Grammys 2019: Jazz trumpeter John Daversa lifts up Dreamers with his Grammy wins

John Daversa arrives in the press room with his three Grammy Awards on Sunday.
(Taylor Arthur / Los Angeles Times)

When trumpeter John Daversa swept his categories by winning three awards for work from his big-band album “American Dreamers (Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom),” at the top of his thank-you list were 53 musicians on the album. All of them were legally living in the United States as so-called Dreamers enrolled in DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Daversa, a longtime Angeleno who taught at USC and Cal-State Northridge, specifically sought out Dreamers when making the album.

Winning trophies for improvised jazz solo, large jazz ensemble album and arrangement (instrumental or a capella), Daversa accepted his trio of awards during the Grammys Premiere Ceremony, and each time he offered further details on the precarious position of his musicians.


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When he accepted the third honor, he again beckoned all the Dreamers to join him onstage, introducing them one by one. He called out one band member by saying, “Years before, he was a student of mine at California State University, Northridge — and I didn’t even know he was a Dreamer. And now, he’s an incredible acoustic jazz bassist.”

Notably, when Daversa ceded the microphone to his collaborator Doug Davis and the focus turned to the politics of immigration, the background music got much louder.

“These Dreamers are talented and courageous, and they’re role models for all Americans,” Davis said as musical bells tried to drown him out. “A Grammy is huge for a citizen, but seismic for an undocumented American.”

For tips, records, snapshots and stories on Los Angeles music culture, follow Randall Roberts on Twitter and Instagram: @liledit. Email: