Jazz composer Dafnis Prieto and Young People's Chorus of New York City Francisco Núñez were among the twenty-two people named today as recipients of the 2011 MacArthur Genius Grants.
Both gentlemen were praised by the MacArthur Foundation for their immense talents within their respective fields of music. In the case of the Cuban-born Prieto the organization recognized how he “is infusing Latin jazz with a bold new energy and sound” partly due to his “ability to execute highly complex, polyrhythmic structures with extraordinary speed and precision.” These qualities can be appreciated in the clip you can view here from a 2009 performance with his Si o Si ensemble.
Meanwhile, the foundation exalted Núñez’ vision that “elevated the youth chorus to the ranks of serious contemporary music, commissioning and performing some of the most challenging works for youth choirs.” Since its inception in 1988, Núñez has guided the Young People's Chorus (YPC) to include over one thousand singers including some that tour around the world.
The video below shows Núñez leading the YPC earlier this year in a stirring rendition of Picaflor Esmeralda" by Gabriela Lena Frank:
Each grant recipient will get a $500,000 no-strings-attached gift to be doled out over a five-year period. According to Bloomberg, Prieto said that he will use his grant to “self-publish a book on drumming and record a trio album in January for which he has been writing music.” For his part, Núñez told the AP that he “feels like I have an opportunity here and a challenge to figure out something really great” with the grant funds.
Video Sources – WNYC and Young People's Chorus of New York City via YouTube
Online Sources- MacArthur Foundation, ABC News, Bloomberg