Skip to main content

"Genius" Grant to Alisa Weilerstein

Cellist of NEC's Weilerstein Trio Wins MacArthur Award

Alisa Weilerstein, Cellist of NEC’s Weilerstein Trio, Wins MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant

Will Appear with Trio in Jordan Hall Concert October 30, Masterclass October 31

Joins Roster of Distinguished NEC-affiliated MacArthur Awardees

Alisa Weilerstein, the 29-year old cellist, member of NEC’s resident Weilerstein Trio, daughter of two NEC faculty members, and sister of Joshua Weilerstein, the NEC-trained conductor, has been awarded a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant for 2011. Weilerstein was honored as “a consummate performer, combining technical precision with impassioned musicianship.” Her award brings with it $500,000 no-strings attached support for five years.

The cellist is one of 22 people, including three musicians, to be honored by the foundation this year. She joins a distinguished roster of NEC-affiliated “Genius” awardees including Jason Moran, Miguel Zenón, Ran Blake, Gunther Schuller, Cecil Taylor, Regina Carter, the late George Russell, and the late Steve Lacy. She can next be heard in concert with the Weilerstein Trio on Sunday Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. in NEC’s Jordan Hall when the ensemble will perform music of Dvorak and Ives. On Oct. 31, she and her parents will lead a Weilerstein Trio masterclass at 2 p.m. in NEC’s Williams Hall.

Daughter of violinist Donald Weilerstein and pianist Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, Alisa began performing on the cello as a preschooler. She began performing in the Trio with her parents at the age of six. She made her debut as soloist with a professional orchestra at the age of thirteen. Unlike many musical prodigies, she chose to pursue a liberal arts degree while continuing to maintain a busy performance schedule. She received a B.A. in Russian History in 2004 from Columbia University. In 2000, she was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant.

While her repertoire includes the classics, Weilerstein is a tireless advocate for contemporary music, introducing audiences to works by major composers and, in many cases, performing with them. In 2007, she worked with composer Osvaldo Golijov on a complete revision of Azul, his concerto inspired by a Pablo Neruda poem, incorporating orchestra, accordion, and percussion to support the cello part. Performing in more than one hundred concerts a year, Weilerstein has successfully navigated the transition from child prodigy to accomplished, professional musician and in March 2011, she was signed to an exclusive recording contract with Decca, the first cellist to be added to the company’s artist roster in over 30 years. Her Decca recording of the Elgar Cello Concerto is forthcoming.

Weilerstein has performed with orchestras throughout the United States and internationally, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre National de France, the Boston Symphony, and the New York Philharmonic, among others. In 2009, she was appointed artist-in-residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

For opportunities to hear NEC's MacArthur Fellows’ music, check the following list:
2011-10-13 Gunther Schuller conducts Duke Ellington
2011-10-30 Alisa Weilerstein with the Weilerstein Trio in concert
2011-10-31 Alisa Weilerstein with the Weilerstein Trio in masterclass
2011-10-31 Ran Blake "Shadow of a Doubt" concert
2011-11-29 Jason Moran masterclass
2011-11-29 Jason Moran improvises to Mahler
2011-12-06 Jason Moran masterclass
2011-12-08 Steve Lacy Vespers
2011-12-09 Miguel Zenón masterclass
2012-02-02 Jason Moran "In My Mind" Thelonious Monk project

For further information, check the NEC Website.

Photo of Alisa Weilerstein courtesy the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation


Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 720 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world. Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars. Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide. Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions. On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, Contemporary Improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Collaboration Programs, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors. Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music and jazz.

NEC presents more than 600 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, 106-year old, beautifully restored concert hall.  These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz and opera scenes. Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer
Public Relations Manager
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115