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The Asian American Arts Alliance Announces Lesley Mok As the Recipient of the 2021 Van Lier Fellowship for Music Performance & Composition

The fellowship includes a $6,000 unrestricted cash award and eight months of professional development training.

The Asian American Arts Alliance Announces Lesley Mok As the Recipient of the 2021 Van Lier Fellowship for Music Performance & Composition

The Asian American Arts Alliance has announced Lesley Mok as the recipient of its 2021 Van Lier Fellowship.

The fellowship includes a $6,000 unrestricted cash award and eight months of professional development training and career support to foster the next milestone of Mok's artistic career.

This fellowship is made possible with support from the Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund through the New York Community Trust. Created by the will of Sally Van Lier, the Trust carries out Edward and Sally Van Lier's legacy of arts appreciation by supporting arts groups and training programs to provide education, training, or other support.

The 2021 Van Lier review panel was composed of the following respected leaders in the field of music: Pawan Benjamin, Saxophonist, Bansuri flute player, and 2017 Van Lier Fellow; Rafiq Bhatia, Musician, Guitarist, and Band Member of Son Lux; Susie Ibarra, Composer, Percussionist, and Sound Artist; Elena Park, Founder and CEO of Lumahai Productions, LLC; and Rio Sakairi, Artistic Director of The Jazz Gallery.

Reflecting on Lesley's application, panelist Elena Park said, "In a highly competitive field of artists, Lesley Mok stood out for her expansive curiosity, rigor in artistic practice, and embrace of different practices -- not only making provocative and authentic connections, but also playing with and deepening our understanding of form and expression. I'm glad that Unbound Feet, featuring a cast of aerialists and improvising musicians as well as rich archival material, will be supported by her Van Lier fellowship, as it seems emblematic of Lesley's searching, powerful, and singular work."

"On behalf of the board and staff at A4, I am thrilled to present this fellowship to such an outstanding and promising talent," said Lisa Gold, A4's Executive Director. "We are honored to administer the Van Lier Fellowship on behalf of the New York Community Trust and are incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to recognize such a gifted Asian American artist. Leslie is recognized by her peers as a generous leader and a consummate musician and improviser. Her articulation of dissonance as a way to embrace complexity is a perfect metaphor for these times, as is her music."

Lesley Mok is a drummer, composer, and improviser based in Brooklyn, NY. Interested in the ways social conditions shape our beings, Lesley's work focuses on transposing, augmenting, and overacting humanness to explore ideas about normalcy, alienness, and privilege. She explores this by writing in a way that subverts traditional instrumental roles, often utilizing extreme ranges and unconventional timbres, while creating a context that allows for simultaneously different musical perspectives. By maintaining an agile and improvisatory approach, Lesley creates fantastical and evocative sound worlds through the use of dissonance.

Collaborating with artists such as Jen Shyu, Cory Smythe, and Tomeka Reid, Lesley has honed a unique voice as a drummer and percussionist by employing a dynamic range of timbres and orchestrations. She is deeply inspired by the Cuban rumba tradition, often playing in sparse counterpoint to others in an ensemble and choosing to highlight choice moments in the music.

Lesley's work has been recognized by many performing arts ensembles and organizations. She is the winner of the 2021 ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Composer Award and performs her work in her nine-piece improvising chamber ensemble, The Living Collection. She is an alumnus of Mutual Mentorship for Musicians, the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, and the Banff Program for Jazz & Creative Music.

Lesley holds a BA and MA in Contemporary Performance from Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA.


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