We thought he was a genius before, but now it’s official: Chris Thile, the mandolinist and composer of Brooklyn bluegrass rockers Punch Brothers, has been awarded a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation genius grant. The grants are given yearly to authors, scientists, musicians and others so they may have the freedom to pursue creative projects or research. Thile is among 23 recipients this year that also include fiction writer Junot Diaz.
The MacArthur Foundation is notorious for the secrecy in which they conduct the nomination process, and those who are awarded grants are not made aware they were even under consideration until they’re notified they have won. Thile reportedly ignored several calls from the MacArthur Foundation, thinking they were bots dialing him in regard to the presidential election. Eventually, his tour manager looked into the source of the number calling him, and told Thile it was from the MacArthur Foundation.
“I think I must have turned white,” said Thile. “I’ve never felt so internally warm. My heart was racing. All of a sudden, I felt very askew physically. I was trying to catch my breath. I thought, ‘Oh my God, did I win a MacArthur?’”
The grant will be paid out over five years, and the recipients are free to use the money however they wish; they are not required to report how it is spent. Thile has said that he may use the $500,000 to fund a chamber music project for a bluegrass quintet.
You can watch an interview Thile did with the MacArthur Foundation below: