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Ucross Launches Annual Music Fellowships With Rice University

The exciting new partnership offers fellows from The Shepherd School of Music the gift of time and space at Ucross’s 20,000-acre Wyoming ranch.

Ucross Launches Annual Music Fellowships With Rice University

Ucross has announced the establishment of a new partnership with Rice University's Shepherd School of Music. An annual fellowship will award four weeks of Ucross residency time to accomplished artists and/or scholars in the field of music. This year, the inaugural fellowship will be given to two composers, who will each receive two-week residencies at Ucross: composer and doctoral student, Nicky Sohn, and Assistant Professor of Musicology at Rice University, Danielle Ward-Griffin.

Ucross founder Raymond Plank (1922-2018) was a World War II veteran, business leader, and dedicated philanthropist. He founded Apache Corporation, which under his leadership became one of the world's leading independent oil and gas companies. Recognizing that artists need creative space and time to produce their best work, Plank initiated Ucross Foundation's first artist residencies in 1983. Since then, more than 2,500 artists have received the gift of time and space at Ucross' spectacular 20,000-acre working cattle ranch, located in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains.

These new endowed fellowships in music have been made possible by the vision and generosity of the Raymond Plank Philanthropy Fund, and Deborah and Ed Koehler of Houston.

"The Ucross / Rice fellowships are a lasting celebration of Raymond's legacy, honoring his commitment to Ucross and the importance of connection with nature to inspire artistic creativity and expression," said Ms. Koehler, Executive Director of the Raymond Plank Philanthropy Fund. "My husband and I are excited to establish this link between two institutions we hold dear and with which we have had long-standing commitment and affiliation."

The Ucross / Rice fellowships will support the creative work of graduate students or faculty from the Shepherd School of Music who are selected to receive a Ucross residency.

The new fellowships further enhance Ucross's reputation as one of the nation's preeminent artist residency programs, one that provides a generative experience of the contemporary American West for artists from around the world.

Dean Robert Yekovich of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice stated: "Ucross residencies provide much-needed solitude and an escape from one's day-to-day activities. Artists and scholars thrive in such an environment and often create their best work. The Shepherd School of Music is greatly indebted to the Raymond Plank Philanthropy Fund and Deb and Ed Koehler for making these new fellowships possible."

From ballet to opera to Korean traditional orchestra, the wide-ranging talents of composer and fellowship recipient Nicky Sohn are sought after across the United States, Europe, and Asia. Sohn has enjoyed commissions from the world's preeminent performing arts institutions, including sold-out performances at the Stuttgart Ballet in Germany, The National Orchestra of Korea, and the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra. She was recently commissioned by the Orchestra of St. Luke's, and her music has been featured at renowned music festivals including the Aspen Music Festival, Perlman Music Program, Les Ecoles d'Art Americaines de Fontainebleau, Ars Nova with Unsuk Chin and the Seoul Philharmonic, and Chelsea Music Festival with Ken-David Masur. Sohn holds degrees from The Juilliard School and Mannes College of Music, and she is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the Shepherd School of Music with Anthony Brandt.

Fellowship recipient Danielle Ward-Griffin is an Assistant Professor of Musicology at Rice University. Her work focuses on how the performance and production of opera have been transformed through new media, and she is currently writing a book on opera on television in the 1950s and 1960s. Ward-Griffin has been published in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, the Journal of the Society for American Music, Music & Letters, Cambridge Opera Journal, and Opera Quarterly. She has also contributed chapters to various books on the composer Benjamin Britten. One of her articles, "As Seen on TV: Putting the NBC Opera on Stage," won the 2019 Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson award from the American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers. She holds PhD and master's degrees from Yale University and a Bachelor of Music degree from McGill University.

Commenting on the new Ucross / Rice University fellowships, Sharon Dynak, Ucross President and Executive Director, said: "We're thrilled to welcome these first Rice Fellows and know their experience at Ucross will be transformative. Our partnership with the Shepherd School of Music will further enhance our programs and open the doors to promising composers, musicians, and scholars from the university."

Ucross fosters the creative spirit of deeply Committed Artists and groups by providing uninterrupted time, studio space, and living accommodations while serving as a responsible steward of its 20,000-acre ranch. Residencies are awarded to 100 artists each year. Ten artists are in residence at one time, typically a mix of four visual artists, four writers, and two composers.

Since its establishment in 1981, Ucross has provided residencies to writers, visual artists, and composers, including such distinguished fellows as Annie Proulx, Terry Tempest Williams, Elizabeth Gilbert, Ann Patchett, Ricky Ian Gordon, Bill Morrison, Theaster Gates, Anthony Hernandez, and Tayari Jones. National Book Award winners Susan Choi, Sigrid Nunez, and Sarah M. Broom have been residents, as have Academy Award and Tony winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Emmy Award winner Billy Porter, recent Pulitzer Prize winners Michael R. Jackson and Colson Whitehead, and current United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo.

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