion for music.
“It's just a surreal experience of being in a big room of people with like minds, and all the creativity and work you've done. We recorded this in May of 2014, and waited almost a full year for it to come out and then almost another year to be nominated. It's just an experience that I can't explain. It's fun for all of us to go and to just hang out with each other.”