c/o Bandcamp

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Composer, multi-instrumentalist, and Professor Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11 and Distinguished Fellow in the College of the Environment (COE) Allison Orr have been awarded fellowships by United States Artists (USA).

Sorey was awarded the fellowship for his work in music and Orr for her work in dance. The fellowship provides each with $50,000.

“We believe in artists and their essential role in our society,” the mission statement for the program reads. “We award [the fellowships] to the most compelling artists working and living in the United States.”

Both Sorey and Orr have established themselves as artists unencumbered by the boundaries of genres.

“Orr’s work challenges audiences to expand notions of dance and performer while posing the question: who and what can be presented on stage,” the Wesleyan website describes.

Orr is the Artistic Director and Founder of Forklift Danceworks in Texas, an organization that works to energize communities through dance.

In 2016, Orr worked on campus through the COE’s urban engagement and urban environment program to direct “The Artist in the City.” The performance joined students with Middletown Water and Sewer Department employees to highlight the city’s work in keeping the riverfront clean.

Sorey has enjoyed significant media attention in recent months. A recent NPR review labeled him “A Musical Shapeshifter,” and he was named on Connecticut Magazine’s 40 under 40 last week.

The USA fellowship comes after Sorey was awarded a $625,000 MacArthur fellowship in October of 2017. The prestige of the fellowship has garnered the nickname “the genius award.”

“My music focuses on many different types of music making, different types of ensemble behavior, and my work also transcends generic boundaries,” Sorey told the MacArthur Foundation.

Sorey is a trombonist, percussionist, pianist, drummer, composer, and conductor. His most recent album, “Verisimilitude,” released in August to critical acclaim, with The New York Times describing it as “perhaps his most captivating album yet.”

“Mr. Sorey is a preternaturally talented multi-instrumentalist who has built a career in the territory between standard definitions,” the review continues.

Sorey, an Assistant Professor of Music at Wesleyan, grew up in Newark, N.J. and later attended William Paterson University, located in his home state. Sorey then attended Wesleyan, where received his master’s degree in 2011. He later attended Columbia University, where he got a doctorate in composition.

The USA fellowship awards a total of $2,250,000 to 45 artists in music, theater and performance, dance, visual art, writing, media, dance, craft, traditional art, and architecture and design. The recipients’ cash rewards are unrestrained, meaning they have complete discretion in how the money is used.

Mason Mandell can be reached at mjmandell@wesleyan.edu and on Twitter @masonmandell.

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