Cellist Alisa Weilerstein has been named one of 22 MacArthur Foundation Fellows for 2011. The unexpected phone call, along with prize fund of $500,000, came while performing at the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival.
The annual awards recognise an individual's 'originality, creativity, self-direction, and capacity to contribute importantly to society…committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world'. The spectrum of winners reflect the diversity of the awards, with fellow recipients ranging from a neuropathologist to an architect.
Back in 2000, when Weilerstein was only 18, Gramophone noted her 'infectious vitality' and 'remarkable young talent'. Now, over a decade on, she performs more than 100 concerts each year throughout the world, appearing with all the major American and European orchestras. Last year saw performances of Elgar's Cello Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic under Daniel Barenboim, her Proms debut (Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No 1) and the signing of an exclusive contract with Decca – the first cellist in over 30 years to do so.
Weilerstein has not as yet announced how she will use the prize fund of $500,000. However, if recent activity is anything to go by, some of the 'no strings attached' support for the next five years might well go towards collaborations with contemporary composers. An ardent advocate of contemporary music, Weilerstein has worked with composers such as Osvaldo Golijov, Lera Auerbach, and Philadelphian Joseph Hallman.