Fellow: Awarded 2008
Field of Study: Music Composition
Competition: US & Canada
Saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón has consistently earned high praise for his innovative marriage of Afro-Caribbean and Latin American Jazz forms; he has repeatedly topped the DownBeat Critics' Poll in the Rising Star Alto Sax category, garnered numerous nominations from the Jazz Journalist Association for Best New Jazz Artist, and was named in 2005 to Billboard magazine's list of "Faces to Watch - 30 Under 30." In 2008 he added a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant to his ever-growing list of honors.
Mr. Zenón received a B.A. in performance studies from Berklee College of Music in 1998 and a master's degree in the same field from the Manhattan School of Music in 2001, graduating with summa cum laude honors from both schools. He has his own quartet and is a founding member of the SF Jazz Collective. He has performed or recorded with many jazz greats, including David Sanchez, Branford Marsalis, Steve Coleman, and the Village Vanguard Orchestra, and has toured extensively, appearing at such renowned venues as the Jazz Gallery (New York City), Birdland (Hamburg, Germany), and the Hot Cube (Lisbon, Portugal). His own CDs are Looking Forward (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2002), Ceremonial (2004), Jibaro (2005), and Awake (2008), the last three released by Marsalis Music/Rounder Records.
In addition to composing, recording, and performing, Miguel Zenón has taught master classes and conducted clinics around the world. In 2003 he taught and performed throughout West Africa under the auspices of the Kennedy Center's Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City.
During his Fellowship term, Mr. Zenón will be composing a ten-part jazz suite incorporating elements of contemporary jazz and Plena, a musical form orginating in nineteenth-century Ponce, Puerto Rico, that he describes as a "byproduct of the Spanish colonization of America [that] combines African rhythmic syncopations and European harmonies and melodic cadences."