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THINK DENK / THINK “GENIUS”

Pianist Jeremy Denk Named 2013 MacArthur Fellow

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Pianist Jeremy Denk whom the New York Times describes as “one of his generation’s most eloquent and thoughtful interpreters” and by the Washington Post as “one of the most interesting pianists around” was named a 2013 MacArthur Fellow. He is one of 24 recipients of the “genius grant” which awards each fellow a stipend of $625,000 (increased this year from $500,000), given quarterly over a five-year period. The fellowship is awarded with no conditions, i.e., recipients may use the money as they see fit. Nominated anonymously by leaders in their respective fields and never notified of their candidacy, recipients learn of their selection only when they receive a call from the MacArthur Foundation just before the public announcement in much the same way that Nobel laureates are notified.

Watch a video of Jeremy Denk on being named a MacArthur fellow

Selected for his extraordinary originality, dedication in his creative pursuits, and a marked capacity for self-direction, Denk has established himself as one of America’s most thought-provoking, multi-faceted, and compelling artists. His blog, Think Denk praised by music critic and fellow MacArthur grant awardee, Alex Ross, for its “arresting sensitivity and wit”, is widely read and enjoyed both within and outside the industry and was recently selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress Web Archives. He has also made witty contributions to the New Yorker, the New York Times Review of Books, Newsweek, the New Republic, and NPR Music. His April 8, 2013 article on piano lessons for the New Yorker Magazine “Every Good Boy Does Fine” will form the basis of a memoir to be published by Random House in the 2015-16 season.

Much in demand as a concert pianist with an unusually broad repertoire , he has appeared as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the symphony orchestras of Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and London. He regularly gives recitals in New York, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia, and throughout the United States. In the 2013-2014 season, he travels to three continents in concertos by Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Ravel, Ligeti, and Mozart, whose Concerto No. 25 is the vehicle for his appearances with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony. In 2014 Denk will serve as Music Director of the 68th annual Ojai Music Festival, for which, besides performing and curating, he is writing the libretto for a semi-satirical opera by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky.

Denk has also established himself as a recording artist. His first recording (on his Think Denk Media label) was of Piano Sonatas 1 and 2 by the American visionary composer Charles Ives to whom he has a self-professed, long-standing attachment.

Watch a video of Denk on Charles Ives:

His latest–his second recording for the Nonesuch label–a CD/DVD set of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” was released on September 30, less than a week after the announcement of the MacArthur grant.

Watch a video of Denk on the Goldberg Variations:

His debut CD on the Nonesuch label, in which he juxtaposed Beethoven with Ligeti, was featured on many “Best of 2012” lists.

Denk is in academe as well, teaching at the Indiana University School of Music from 1996-2002 and currently is on the faculty of the Bard College Conservatory of Music. Born in Durham, NC, Denk earned a double degree in Chemistry and Piano Performance from the Oberlin College and Conservatory. He went on to earn a master’s degree in music from Indiana University, and a doctorate in piano performance from the Juilliard School. A 1998 recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant and winner of the 1997 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, he made his New York recital debut at Alice Tully Hall in 1997 as winner of the Juilliard Piano Debut Award. That this polymath, with this string of awards and varied accomplishments, has been awarded a MacArthur genius grant comes as no surprise.

The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society.

NOTE: There will be more on Jeremy Denk in future FanFaire articles. Learn about another MacArthur fellow, cellis Alisa Weilerstein, who received the award in 2011.

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