Composer and Pianist Courtney Bryan Receives ‘Genius Grant’

Courtney Bryan, associate professor and the Albert and Linda Mintz Professor of Music in the School of Liberal Arts, has been named a 2023 “genius grant” recipient by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Bryan, a New Orleans native, creates music in various genres, including jazz and experimental music as well as traditional gospel, spirituals and hymns. Her compositions bridge the sacred and the secular and explore human emotions through sound. She has also participated in and helped design programs that guide young people to improvise, compose and work with music technology.

Nominees are selected by an anonymous committee and winners are notified by phone. “Somewhere toward the end of the phone conversation it kind of hit me what was happening and that I was the recipient,” Bryan said. “I work with great collaborators and colleagues, and it’s easier sometimes to see in someone else what’s special about them, so when they see it in you, it’s really affirming.”

Courtney Bryan sits with open piano
Courtney Bryan

School of Liberal Arts Dean Brian T. Edwards praised Bryan’s creative vision and talent.

“Courtney Bryan is one of the most exciting composers in America today. From her profound meditations on breath and racial violence to the thrilling expressiveness of her triumphal work, the range of her innovation and the depth of her talent is stunning,” Edwards said, noting that she remains a dedicated teacher and a generous colleague as well.

The award comes with an $800,000 condition-free stipend to pursue her creative interests. 

“I’m thinking about things I want to do for my community as well as for myself,” Bryan said. “New Orleans is so important to me … the culture, the history and the kind of talent we have here. New Orleans formed who I am and how I see the world, and if there’s something creative I want to do, I want to base it in New Orleans.”