« Monday Musings: The perennial problem of thoughtless audiences | Main | A few words about String Orchestra of New York City, Monument Piano Trio »

September 20, 2011

'Million Dollar Concert': MacArthur Fellows Marin Alsop, Alisa Weilerstein with BSO

This weekend, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra unexpectedly will have two recipients of MacArthur Fellowship Grants onstage -- cellist Alisa Weilerstein, who is among the 2011 winners; and conductor Marin Alsop, who earned her distinction in 2005.

As you will recall, this award -- commonly called the "genius grant" -- recognizes "originality, creativity, self-direction, and capacity to contribute importantly to society through your work" and comes with $500,000 for the recipient.

That gives the BSO engagement, when Weilsertsin will perform the Dvorak Cello Concerto, an extra cache. "The million dollar concert, right?" the cellist said with a laugh from New York a few hours before the 2011 MacArthur Fellows were announced.

Weilerstein, 29, has been guarding the news of her good fortune since being informed on Sept. 7. She was in Jerusalem at the time.

"It was completely out of the blue," she said. "I was completely floored. I swore loudly on the street when they called me," she added with a laugh. "I figured ...

if I ever got an award like this I would be 85. I was allowed to tell my nearest and dearest, so I just told my boyfriend and my parents."

The cellist, whose busy international career has earned her considerable acclaim, has not decided what to do with the $500,000. "I'm still pretty shocked," she said. "I don't have very formulated ideas yet."

Weilerstein does not expect things to be any different when she joins Alsop in Baltimore this weekend. "We're still the same people," she said.

Here's a sample of the cellist's musicianship in a clip from the Elgar Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Daniel Barenboim:


Posted by Tim Smith at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: BSO, Clef Notes, Marin Alsop

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
View the Artsmash blog

Baltimore Sun coverage
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop
Famous faces in classical music
Sign up for FREE entertainment alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for nightlife text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Weekend Watch newsletter
Plan your weekend with's best events, restaurant and movie reviews, TV picks and more delivered to you every Thursday for free.
See a sample | Sign up

Most Recent Comments
Stay connected