The University of Chicago will award the 2017 Jesse L. Rosenberger Medal to Steve Coleman, a composer, saxophonist, educator and native of the city’s South Side.
Coleman, who will receive the award at Convocation on June 10, is an artist known for his original, challenging compositions that draw inspiration not only from musical traditions around the globe, but from nature and scientific concepts. He has spent several decades conducting lengthy interviews with older jazz musicians in order to develop a deeper understanding of race relations and musical history and forms, among other topics.
Coleman is a leader in education and community building, providing instruction and opportunities for musicians to participate in workshops and collaborations across the country. He is founder of the M-Base Concepts, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to using music as a tool to aid in the expansion of consciousness.
Over the last two years, Coleman and M-Base Concepts, Inc. have partnered with UChicago’s Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts and Arts + Public Life, along with the Rebuild Foundation, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and the Jazz Institute of Chicago to develop multi-week residencies focused on the importance of musical mentorship. His ensemble, Steve Coleman and Five Elements, focused on workshops, outreach on Chicago’s South Side and performances—the majority of which were free. They also led workshops with young musicians in the Chicago Public Schools and partnered with Free Write Arts and Literacy to visit a juvenile detention center, where the band talked about their lives and gave youth the opportunity to play various instruments.
Coleman has received a Doris Duke Impact Award and a Doris Duke Artist Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship.
Coleman is the 53rd recipient of the Rosenberger Medal, established in 1917 by Jesse L. and Susan Colver Rosenberger in recognition of achievement through research, in authorship, in invention, for discovery, for unusual public service or for anything “deemed of great benefit to humanity.”
Members of the UChicago faculty nominate candidates for the Rosenberger Medal. The faculty Committee on Awards and Prizes then evaluates the nominations, which are voted upon by the Council of the University Senate.
Rosenberger Medalists are invited to give a public lecture or workshop during the following academic year.