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Sandbox becomes first-ever percussion ensemble to receive an Avery Fisher Career Grant

Sandbox Percussion

New York (March 21, 2024) — The GRAMMY®-nominated ensemble Sandbox Percussion, a quartet of established leaders in contemporary art music and percussion, received a 2024 Avery Fisher Career Grant last night. The awards ceremony took place in the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WQXR studios, where Sandbox Percussion and four other artists were announced as this year’s recipients of the career-advancing grant, which the Avery Fisher Artist Program awards every year to no more than five artists. The $25,000 grant provides professional assistance and recognizes instrumental artists who the program believes have great potential for major careers in classical music.

“We are deeply honored by this award from the distinguished Avery Fisher Artist Program,” said percussionist Ian Rosenbaum, who co-founded Sandbox Percussion in 2011 with fellow members Jonathan Allen, Victor Caccese, and Terry Sweeney through a mutual love of chamber music and contemporary composition. They are now an internationally renowned new-music quartet and have become the first percussion ensemble to receive the prestigious award. “We have looked up to many of the previous recipients and been inspired by them for years,” added Rosenbaum. “It’s exciting to become part of the celebrated history of this program.”

Deborah Borda, the Avery Fisher Artist Program Chair, and Nancy Fisher, daughter of the late Avery and Janet Fisher, presented the awards at the ceremony, which coincided with the program’s 50th anniversary. The annual ceremony includes a short performance by each selected artist and a professional recording. This year’s performances, which included music by the Balourdet Quartet, violinists Njioma Chinyere Grevious and Julian Rhee, and pianist Clayton Stephenson, besides Sandbox Percussion, will be broadcast on April 11 at 8 p.m. and April 13 at 7 p.m. on WQXR 105.9 FM.

Sandbox Percussion performed “Pillar V” from the riotous Seven Pillars, a 2021 feature-length suite for percussion quartet composed by Andy Akiho and commissioned by Sandbox Percussion, which the New York Times called “a lush, brooding celebration of noise.”

“Pillar V” is built around a hexatonic scale and an interminable ostinato; with each repetition, the music swells and presses forward relentlessly, ending with an obsessive acceleration of the six pitches of the scale. Seven Pillars earned Sandbox Percussion and Akiho a GRAMMY® nomination for “Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance,” and the composer a “finalist” placement for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Music. Since the world premiere in 2021, Sandbox Percussion has taken Seven Pillars on tour throughout the United States and Europe, with stage direction and lighting design by Michael Joseph McQuilken.

The Avery Fisher Career Grant will allow the recording and touring ensemble to jumpstart a follow-up commission from Akiho, a steelpan virtuoso with whom the quartet has a mutual synergy that resulted in the creation of Seven Pillars. The success of that work and its ongoing performance history has inspired Sandbox Percussion and Akiho to collaborate on a new piece, this time with Akiho joining the group on the steelpan. The planned quintet, about an hour long, will bring to fruition the potential that was discovered and cultivated throughout the collaborative process for Seven Pillars. It will add Akiho’s virtuosic talents as a performer. A recording and a tour as a live quintet are also in the works.

This season, Sandbox Percussion performed at the Park Avenue Armory’s Veterans Room, featuring premieres by Chris Cerrone and Viet Cuong, and at the 92nd Street Y with new-music specialist Conor Hanick on piano. In May, the quartet performs at Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center with acclaimed new-music performers Dawn Upshaw, Gilbert Kalish, and Alisa Weilerstein. Sandbox Percussion will also continue to champion Viet Cuong’s ingenious concerto for percussion quartet Re(new)al, which they have performed every season since the premiere in 2017.

In the summer, the ensemble will give the world premieres of Prophecies of Fire, by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams; and To Sing or Dance, for violin and percussion quartet, by GRAMMY® winner Joan Tower, also featuring violinist Soovin Kim. Later this year and in upcoming seasons, Sandbox Percussion will also perform new music by Douglas J. Cuomo, Tyshawn Sorey, Paola Prestini, and Gabriel Kahane. Future album releases include music by Michael Torke and by Chris Cerrone.

Media contact:

Matt Herman

Managing Director

8VA Music Consultancy

New York • Los Angeles


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