While running errands a few weeks ago, Lucy Schaufer checked Twitter and froze in disbelief at what she saw on her phone.
It was a tweet from a friend, congratulating Schaufer on her two Grammy Award nominations.
Catch the Grammy AwardsThe Grammy Awards air at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12, on CBS
"I was, like, 'Whaaaaaat?!'" she said, laughing.
Schaufer, a former Carpentersville resident who now lives outside Bath, England, is nominated for best opera recording and best engineered album, classical. Both nominations are for her work on "Corigliano: The Ghosts of Versailles" by the L.A. Opera Chorus and Orchestra.
"It was a joyful production. The cast was brilliant ... we worked our tuchuses off, though," she said. "We're all old salts, and we've been doing it a long time. But we knew this was something special."
The Grammy nominations -- Schaufer's first -- are the latest accomplishment in her opera career, which includes a critically acclaimed 2013 solo album, "Carpentersville," named after her hometown.
The album's not about the suburb, but rather her small-town upbringing and her relationship with her father, who died in 2010. The album cover is a 1969 photo of Schaufer standing with her dad in their driveway.
"It was my grief project. When your parents are gone, what do you hold on to, as far as your identity? What is home? Home has always been Carpentersville. It was a great place to grow up," she said. "(The album) is really about becoming ourselves. It's about accepting all that you are. The world wants to put people in boxes, because it's easier. I'm not happy in a box. Never have been."
Schaufer lived in Carpentersville "when Hazard Road was a dirt road," and she was in the last graduating class at Irving Crown High School in 1983 (now Dundee-Crown High School). She went on to study music at Northwestern University.
She started singing as a teen, performing in District 300 choirs and spending summers at Santa's Village, where she sang in music revues and kiddie acts, including one that was so goofy it sticks out in her memory: "Goldilocks and the Three Bears Go to Nashville." She did four shows a day, seven days a week.
"Oh, it was bad. We'd have to put on these heavy rubber costumes and you'd sweat ... you were just disgusting," she said. "Helen Reynolds became my mentor. She was one of the producers on the show. She was an ex-Rockette, who always had her nails done, always had her hair done, and always had lipstick on. She was a salt-of-the-earth woman who taught me that the work is glamour, but the life is hard."
Schaufer learned that lesson soon enough, as her music career took off and she began a grueling schedule that took her around the world. It was not unusual for her to have to learn difficult music in a short time, sometimes in multiple languages.
She's most fond of music by living composers, including those who take on serious issues such as sex trafficking and immigration. It's why Schaufer, a mezzo-soprano, is often described as a "contemporary opera" singer.
"I'm happy to do the big stuff. It pays the bills. But there are projects that keep a roof over your head, and projects that feed your heart and soul. I like projects that are grass roots. That are little babies that need nurturing," she said.
During the first few months of 2017, she'll perform "The Pirates of Penzance" with the English National Opera and then star in Peter Eötvös' "The Golden Dragon" in Tongyeong, South Korea. She'll also workshop Emma-Ruth Richards and Nicola Chalmers' "Traffick," a story of human trafficking and the sex trade, and then perform "The Marriage of Figaro" with Opera Philadelphia. On top of that, she teaches at the Royal College of Music in England.
For the Grammy Awards on Feb. 12, Schaufer will fly in from London just hours before the ceremony starts and return to England 30 hours later for a show.
Winning, she said, would be the icing on the cake of a wonderful career.
"There are beautiful artists in (my) category, so one never knows," she said. "If I do win, I just hope I don't stand up and say 'YESSSS!' in a completely undignified manner."
-- Jamie Sotonoff
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