Mary Halvorson, a faculty member in The New School's School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, was named a 2019 MacArthur Foundation Fellow. The annual grant is a $625,000, no-strings-attached award to extraordinarily talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential.“The prize will allow me the time and space to experiment and to create, to think bigger, and hopefully to put together large scale projects that I may not have had the means to realize before,”said Halvorson. “It will also help me realize current projects which I have in the works.”
A guitarist and composer, Halvorson has been described as “a singular talent” (Lloyd Sachs, JazzTimes), ”NYC’s least-predictable improviser” (Howard Mandel, City Arts), “one of the most exciting and original guitarists in jazz—or otherwise” (Steve Dollar, Wall Street Journal), and “one of today’s most formidable bandleaders” (Francis Davis, Village Voice.) In recent Downbeat Critics Polls, she has been celebrated as guitarist, rising star jazz artist, and rising star composer of the year.
Halvorson has released a series of critically acclaimed albums on the Firehouse 12 label, from Dragon’s Head (2008), her trio debut featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith, expanding to a quintet with trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon on Saturn Sings (2010) and Bending Bridges (2012), a septet with tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and trombonist Jacob Garchik on Illusionary Sea (2014), and finally an octet with pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn on Away With You (2016). She also released the solo recording Meltframe (2015), and most recently debuted Code Girl (2018), a new ensemble featuring vocalist Amirtha Kidambi (singing Halvorson’s own lyrics), trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, bassist Michael Formanek, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara.
One of New York City’s most in-demand guitarists, over the past decade Halvorson has worked with such diverse musicians as Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Taylor Ho Bynum, John Dieterich, Trevor Dunn, Bill Frisell, Ingrid Laubrock, Jason Moran, Joe Morris, Tom Rainey, Jessica Pavone, Tomeka Reid, Marc Ribot and John Zorn. She is also part of several collaborative projects, most notably the longstanding trio Thumbscrew with Michael Formanek on bass and Tomas Fujiwara on drums.
The MacArthur Fellows Program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. In keeping with this purpose, the Foundation awards fellowships directly to individuals rather than through institutions. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. They may use their fellowship to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers.
About The New School's School of Jazz and Contemporary Music
The New School's School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, founded in 1986, is one of the most influential institutions of its kind. The quality and uniqueness of the school lie in its artist-as-mentor approach to learning, its progressive curriculum, small ensemble-based performance, a stellar faculty composed of artist-practitioners, and access to unique musical opportunities throughout New York City. Notable faculty include Reggie Workman, bassist, bandleader, composer; Ben Allison, bassist, bandleader, composer; Cecil Bridgewater, trumpet; Robert Hurwitz, President, Nonesuch Records; Yosvany Terry, saxophonist, percussionist, bandleader, composer; and Jimmy Owens, trumpet. Among the many remarkable artists who have given master classes or lecture presentations are Cassandra Wilson, Randy Weston, Geri Allen, George Lewis, Marc Ribot, Fred Wesley, Pat Metheny, Joshua Redman, Pauline Oliveros, Don Byron, Ben Sidran, Tommy LiPuma and George Wein.
About The New School
Founded in 1919, The New School was established to advance academic freedom, tolerance, and experimentation. A century later, The New School remains at the forefront of innovation in higher education, inspiring more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students to challenge the status quo in design and the social sciences, liberal arts, management, the arts, and media. The university welcomes thousands of adult learners annually for continuing education courses and public programs that encourage open discourse and social engagement. Through our online learning portals, research institutes, and international partnerships, The New School maintains a global presence.