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Vijay Iyer Awarded MacArthur Fellowship

Pianist and composer will receive $625,000 grant

Pianist and composer Vijay Iyer, whose critically acclaimed works beginning in the 1990s have elevated him into jazz’s vanguard, was named a recipient of the annual MacArthur Fellowship today. Iyer is one of 13 men and 11 women who will receive a no-strings-attached grant of $625,000 (up from the previous amount of $500,000). The award money is paid out over five years.

The most recent recording by the 41-year-old, New York State-born Iyer, the son of Indian immigrants, is Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project, a collaboration with the poet Mike Ladd. In response to the award, Iyer told the New York Times, “I want to use the money for the greater good of the community. A life in the arts is a life of service.”

Among the other recipients of this year’s so-called “Genius Grant” are pianist Jeremy Denk, playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, audio preservationist Carl Haber and individuals involved in fields ranging from science to law, literature and economics. Each fellow may use the award money as he or she sees fit.

In its announcement of the awards, the MacArthur Foundation said, “Vijay Iyer is an extremely innovative and gifted jazz pianist and composer who is forging a new concept of the practice of American music in compositions for ensembles, theatrical collaborations and scholarly works. Because of the way he incorporates melodic constructions and rhythmic patterns from a wide range of sources, he boldly and expertly straddles the line between traditional and avant-garde jazz. He also often integrates aspects of poetry, improv, and theatre into his work, making it a dynamic experience for the audience.”

A longer biography of Iyer may be read here.

Originally Published