Rachel Eckroth was born in Mandan.
By the time she was six, her family moved to Arizona, where her dad — who, like her, was a pianist — took a job. But long before the move, she’d been introduced to the music world.
She said, “I remember going into the store as a kid, and even as an adult I’ve been to some of the stores and it just feels cool to be around all these instruments and you smell, like, the brass.”
She’s referring to Eckroth Music, the family business, which was started in Mandan by her grandfather in 1972 and where her dad was one of the very first employees.
Now, there are nine Eckroth Music locations in four states.
They’re run by her cousin, Jeff, who says Rachel’s Grammy nomination isn’t much of a shock.
“It is kind of in their DNA, we think it’s in the Eckroth family DNA and they [her parents] gave her the opportunity to nurture that talent through her college education and then onto her professional career.”
Her album, The Garden, is in the running for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.
“It’s like an instrumental, sort of synthy jazz, kind of album,” Rachel explained. “A little more on the edge of jazz and, kind of, rock.”
“The talent that she’s up against, Steve Gadd, Brecker, from my era the 70s and 80s, they’re iconic instrumental jazz musicians and she’s right there with ’em,” said Jeff.
Learning of the nomination was a joint celebration, as her husband is the bass player and producer.
“We didn’t expect it at all,” she said. “We were out at our hike and we turned around, we were like…we better go home right now, because of so many texts and phone calls, I guess there was a lot to take care of at that moment.”
Although the Grammy Awards have been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus, it’s an honor she won’t soon forget.
“It’s just like, gratitude, you know? Like, I’ve been doing this for a while, like I said I’m 45, so it’s really nice to be recognized by your peers after all of that time. I’ve always been doing kind of cool stuff, but this is the first big award that’s come across my path,” she said.
Despite the distance, as Rachel lives in Arizona and the family business is in the Midwest, her North Dakota roots show through.
“They’ve been a long ways away but she and I have always kept in touch,” Jeff said with pride. “I guess I’m a bit of a fan but I think she also relies on our family in particular as a support system.”
In fact, the Eckroth family is related to Lawrence Welk.
Rachel’s brother was nominated for a Grammy last year, as well.