Tyshawn Sorey ’04 Awarded Prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius" Grant for Exceptional Creativity

Music department alumnus – a multi-instrumentalist, improviser, composer, ensemble leader, and conductor – is one of 24 to receive honor

Tyshawn Sorey ’04

Tyshawn Sorey, a 2004 William Paterson University jazz studies alumnus, was one of 24 creative people awarded a 2017 MacArthur “Genius” Grant in recognition of his accomplishments in defying distinctions between genres, composition and improvisation. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced the winners of this year's fellowship earlier this week. MacArthur fellowships are awarded to individuals who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for more in the future. Each fellow receives a $625,000 award from the foundation as an investment in his or her potential.  

Sorey, 37, was recently appointed assistant professor of music Wesleyan University, where he specializes in creative improvised and experimental music traditions. He completed his bachelor of music degree in jazz studies at William Paterson University before continuing his education at Wesleyan University where he received a master of arts degree, and Columbia University where he earned a DMA. He grew up in Newark, New Jersey, where he built a musical foundation from his exposure to different types of music such as jazz, rap, R&B and church music.

“We are proud of Tyshawn Sorey and immensely happy to have been a part of the early development of a musician who will make an increasing impact on music,” said David Demsey, DMA, William Paterson University professor of music and coordinator of the Jazz Studies Program. “Tyshawn was an inspiring student—gifted, combined with a terrific work ethic and a powerful vision for his music and sound. He came to us as a trombonist, but we soon realized his powerful potential as a drummer and composer. He took full advantage of the wide range opportunities that our department can offer, including many jazz ensembles and classes, as well as the New Music Series and the piano, brass and composition studios.”

Sorey is a multi-instrumentalist, improviser, composer, ensemble leader, and conductor assimilating and transforming ideas from a broad spectrum of traditional and experimental idioms into musical creations that celebrate alternative musical modeling within the improvisation-composition continuum. A virtuosic percussionist and drum set player who is fluent in piano and trombone, Sorey has explored World and Eastern musical and philosophical concepts on his albums Koan (2009) and Alloy (2014). Other recordings include Inner Spectrum of Variables (2015) Perle Noire: Meditations for Josephine (2016), and his recent Verisimilitude (2017). His additional albums as a leader include Oblique-I (2011) and That/Not (2007). He has presented work and given lectures at such national and international venues as Lincoln Center, the Village Vanguard, Walt Disney Hall, the Danish Rhythmic Conservatory, the Newport Jazz Festival, Ojai Music Festival, the Banff Center, Cité de la Musique, and at Hochshule für Musik in Cologne and Nuremberg.

“Becoming a MacArthur Fellow gives me the encouragement to continue being the artist I am, to stay sharp, move forward, remain progressive and take yet-to-be traveled steps in my creative development, and to encourage others like me to do the same,” said Sorey.