Ah, the MacArthur genius grant. Your phone rings and someone tells you (speaking very slowly and clearly, I presume) that you have just won $500,000 to do with as you please, no strings attached.
Last year, saxophonist Miguel Zenon was a winner, as were violinist Leila Josefowicz and instrument maker/composer Walter Kitundu. (Heads up: Zenon comes to the Dakota, one night only, Wednesday, Oct. 14.) In 2007, blues musician Corey Harris won, as did vocalist Dawn Upshaw. In 2006, jazz violinist Regina Carter (who just performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival as one of the All-Stars) and musician/composer John Zorn. In 2005, conductor Marin Alsop, violinmaker Joseph Curtin, and music educator Aaron Dworkin. 2004, ragtime pianist and composer Reginald Robinson. 2003, composer Osvaldo Golijov. 2002, bassist and composer Edgar Meyer. 2001, pianist Stephan Hough and composer Bright Sheng.
The 2009 fellows include a novelist, a short story writer, and a poet, a filmmaker and a photojournalist, a painter, a papermaker, and a digital artist, but no one involved with music. That hasn't happened since 2000.
Tonight jazz drummer/bandleader/genius Matt Wilson handed out his own MacArthur Grants at the Jazz Standard.