MacArthur Foundation reveals 2012 'genius grants'
In this Sept. 17, 2012 photo provided by the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Chris Thile, 31, a mandolinist and composer who is creating a new musical aesthetic and a distinctly American canon for the mandolin through a lyrical fusion of traditional bluegrass orchestrations with a range of styles and genres, is seen in his East Village apartment in New York. Thile is among 23 recipients of this year's MacArthur Foundation "genius grants." (AP Photo/Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Christopher Lane)
CHICAGO (AP) — Mandolin player and composer Chris Thile learned the hard way that when you get a call from the 312 area code this time of year, you should probably answer the phone.
Thile is among 23 recipients of this year's MacArthur Foundation "genius grants," which are given in a secrecy-shrouded process. Winners have no idea they've been nominated for the $500,000 awards until they get the call, and nominators must remain anonymous.
Thile ignored the incessant phone calls from the foundation at first, thinking they were election-year robocalls. Then he received an ominous message: "Don't tell anyone about this call."
His tour manager searched for the number online and told him, "It appears to be from something called the MacArthur Foundation." It was a name Thile recognized.
In this Sept. 22, 2012 photo provided by the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Maurice Lim Miller, 66, a social services innovator who designs projects that reward and track self-sufficiency among residents of low-income neighborhoods in Oakland, San Francisco and Boston, is seen at his home in Oakland, Calif. Miller is among 23 recipients of this year's MacArthur Foundation "genius grants." (AP Photo/Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Don Feria)
"I think I must have turned white," he said. "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 grants, paid over five years, give recipients freedom to pursue a creative vision. Winners, who work in fields ranging from medicine and science to the arts and journalism, don't have to report how they spend the money.
Thile, who played with Nickel Creek and is now touring with Punch Brothers, said he may use the grant to fund a chamber music project for a bluegrass quintet.
Northwestern University historian Dylan C. Penningroth said he now can expand his search for court records of property owned by slaves in the pre-Civil War South.