Fellows Friday: Q&A with Greg Osby

Greg Osby, 2012 Pew Fellow. Photo by Colin Lenton.

As part of our “Fellows Friday” web feature, we focus on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges. This week, we speak to 2012 Pew Fellow Greg Osby, an award-winning contemporary jazz musician and the recipient of such honors as a Doris Duke Composition Fellowship and the Chamber Music America Composers Award. In May 2014, National Public Radio included Osby in its list, “Take 75: Great Solos in Blue Note Records History.” He recently performed with Center grantee PRISM Quartet as part of a concert and recording series called Music for Saxophones: Heritage/Evolution.

How does residing in this region contribute to your artistic practice?

I’m able to pursue my work and realize concepts without the hindrance of excessive congestion or sensory overload. I can work at my own pace and I also have easy access to New York without having to live there exclusively.

If you could live with only one piece of art, what would it be?

I would live with a blank canvas. Nothing is more powerful to me than the idea of wonder and possibility, which a blank canvas represents. Once a work has been established and fixed, vulnerability sets in.

What do you miss most from your childhood?

I miss the idea of true innocence, when one could embark on a journey without a clear destination—without fear or concern. I also miss a time when there was more tolerance and cooperation between the various art fields. There was far more risk taking, experimentation, and fearless attempts to create new and innovative works. I feel that artists, as a whole, are more cautious these days in their efforts, so as to not offend.

What could you imagine doing if you didn’t do what you do?

Initially, I aspired to be an architect. Many of those leanings have found their way into my work.


Dr. R. Larry Todd comments on the significance that the multiple interpretations of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion engender for different generations.

Grants & Grantees

Bowerbird is a presenting organization that showcases over 70 events annually, with a focus on raising awareness of “provocative and divergent musical traditions.”

Tempesta di Mare continues their two-season exploration of rarely-performed French orchestral music written for the theater.

PRISM Quartet’s Color Theory features a series of performances, lectures, and workshops that investigate the concept of “musical color,” including a Composers Forum.

Grants & Grantees

One of three contemporary music ensembles in the United States that can scale up to a full chamber orchestra, Orchestra 2001 has presented over 80 world premieres.

Bailey’s interpretation of Verdi’s opera, Macbeth, features a South African cast and examines post-colonial central Africa.

Composer Vijay Iyer and librettist Mike Ladd on how improvisation functions within their creative process.

Pew Fellow and poet Brian Teare (2015) has been awarded a residency through the Center’s ongoing partnership with MacDowell Colony.

Grants & Grantees

Andrew Simonet is a dance artist, a founder of Artists U and Headlong Dance Theater, and a 2006 Pew Fellow.

Grants & Grantees

This interactive, site-specific program invited audiences to explore a Northeast Philadelphia recycling facility from the artist’s perspective, with a series of films, performances, and discussions focused on increasing public awareness of the waste stream and the role of art in shaping social and environmental consciousness.

The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia opened to the public in 1954 and is located in the former home of brothers Philip and Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach, international dealers in rare books, manuscripts, and fine and decorative arts.

Grants & Grantees

Local and international artists came together for a series of concerts and educational programs.