NEC Jazz Pianist Jason Moran Awarded MacArthur “Genius” Grant
Moran Joins NEC’s Distinguished Roster of Jazz “Geniuses” Including Gunther Schuller, George Russell, Steve Lacy, Ran Blake
Jazz pianist Jason Moran, who joined the New England Conservatory faculty this month, has been named a 2010 MacArthur Fellow by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Among 23 recipients of the famous MacArthur “Genius grants,” Moran, 35, has been recognized as the "Up-‘n-Coming Jazz Musician" of 2003 by the Jazz Journalists Association and "the most provocative thinker in current jazz" by Rolling Stone magazine. He joins NEC’s distinguished roster of MacArthur jazz “Geniuses” that includes former President Gunther Schuller, current faculty Ran Blake and Miguel Zénon, former faculty George Russell and Steve Lacy, and alumni Regina Carter and Cecil Taylor.
Moran will next be in residence at the Conservatory, December 6–10 when he will be teaching private lessons and coaching ensembles. He will conduct a public masterclass, Tuesday, Dec. 7 from 1–3 p.m. in NEC’s Pierce Hall. He will return during the spring semester for another residency as well as a concert with fellow NEC pianist Fred Hersch, March 8 at 8 p.m. in Jordan Hall during which the two keyboard artists will play duos and solos.
Talented individuals in a variety of fields who have shown exceptional originality in and dedication to their creative pursuits, MacArthur Fellows receive $500,000 grants that are bestowed with no conditions—recipients may use the money as they see fit. Nominated anonymously by leaders in their respective fields and never notified of their candidacy, the recipients learn of their selection only when they receive a call from the MacArthur Foundation several days before the public announcement. In announcing Moran’s selection, the MacArthur Foundation stated: "Through reinterpretation of jazz standards and new compositions of his own, Moran is expanding the boundaries of jazz expression and playing a dynamic role in its evolution in the twenty-first century."
Receiving a genius grant, “signifies that from this day forward, you really have to move forward,” Moran said in a video released by the MacArthur Foundation. “You have to take larger steps.” Moran told NPR blogger Patrick Jarenwattananon that “he aspires to use the money to tour the U.S. more, and especially the Southern U.S. For instance, he has written a suite inspired by the quilts of Gee's Bend, Ala.; he says he'd like to take the work there. ‘As much as I like to travel to Europe, I want to play this American music in America,’ he said.”
Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Moran studied piano as a child but didn't become fired with musical enthusiasm until hearing a Thelonious Monk recording at the age of 13. He attended Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts before moving to New York where he became one of Jaki Byard's last students. He first came to prominence as a member of saxophonist Greg Osby's touring and recording band in 1997. In 1999, Osby's label, Blue Note, signed Moran to a recording contract in his own right. He has since released eight CDs as a solo pianist or bandleader, to great acclaim. His current band, The Bandwagon, is a trio with bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits.
In addition to critical and audience recognition of his music, Moran has received commissions from the San Francisco Jazz Festival and Chamber Music America, to which he responded by using sampled conversations as vocal triggers. Moran's willingness to mix media is currently being fulfilled by collaborations with such noted visual and performing artists as Glenn Ligon, Kara Walker, and Joan Jonas.
Moran has performed as a sideman with such artists as Cassandra Wilson, Joe Lovano, Don Byron, Steve Coleman, Lee Konitz, Von Freeman, Ravi Coltrane, and Stefon Harris.
Moran’s 1999 debut recording as a leader, Soundtrack to Human Motion, earned critical praise from The New York Times's Ben Ratliff, who named it best album of the year. His 2001 album, Black Stars, prompted Gary Giddins of The Village Voice to exclaim "Black Stars is possibly a Blue Note benchmark, definitely one of the year’s outstanding discs."
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ABOUT NEW ENGLAND CONSERVATORY
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