Press Release

February 15, 2017

Lincoln Center Awards for Emerging Artists Celebrate Diverse Talents

Lincoln Center News

Contact: Amanda Angel


[email protected]







Awards program and dinner will be held in the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse

March 1 at 7:00 pm


NEW YORK (February 15, 2017) — Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts announced today its second class of Emerging Artists, recognizing diverse talents, from a visionary filmmaker to world-class musicians to a singer-songwriter currently starring on Broadway. Each recipient was nominated by one of Lincoln Center’s eleven resident organizations, acknowledging his or her extraordinary talent and budding career. The 2017 winners are: Calidore String Quartet (Chamber Music Society); filmmaker Dustin Guy Defa (Film Society of Lincoln Center); soprano Kiera Duffy (Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts); dancer Joseph Gordon (New York City Ballet); violinist and concertmaster Frank Huang (New York Philharmonic); violinist Paul Huang (The Juilliard School); playwright Michael R. Jackson (Lincoln Center Theater); saxophonist Julian Lee (Jazz at Lincoln Center); singer-songwriter-actress Grace McLean (Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts); baritone Yunpeng Wang (The Metropolitan Opera); director, producer, and performer Ben West (The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts); and dancer Andres Zuniga (School of American Ballet).


Two-time Golden Globe winner and Oscar and Tony nominee Sigourney Weaver will host the awards presentation, which will include live and taped performances by the awardees, as well as appearances from Katherine Brown, Danny Burstein, Laura Osnes, and Desmond Richardson, on March 1 at 7:00 pm at the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse. More information is available at


Several of the honorees will be acknowledged with endowed awards. Both Dustin Guy Defa and Ben West will receive Martin E. Segal Awards, which have recognized two artists of exceptional talent early on in their careers each year for more than three decades. The recipients of the Hunt Family Awards, given to nominees from Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, are Kiera Duffy and Grace McLean. The inaugural Herbert Family Dance Award, awarded by the School of American Ballet, will be given to Andres Zuniga. Each of the awardees will receive $7,500 to be used for career advancement and study.


Peter L. Malkin, Esq. and the Hon. William H. Donaldson, co-chairs of the Emeritus Board of Lincoln Center, expressed how these awards strengthen the mission of Lincoln Center.


“Since its inception, Lincoln Center has been a venue for the greatest artists of our day, and to continue that legacy it’s crucial to invest in the artists of tomorrow. The Emerging Artist Awards provide both recognition and funding for the future essential voices of our community, to nurture their talents and support them as they chart their careers,” said Mr. Malkin.


Mr. Donaldson added, “The awardees we honor this year follow in the steps of former honorees, such as the great cellist Alisa Weilerstein, renowned choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, and Oscar-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras. The members of this class have already contributed great works of music, theater, dance, and film to the Lincoln Center campus and beyond, and we are delighted to help them pursue new projects that will undoubtedly challenge, stimulate, and inspire us.”


The Lincoln Center Awards for Emerging Artists continue the legacy of the Martin E. Segal Awards, which were established in 1986 by the Board of Directors of Lincoln Center in honor of the arts leader and former Lincoln Center chairman and his commitment to rising talents. Each year, the Segal Awards are given to two emerging artists, rotated annually among the resident organizations. Over the last 30 years, nearly a quarter of a million dollars has been given to more than 70 remarkable emerging artists associated with Lincoln Center. Past Martin E. Segal Award winners include pianists Jonathan Biss and Shai Wosner; the Brentano, Borromeo, and JACK string quartets; mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung; violinist Augustin Hadelich; director Thomas Kail; dancer Daniel Ulbricht; cellist Alisa Weilerstein; choreographer Christopher Wheeldon; jazz saxophonist Melissa Aldana; composers Jason Robert Brown and Michael John LaChiusa; and conductor Xian Zhang, among many others.


About the 2017 awardees


Calidore String Quartet, Chamber Music Society

Heralded for its informed, polished, and passionate performances, the Calidore String Quartet performs in prestigious venues, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Wigmore Hall, and festivals, including Verbier, Ravinia, and Mostly Mozart. Winner of the 2016 inaugural M-Prize, the largest chamber music prize in the world, the quartet is also a BBC New Generation Artist, member of Chamber Music Society Two, and recipient of the 2016 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship. The quartet received top prizes in the Fischoff, Coleman, Chesapeake, Hamburg, and ARD Munich competitions and serves as visiting guest artists at the University of Michigan and the University of Delaware Schools of Music. Violinists Jeffrey Myers and Ryan Meehan, violist Jeremy Berry, and cellist Estelle Choi formed the Calidore String Quartet in 2010 at the Colburn School Conservatory of Music.


Dustin Guy Defa, Film Society of Lincoln Center, Martin E. Segal Award

Dustin Guy Defa’s feature film Bad Fever was named one of the best films of 2012 by The New Yorker. His short films Person to Person and Family Nightmare premiered at Sundance and won awards at the Berlinale, SXSW, and HotDocs. In 2015, the Film Society of Lincoln Center presented a week-long theatrical run of his short films. His new feature film, Person to Person, world-premieres at the upcoming 2017 Sundance Film Festival.


Kiera Duffy, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Hunt Family Award

American soprano Kiera Duffy is recognized for her gleaming high soprano and insightful musicianship in repertoire that encompasses Mozart, Berg, Ligeti, Bach, Boulez, Handel, and Missy Mazzoli. She has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Bergen Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, American Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, and National Symphony Orchestra and has sung with conductors such as Gustavo Dudamel, Lorin Maazel, Pierre Boulez, James Levine, Michael Tilson Thomas, Roberto Abbado, Alan Gilbert, Kristjan Järvi, Andreas Delfs, and Seiji Ozawa. Following her critically acclaimed portrayal of Bess McNeill in the world premiere of Breaking the Waves in Philadelphia and New York, The New York Times proclaimed, “Kiera Duffy’s star turn was one of the most riveting operatic performances of the year.” 


Joseph Gordon, New York City Ballet

Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Joseph Gordon began his dance training at the age of five at The Phoenix Dance Academy. He enrolled at the School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet (NYCB), in the fall of 2006. In August 2011, Mr. Gordon became an apprentice with NYCB, and in July 2012, he joined the Company as a member of the corps de ballet. Since joining NYCB, he has performed featured roles in ballets by George Balanchine, August Bournonville, Peter Martins, Justin Peck, Jerome Robbins, and Christopher Wheeldon. Additionally, he originated featured roles in Benjamin Millepied’s Neverwhere, Alexei Ratmansky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, and Troy Schumacher’s Common Ground. Mr. Gordon was the 2015–16 Janice Levin Dancer Honoree.


Frank Huang, New York Philharmonic

Frank Huang joined the New York Philharmonic as Concertmaster, The Charles E. Culpeper Chair, in September 2015 and made his solo debut with the orchestra as leader and soloist in Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons in June 2016. He previously served as concertmaster of the Houston Symphony and first violinist of the Ying Quartet. He won the 2003 Walter W. Naumburg Foundation’s Violin Competition and the 2000 Hannover International Violin Competition. Solo engagements have included The Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, and NDR Radio Philharmonic orchestras, and the World Premiere of Donald Martino’s Sonata for Solo Violin at Alice Tully Hall. He has performed at the Marlboro, Ravinia, and Caramoor music festivals and toured with Musicians from Marlboro.


Paul Huang, The Juilliard School

Recipient of the 2015 Avery Fisher Career Grant, violinist Paul Huang is recognized for his distinctive sound and virtuosity. His recently debuted with the Houston, Detroit, Pacific, Alabama, and Bilbao Symphonies; Louisiana and Seoul Philharmonics; the Orchestra of St. Luke's; and the National Symphony of Taiwan. Valery Gergiev has invited him to appear at the White Nights Festival. Last season, he made his Lincoln Center's Great Performers debut, stepping in for Midori with Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony. A graduate of The Juilliard School, Mr. Huang received the Kovner Fellowship and won the 2011 Young Concert Artists International Auditions. He plays the Guarneri del Gesù 1742 “ex-Wieniawski,” on loan through the Stradivari Society and is a member of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Two program.


Michael R. Jackson, Lincoln Center Theater

Michael R. Jackson holds a BFA in playwriting from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ Dramatic Writing Program and an MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from the Tisch School’s Musical Theatre Writing Program. As a songwriter, he has seen his work performed at Merkin Concert Hall, the Barrington Stage Company, Laurie Beechman Theatre, The Triad, Ars Nova, Joe’s Pub, the Metropolitan Room, the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center, and ACT in Seattle. He is currently at work on a new musical called A Strange Loop, for which he is writing book, music, and lyrics, as well as writing book and lyrics for a musical adaptation of the 2006 indie film Teeth, with composer Anna K. Jacobs.


Julian Lee, Jazz at Lincoln Center

Julian Lee, a tenor saxophonist in his ?nal undergraduate year at The Juilliard School, hosts the Late Night Sessions at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. Lee’s versatility as a tenor, alto, and baritone saxophonist, as well as a clarinetist and flutist, has lead him to play in some of the world’s ?nest bands, including the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, The Mingus Big Band, The Christian McBride Big Band, Jon Batiste & Stay Human, Michael Mwenso & The Shakes, and The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band. He played at the Newport Jazz Festival, the Charlie Parker Festival, and performed with Wynton Marsalis at the 2016 Marciac Jazz Festival. For the past two years, he received Juilliard’s Gluck Community Service Fellowship and performs in school workshops across the country.


Grace McLean, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Hunt Family Award

Called “electrifying” by the Huffington Post and “phenomenal” by The New York Times, Grace McLean is a multi-hyphenate actress-singer-writer-teacher on the rise. In addition to performing (Broadway: Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812; Off-Broadway: Brooklynite, Bedbugs!!!, Sleep No More) McLean also makes time for her acclaimed original music with her band Grace McLean & Them Apples. The band performed in both the 2015 and 2016 Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, and in April 2015, they toured Pakistan with the U.S. State Department. McLean’s pop opera about 12th-century mystic Hildegard von Bingen has been developed at CAP21, SPACE on Ryder Farm, the Johnny Mercer Writer’s Colony at Goodspeed, and The Orchard Project, and has been commissioned by LCT3.


Yunpeng Wang, The Metropolitan Opera

Featured on the cover of Opera News as one of “opera’s exciting new voices,” Chinese baritone Yunpeng Wang is quickly gaining international recognition. Mr. Wang’s current season includes performances with Tulsa Opera, Dallas Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera, where he plays Mercutio in a new production of Roméo et Juliette. Recent engagements include Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the Rossini Opera Festival, Guglielmo in Così fan tutte with the Macao Orchestra, Parisina d’Este with the Opera Orchestra of New York, and the MET+Juilliard coproduction of Iphigénie en Aulide. Mr. Wang was awarded second place and audience favorite in Plácido Domingo’s 2012 Operalia competition, and is currently a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.


Ben West, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Martin E. Segal Award

Ben West is a director, producer, performer, and musical theater historian. He is currently working on Show Time! The First 100 Years of the American Musical and 45 Minutes from Coontown, a celebration and history of black musical theater. West’s directing credits include Unsung Carolyn Leigh for Lincoln Center’s American Songbook; Gatsby: The Songs in Concert, with a score by Carolyn Leigh and Lee Pockriss; Make Mine Manhattan by Arnold B. Horwitt and Richard Lewine; and The Fig Leaves Are Falling by Allan Sherman and Albert Hague. In 2009, he founded UnsungMusicalsCo., a nonprofit focused on researching and developing projects that explore the vibrancy of American musical theater. On Broadway, he was assistant director and dramaturg for Old Acquaintance; assistant producer for August: Osage County and The Homecoming; and production assistant for Talk Radio.

Andres Zuniga, School of American Ballet, Herbert Family Dance Award

Andres Zuniga is an advanced student at the School of American Ballet (SAB). Now 18, Zuniga started ballet lessons at age 13 in San José del Cabo, Mexico, with Lourdes Téllez at Danza Téllez. In 2014, he enrolled at the Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia, and in 2015 he placed in the top 12 at the Youth America Grand Prix Finals. Zuniga was invited to SAB’s 2015 Summer Course on a full-merit scholarship and enrolled as a fulltime student that September. He performed the leading role in Peter Martins’s Les Gentilhommes at SAB’s 2016 Workshop Performances. He is currently rehearsing a principal part in Christopher Wheeldon’s Scènes de Ballet, for New York City Ballet’s 2017 winter season.


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Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (LCPA) serves three primary roles: presenter of artistic programming, national leader in arts and education and community relations, and manager of the Lincoln Center campus. A presenter of more than 3,000 free and ticketed events, performances, tours, and educational activities annually, LCPA offers 15 series, festivals, and programs including American Songbook, Avery Fisher Career Grants, Free Thursdays at the David Rubenstein Atrium, Great Performers, Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance, Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Awards, Lincoln Center Festival, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Lincoln Center Vera List Art Project, Midsummer Night Swing, Mostly Mozart Festival, White Light Festival, and the Emmy Award-winning Live From Lincoln Center, which airs nationally on PBS. As manager of the Lincoln Center campus, LCPA provides support and services for the Lincoln Center complex and the 11 resident organizations: The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Film Society of Lincoln Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Juilliard School, Lincoln Center Theater, The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, New York Philharmonic, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, School of American Ballet, and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. In addition, LCPA led a series of major capital projects, now complete, on behalf of the resident organizations across the campus. For more information, visit or


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Sigourney Weaver
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