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 Tuesday, 01 December 2015
Miguel Zenón Recieves the MacArthur “Genius Grant” PDF Print
Written by Marsalis Music   
Thursday, 25 September 2008

Miguel Zenón

Marsalis Music is tremendously pleased to congratulate alto saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón, one of 25 individuals who were named recipients of the 2008 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. The Fellowship, commonly known as the MacArthur “genius grant,” will provide “no strings attached” support to Zenón over the next five years. In its announcement, the MacArthur Foundation, which awards the fellowships on the criteria of creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future, praised the 31-year-old Zenón as a “saxophonist drawing from a variety of jazz idioms and the indigenous music of his native Puerto Rico to create a new language of complex, yet accessible sounds that overflow with emotion.” Speaking of the recipients more generally, MacArthur Foundation President Jonathan Fanton noted that the award “celebrates extraordinarily creative individuals who inspire new heights in human achievement. With their boldness, courage, and uncommon energy, [the Fellows] exemplify the boundless nature of the human mind and spirit.”

Miguel Zenón studied at La Escuela Libre de Musica in his native San Juan before receiving a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston. Zenón was among the first artists signed when Marsalis Music was founded in 2002, and has recorded three discs with his quartet over the past five years: Ceremonial, Jibaro and Awake. Label founder Branford Marsalis, who produced all three albums, noted that “Miguel’s music achieves the levels of technical brilliance, emotional depth and creative vision that the MacArthur Fellowship is intended to honor.” Berklee College President Roger Brown observed that “Miguel is one of those rare artists who can transmute all the sounds and colors of their lives into music… [When] he came back to Berklee last year for our inaugural ‘Marsalis Berklee Jams’ event…aspiring young jazz musicians made a line that snaked throughout the whole venue waiting in turn to share the stage with Miguel. They know ‘genius’ when they hear it.”

This has been a watershed year for Zenón. His latest and most ambitious recording, Awake, was released on April 1 and has received universal acclaim, with The New York Times calling the disc “a joy” and noting that the “quality of tone and acuity of rhythm might be enough to recommend…Miguel Zenón for the rest of his life…but he’s also taking composition very seriously.” Also in April, Zenón learned that he had received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition. In addition to touring with his own band, Zenón’s itinerary has been filled with work in such heralded ensembles as the SFJAZZ Collective, Guillermo Klein’s Los Gauchos, the Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra and Antonio Sanchez’s Migration. His latest honor heralds what can only be a renewed and even more compelling phase in the career of this most extraordinary artist.

To learn more about the MacArthur Fellowship, visit

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