The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation named 25 artists, scientists, and scholars as fellows today. They will each be provided with $500,000 over five years to allow them to "accelerate their current activities or take their work in new directions."
Other performing-arts figures receiving fellowships include Aaron Dworkin, founder of Detroit's Sphinx competition for minority string players, and Joseph Curtin, an innovative Michigan-based violinmaker.
Also on the list of follows are novelist Jonathan Lethem, painter Julie Mehretu, and photographer Fazal Sheikh, as well as an expert in vehicle emissions, an aural historian, an electrical engineer specializing in lasers, a geophysicist, a computer scientist, and others.
Alsop was born in New York and trained at Juilliard and at the Tanglewood Music Center, where she studied with Leonard Bernstein. She served as music director of the Eugene Symphony and the Long Island Philharmonic before being named to the relatively high-profile post of music director of the Colorado Symphony.
After a decade in Denver, she became principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony; she is the first woman to lead a major British orchestra. She will become the first woman to lead a major American symphony when she becomes the Baltimore Symphony's music director in 2007. In addition, she is the music director of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, California.
A statement from the MacArthur Foundation said that she was chosen because of her ability to communicate with audiences and her passion for new music. "In presenting concerts, she often addresses audiences directly and previews short passages demonstrating themes and motifs of pieces to be played," the statement read. "These engaging presentations demystify challenging music for a wide range of audiences. While honoring classical music heritage, Alsop is also deeply committed to bringing the work of living composers to orchestras, audiences, and critics around the world."
Through her publicist, Alsop said, "I hope to use the award to stimulate many projects that have interested me for a long time, such as expanding the Taki Concordia Fellowship, finding ways to encourage the orchestras I work with to innovate and experiment, and encouraging the performance of new works. I will need time to strategize and enjoy thinking through how I can use these funds to make a real difference."
Dworkin, a violinist, created the Sphinx Competition in 1996 in order to encourage the development of minority classical musicians. The winners receive training, scholarship funds, and the opportunity to perform with major orchestras, including the Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, and St. Louis Symphony. Many alumni have gone on to study at the Curtis Institute and other leading conservatories.