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Tomeka Reid (Photo courtesy: The MacArthur Foundation)

Jazz Cellist Tomeka Reid Receives MacArthur "Genius Grant"

Tomeka Reid has received $800,000 as part of the 2022 MacArthur Foundation fellowships


The MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” fellowships are awarded annually to writers, scientists, scholars, and others in various fields who show exceptional originality and dedication in their creative pursuits. The 2022 round has awarded each fellow with $800,000 in grants.

Jazz cellist, composer, and improviser Tomeka Reid is one of 25 others who received the award and is recognized for her “forging a unique jazz sound that draws from a range of musical traditions and expanding the expressive possibilities of the cello in improvised music,” according to the foundation’s website

“I think about the people that encouraged me and who I so respect and who haven’t received this type of honor,” Reid told NPR. “And I’m just like, wow, this is — it’s an honor, but it’s also — it’s heavy.”

Reid, 45, was trained in the Western classical tradition and is fluent in musical modes rooted in the African diaspora and avant-garde minimalism, plus uses many extended techniques in her performance.

She is the leader of the Tomeka Reid Quartet, alongside Tomas Fujiwara, Jason Roebke, and Mary Halvorson, whose latest album, “Old New,” was released in 2019 and includes original works and standards with a post-bop, free jazz, and minimalist hue.

Reid has also performed and recorded with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Nicole Mitchell, Anthony Braxton, the AACM Great Black Music Ensemble, Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly, and Roscoe Mitchell. Reid also co-leads the string trio HEAR in NOW with violinist Mazz Swift and bassist Silvia Bolognesi. 

In 2013, she founded the Chicago Jazz String Summit, an annual three-day event celebrating stringed instruments’ contributions to improvisational jazz, across workshops, masterclasses, and performances.

A graduate of the University of Maryland, DePaul University, and the University of Illinois, Reid is the 2022 Improviser in Residence at Germany’s Moers Festival, and from 2019 to 2021, held the Darius Milhaud Chair in Composition at Mills College.

This year’s MacArthur Fellows also include musicians Martha Gonzalez, a Chicana artist, musician, and activist plus Ikue Mori, an electronic music composer and performer. The full list of recipients can be found here.

The MacArthur Foundation’s video on Reid can be watched below.

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