Friday, September 30, 2011

$500,000 worth of opportunity

Alisa Weilerstein's artistic options just got a lot richer.

You may remember her as the cellist who helped Christopher Warren-Green launch his tenure with the Charlotte Symphony last fall, when she was the passionate soloist in Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto. Those of you who head to Charleston for the Spoleto Festival USA may know Weilerstein from the daily chamber-music concerts, where she's a regular.

A half-million dollars is headed her way. Weilerstein is one of 22 recipients of awards from the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation, which picks artists and scientists for recognition without letting them know it's looking them over. They got the bolt from the blue Sept. 20.

When foundation called, the news was "completely overwhelming," Weilerstein said in a statement. "My first response was an expression of total shock and amazement, and I still cannot believe it."

The foundation's award, paid out over five years, comes with no strings attached.

"Unlike many musical prodigies," a foundation statement says, "Weilerstein chose to pursue a liberal arts (college) degree while continuing to maintain a busy performance schedule. ... Weilerstein has successfully navigated the transition from child prodigy to accomplished professional musician and is expanding the cello repertoire through her collaborations with leading contemporary composers."

Pianist Stephen Hough, who soloed with the Charlotte Symphony in May near the end of Warren-Green's first season, belongs to an earlier group of MacArthur honorees. He used some of his money to buy an apartment in London, the crowded and expensive city that's his home base, and fit it out as a studio for practicing and composing.

Neither Weilerstein's statement nor her Facebook page says what she plans to do. But we can allow her a little time to think it over, can't we? With $500,000 at her disposal, she no doubt has a wealth of possibilities.


Lynne Stevenson said...

Congratulations, Ms. Weilerstein! All of those years of practice have finally paid off.