On Sunday evening (September 30), mandolinist-vocalist-songwriter Chris Thile took the stage at The Egg in Albany and led his band, Punch Brothers, through a dizzying, genre-smashing concert that ran the musically stylistic gamut from bluegrass to jazz to chamber music and far beyond.
Less than 24 hours later, it was announced that Thile had been chosen to receive a coveted MacArthur Fellows Program award (known more commonly as a “genius grant”), from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Thile – who, at 31 years old, is the youngest of this year’s 23 MacArthur Foundations fellows – will receive $500,000 over the course of the next five years do use in whatever way he chooses.
The foundation described Thile as a “mandolinist and composer who is creating a new musical aesthetic and a distinctly American canon for the mandolin through a lyrical fusion of traditional bluegrass orchestrations with a range of styles and genres.”
Among the other Class of 2012 MacArthur fellows are a Boston pediatric neurosurgeon, a Swiss bioengineer, a New Haven computer scientist, a Louisiana marine ecologist, a California medical microbiologist, an Arizona optical physicist and astronomer, a Washington Post journalist, a Harvard University economist and others who have all made significant contributions to contemporary society. Not exactly the kind of company in which you’d expect to find a mandolinist…
After the recipients were announced, Thile Tweeted, “Utterly sincerely, y’all are the sweetest (if in fact this isn’t an elaborate prank orchestrated by my fellow @punchbrothers).”
Over the years, Thile has been a frequent visitor to Nippertown, having played at The Egg at least five times, as well as the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, Club Helsinki, Northern Lights, RPI’s Houston Field House (opening for John Mayer) and the Times Union Center (as the opening act for the Dave Matthews Band).
Chris Thile’s profile at the MacArthur Foundation