MacArthur Fellows Program

MacArthur Fellows / Meet the Class of 2012

Chris Thile

Mandolinist and Composer

New York, NY

Age: 31

Published October 2, 2012

Chris Thile is a young mandolin virtuoso and composer whose lyrical fusion of traditional bluegrass with elements from a range of other musical traditions is giving rise to a new genre of contemporary music. With a broad outlook that encompasses progressive bluegrass, classical, rock, and jazz, Thile is transcending the borders of conventionally circumscribed genres in compositions for his own ensembles and frequent cross-genre collaborations. Although rooted in the rhythmic structure of bluegrass, his early pieces for his long-time trio, Nickel Creek, have the improvisatory feel of jazz; his current ensemble, Punch Brothers, evokes the ethos of classical chamber music even while adhering to the traditional instrumentation of the bluegrass quintet. The Blind Leaving the Blind, a song suite on Punch Brothers’ first album (Punch, 2008), extends the sound of bluegrass in its range of harmonies and polyrhythms. Thile further explores the symphonic dimensions of the string quintet in both the improvised and elaborately composed works of Antifogmatic (2010). Among his many collaborations, Thile has expanded the reach of the mandolin in Ad Astra per Alas Porci (2009), a three-movement mandolin concerto, and in his solo mandolin interpretations of Bach’s works for violin, which showcase his technical mastery and fluid, soulful phrasing. Through his adventurous, multifaceted artistry as both a composer and performer with various ensembles, Thile is creating a distinctly American canon for the mandolin and a new musical aesthetic for performers and audiences alike.

Chris Thile studied music at Murray State University (1998–1999). From 1989 to 2007, he was a member of the trio Nickel Creek, and in 2006 he formed Punch Brothers. His additional recordings include Here to There (1997) and Why Should the Fire Die? (2005) with Nickel Creek; Who’s Feeling Young Now? (2012) with Punch Brothers; and the solo albums Not All Who Wander Are Lost (2001), Deceiver (2004), and How to Grow a Woman from the Ground (2006).

Photos

Hi-res photos for download. Photos licensed under a Creative Commons license. Courtesy of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Right-click on the links below to save the file to your computer.

Chris Thile In the Media

"Bluegrass to Bach for Mandolinist Chris Thile" thumbnail

"Bluegrass to Bach for Mandolinist Chris Thile"

The Columbus Dispatch
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"Chris Thile on Recording Bach - Part I" thumbnail

"Chris Thile on Recording Bach - Part I"

MandolinCafe.com
Chris Thile, 2012 MacArthur Fellow
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"A Hipster Goes for Baroque" thumbnail

"A Hipster Goes for Baroque"

The Wall Street Journal
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"Chris Thile Makes Plucky Move From Bluegrass to Bach" thumbnail

"Chris Thile Makes Plucky Move From Bluegrass to Bach"

From PBS News Hour
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"Chris Thile Reinvents His Music, Over and Over" thumbnail

"Chris Thile Reinvents His Music, Over and Over"

From The Story on American Public Media
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"The Performer Who's Moved From Nickel Creek to a Goldmine" thumbnail

"The Performer Who's Moved From Nickel Creek to a Goldmine"

From The Herald
Chris Thile, MacArthur Fellow, 2012
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"Chris Thile: Genius Fellow" thumbnail

"Chris Thile: Genius Fellow"

From Relix
Chris Thile, MacArthur Fellow, 2012
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About the Fellows Program

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. Learn More

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23 MacArthur Fellows Announced thumbnail

23 MacArthur Fellows Announced

MacArthur named 23 new MacArthur Fellows for 2012. Working across a broad spectrum of endeavors, the Fellows include a pediatric neurosurgeon, a marine ecologist, a journalist, a photographer, an optical physicist and astronomer, a stringed-instrument bow ... Read More