Christ Church alumnus Eugene Birman awarded 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship

Eugene BirmanComposer and Christ Church Old Member Eugene Alexander Birman, who received his D.Phil in Music from the University of Oxford in 2015, has been named a recipient of one of the world’s most prestigious academic prizes, the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, for 2018.

Created in 1925, the Guggenheim Fellowships are awarded to those who have made impressive accomplishments in their respective fields and exhibit exceptional promise for the future. The foundation received nearly 3,000 applications from the United States and Canada. Birman, who now teaches in the Department of Music at Hong Kong Baptist University and maintains an active public career as a composer across the world, is among the youngest in the Fellowship’s history.

Birman’s work has been performed on four continents and by many of the world’s leading orchestras, ensembles, and soloists, counting among them such names as the London Philharmonic, the violin virtuoso Maxim Vengerov, and the BBC Singers. His highly public career in music, with appearances on CNN, BBC World TV, Radio France, and others, is characterized by a fearless focus on socially relevant large-scale compositions covering the financial crisis, the environment, and more. His 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship was awarded to focus on a new commission for a leading British vocal ensemble on the topic of fake news and Russian foreign policy, in partnership with librettist Scott Diel.

“I’m honored not only by the faith placed in me by the Guggenheim Foundation to create what I consider a breakthrough piece in my career, but also by the support I received from many at the House who believed in what I was doing, in particular by someone I am very fortunate to call a dear friend - Jonathan Stone,” Birman said. “With a controversial project like this, I feel empowered in many ways to continue down this path of creating music that challenges, compels discussion, and seeks real answers through this universal language. It is a direction I would not have been able to take had I not come through the University.”

While studying at Oxford, Birman received scholarships from both the Stone-Mallabar Foundation and the American Friends of Christ Church. A Fulbright scholar, Birman also holds degrees from Columbia University, the Juilliard School, and the Accademia Musicale Chigiana. 


Photo by Kaupo Kikkas