Mandolin player Chris Thile was one of 23 people awarded a MacArthur Foundation “Genius grant” Monday.
The foundation cited him as “a young mandolin virtuoso 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.”
Thile told the Associated Press that he almost missed the call because he didn’t recognize the 312 area code.
His tour manager searched for the number online and told him that it came from the MacArthur Foundation.
“I think I must have turned white,” Thile told the AP. “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?”‘
Thile first fell in love with the mandolin at the age of two.
He told Here and Now’s Robin Young that the mandolin “was small and high-pitched like me….it was just really interesting, especially to a little tiny person.”
We revisit our conversation with Thile from earlier this year.