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Students, Faculty + Alumni

Sandbox Percussion receives Avery Fisher Career Grant

sandbox percussion

Sandbox Percussion. Photo by Noah Stern Weber

Sandbox Percussion, a quartet comprised of Yale School of Music alumni, was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant on Wednesday, March 20. “This marks the first time a percussion ensemble has been awarded a Career Grant” in the 50-year history of the Avery Fisher Artist Program, according to a press release issued by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, which administers the program. The $25,000 grants, the press release explains, “are designed to give professional assistance and recognition to talented instrumentalists, as well as chamber ensembles, who … have great potential for major careers in classical music.”

Sandbox Percussion member Ian Rosenbaum ’10MM ’11AD said the grant “does validate the staying power of percussion” in the chamber music scene. Rosenbaum said he and his colleagues in Sandbox—Jonny Allen ’13MM ’14AD, Victor Caccese ’13MM, and Terry Sweeney ’15MM—want booking a percussion group for a concert series “to be as common as programming a string quartet.”

Robert van Sice, Lecturer in Percussion and Director of the Yale Percussion Group at the School of Music, has spent a career championing that cause. He pointed to percussionist and YSM alum Jisu Jung ’19MM ’20AD receiving an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2022, and to percussionist and current YSM student Michael Yeung ’22MM ’23MMA ’24AD being named a winner of Young Concert Artists’ 2023 Susan Wadsworth Final Auditions and earning the YCA Jacobs Fellowship in November, as “continued validation” of percussion’s place on the concert stage.

For van Sice, the “deep respect and friendship” the members of Sandbox have for one another is “profound, you just hear it in the sound” of the group—“a sense of combined, mutual purpose,” which is “such a great … lesson for the world.”

Rosenbaum said the Avery Fisher Career Grant will support Sandbox’s mission “to expand … the contemporary chamber music repertoire.”

“Being able to expose folks to the artistry that’s possible is a really exciting thing,” he said.

Specifically, Rosenbaum said, “We’re going to use a portion of this award to sort of jumpstart a commission” from composer and YSM alum Andy Akiho ’11MM, with whom Rosenbaum and his colleagues in the quartet have worked closely in the recent past. Sandbox’s recording of Akiho’s Seven Pillars was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2022, and Akiho was a finalist for that year’s Pulitzer Prize in Music for the composition.

Rosenbaum said the new work from Akiho would be a quintet and that Akiho, who’s an accomplished percussionist, has expressed an interest in performing with Sandbox.

Sandbox and this year’s other Avery Fisher Career Grant recipients—the Balourdet Quartet, violinists Njioma Chinyere Grevious and Julian Rhee, and pianist Clayton Stephenson— performed at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WQXR during an award-announcement event hosted by the radio station’s Elliott Forrest on Wednesday. The performances will be broadcast on April 11 and April 13.

“Former Career Grant recipients include saxophonist Steven Banks; violinist James Ehnes; flutist Demarre McGill; pianists Ursula Oppens and Yuja Wang; cellist Alisa Weilerstein; and the Calidore String Quartet,” according to Lincoln Center’s press release. 

Learn more about Sandbox Percussion at