Pianists Jeremy Denk and Vijay Iyer among MacArthur “genius grant” fellows for 2013

by Mark Gresham | 25 September 2013

Jeremy Denk

Jeremy Denk, pianist/writer


Vijay Iyer Vijay Iyer

Two musicians, both pianists, are among the 24 winners of this year’s John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, informally known as the MacArthur “genius grants,” which were announced by the Foundation on Tuesday evening.

Jeremy Denk is a classical pianist with a growing reputation as a writer and Vijay Iyer is a jazz pianist and composer working across a range of musical genres. This is the first time two pianists have become MacArthur fellows in the same year.

Denk, who will be performing at Kennesaw State University’s Bailey Center as soloist with the KSU Orchestra on November 20, made his most recent Atlanta appearance a solo recital last March at Spivey Hall. He was also among the team that picked out a new Steinway D piano for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, which arrived this summer. The MacArthur Foundation describes Denk as “an extraordinary pianist and essayist of keen musical intellect” who “is engaging listeners and readers in a deeper appreciation of classical music.”

Vijay Iyer, 41, is known foremost in jazz circles but his music spans many styles and disciplines. His 2011 string quartet, “Mozart Effects,” was performed at Spivey Hall last April by the Brentano String Quartet, the group that commissioned the work. The Foundation calls Iyer as “an ardent investigator of musical communities, practices, histories, and theories,” who “mines core rhythmic, melodic, and structural elements from a wide range of sources to construct richly varied, improvisation-driven solo and ensemble music.”

Each of the two dozen recipients, range in age from 32 to 60, will receive a “no strings attached” stipend of $625,000, paid out in annual installments over a span of five years. That’s an increase from last year’s awards of $500,000. They are free to spend the money however they see fit. Here is the complete list of this year’s recipients:

  • Kyle Abraham, choreographer/dancer
  • Donald Antrim, writer (fiction and nonfiction)
  • Phil Baran, organic chemist
  • C. Kevin Boyce, paleobotanist
  • Jeffrey Brenner, primary care physician
  • Colin Camerer, behavioral economist
  • Jeremy Denk, pianist and writer
  • Angela Duckworth, research psychologist
  • Craig Fennie, materials scientist
  • Robin Fleming, medieval historian
  • Carl Haber, audio preservationist
  • Vijay Iyer, jazz pianist/composer
  • Dina Katabi, computer scientist
  • Julie Livingston, public health historian/anthropologist
  • David Lobell, agricultural ecologist
  • Tarell McCraney, playwright
  • Susan Murphy, statistician
  • Sheila Nirenberg, neuroscientist
  • Alexei Ratmansky, choreographer
  • Ana Maria Rey, atomic physicist
  • Karen Russell, writer (fiction)
  • Sara Seager, astrophysicist
  • Margaret Stock, immigration lawyer
  • Carrie Mae Weems, photographer/video artist

• Read more about each of the 2013 Fellows here.
• See the MacArthur Foundation’s official press release here.