True Religion: From Camden to the Grammys
Rutgers–Camden lecturer nominated in two gospel categories
Rutgers University in Camden lecturer of music Joseph "JoJo" Streater is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and arranger. For decades, he has shared the stage with artists like Janelle Monáe, H.E.R., and The Roots. This Sunday, he could add yet another accolade to his CV: Grammy Award winner.
When Streater is not teaching, he is often performing. He plays trumpet for gospel singer and Camden native Tye Tribbett, whose album “All Things New” is nominated for Best Gospel Album. A track from the release, titled “Get Up,” is also nominated in the Best Gospel Performance/Song category. Even before Streater heard about the Grammy nomination in November, he had a strong feeling the project would impress the awards committee.
“I know the power of this music, and it was no surprise that it was nominated,” said Streater, director of the Rutgers–Camden performance ensemble. Growing up in Camden, Streater was a devoted Tye Tribbett fan, often performing Tribbett’s music in church. Playing trumpet on the album fulfilled a dream for Streater, who said Tribbett inspired him to begin composing music as an adolescent. Before he was introduced to the trumpet in the seventh grade, he was skeptical that music could become an important part of his life.
“One of my teachers greeted me in the hallway every day holding a trumpet and saying, ‘I got this trumpet waiting for you whenever you are ready,’” Streater said. “I thought I wanted to play basketball like every other Camden boy my age, but he was so persistent that I decided to try it. He taught me how to play some of my favorite songs on the radio and soon showed me how to translate what I learned to traditional jazz standards. Our repertoire had a perfect mixture of heavy feel, intellect, and contemporary music as we know it.”
When Streater performs professionally, he is also a student, using what he learns to inform his work at Rutgers–Camden, where he teaches music theory and music history.
“I go to every performance with the goal to grasp as much information as I can to bring back to my students,” Streater said. “I might be playing trumpet, but you’ll see me bombarding everyone with questions in the process—from musicians to management. In music, there can often be a gap between university and the real world, so my goal is to use my real-world experience and education to balance and bridge those things.”
Streater, Tribbett, and the rest of the band will find out if they are winners at the 65th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 5. Win or lose, he looks forward to bringing more music to the campus community.
“The goal is to make music as much a part of our lives as possible,” Streater said. “I always tell students that music establishes culture on any campus.”
Creative Design: Beatris Santos