Jazz Great Max Roach Gets ‘Genius Grant’ of $372,000 From MacArthur Foundation


Max Roach, the jazz Hall-of-Famer who will be scoring an as-yet-unannounced work at the San Diego Repertory Theatre next summer, just received a MacArthur grant for $372,000.

The award, which has been nicknamed “the genius grant,” was created by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation eight years ago to give talented people the financial freedom to develop their potential in any way they wish.

Roach, 63, first achieved fame as a drummer working with jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker in the 1940s.


But he is best known for his ongoing work in reinventing and fusing the language of jazz to the changing musical scene, working with dancers and rappers and composing large-scale choral works with strong anti-racist messages, such as “Freedom Now Suite,” “It’s Time” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Last season Roach composed a jazz score for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the San Diego Rep. It was sung by the actors, who improvised during rehearsal, in jazz style, while Roach refined his composition at the piano.

Roach’s upcoming work, which will premiere at the Rep, was financed by a Meet the Composer Series/Readers Digest Commissioning Program, which gave him $22,000 to work on the score.