Asian American Arts Alliance

Van Lier 2017 Fellowships

2017 Van Lier Fellowships in
Music Composition & Music Performance


2017 Van Lier Fellow in Music Composition

2017 Van Lier Fellow in Music Performance



July 6, 2017

Soriya K. Chum, Manager of Public Programs
212.941.9280, ext. 3

Asian American Arts Alliance Names
Second Year 2017 Van Lier Fellows

—$12,000 cash grants support two Asian American
early-career music professionals—

(NEW YORK)—The Asian American Arts Alliance has administered its second cycle of the Van Lier Fellowships in the categories of Music Performance and Music Composition. Pawan Benjamin is the 2017 Music Performance Fellow, and Rob Rusli is the 2017 Music Composition Fellow.

Each Van Lier Fellow will receive a $12,000 cash grant as well as a package of professional development opportunities that include artistic mentorship, leadership coaching, and technical assistance resources. The fellowships are supported by a grant from the Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund at the New York Community Trust.

The review committee, composed of respected leaders in the field of music, included jazz guitarist and record producer Rez Abbasi; singer and composer Kiran Ahluwalia; Lecturer in Music at Columbia University, Deborah Bradley-Kramer; opera creator and librettist Cerise Jacobs; alto saxophonist and composer Aakash Mittal; sound designer and composer Fitz Patton; Associate Professor of the Practice of Music at Purchase College, Jenny Undercofler; Japanese taiko drummer a shinobue flautist Kaoru Watanabe; and 2017 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Music, Du Yun.

“All of us at the Alliance could not be happier to welcome these two outstanding music professionals as this year’s Van Lier Fellows,” said Andrea Louie, executive director of the Asian American Arts Alliance. “Sally and Edward Van Lier were proud supporters of young talent, and Pawan and Rob will join an incredible roster of Van Lier fellows across the city whose careers were advanced over the past 26 years with the support of this eminent fellowship. The Alliance is proud to administer this program on behalf of the New York Community Trust.”

The Sally and Edward Van Lier Fund at The New York Community Trust has been underwriting similar fellowships since 1991 at such nonprofit arts organizations as New Dramatists, Second Stage Theatre, and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. The Trust carries out the Van Liers’ legacy of arts appreciation by supporting arts groups and training programs. To read more about the fund’s history, please visit:

2017 Van Lier Music Performance Fellow Pawan Benjamin is a saxophonist, flautist, and composer. He received his musical training at a young age in Madison, Wisconsin, receiving guidance and mentorship from jazz luminaries such as bassist, Richard Davis, Saxophonist Hanah Jon Taylor, and AACM founder Roscoe Mitchell. In 2006 he left to attend the Manhattan School of Music. Since then, he has performed and recorded with musicians from around the globe, across genres from Jazz, Hip Hop, Nepali Folk, Indian Classical Music and beyond. Pawan has collaborated with artists such as Roscoe Mitchell, Ranjit Barot, Taufiq Qureshi, Marc Cary, Rez Abbasi, Bill T. Jones and many others. Performance credits stretch across the globe at venues including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC), the Rose Theater, Celebrate Brooklyn, the National Center of Performing Arts in Mumbai, India, the Bimhuis in Amsterdam, and countless other venues in between.

2017 Van Lier Music Composition Fellow Rob Rusli is an artist, film composer and rap music maker. He has written music for many films, including the feature film Good Game, which won Best Original Score at the 2015 IndieCapitol Film Festival, as well as two new feature films; Corridor Four, being released in 2017, and Moko Jumbie, which recently premiered at Los Angeles Film Festival 2017. He collaborated with artist Casey Tang on a Sinofuturist soundscape for his Untitled (Rivers)video installation at the Queens Museum and frequently collaborates with poet and drag performer Wo Chan. He composed music and sound design for Wo Chan's WHITE FLAG/WHITE FACE, and together they created I <3 U ALWAYS 4EVER, a performance art piece combining pop music, drag, and an emotional soundscape threading interviews with people of color about loss and separation together with music that premiered at BAM Next Wave Festival. He has worked on various experimental rap projects that have been featured on Tinymixtapes, Okayplayer, BBC6, Earmilk, Twitch, and Said the Gramophone. Through his most recent rap project, OHYUNG, he's released an EP titled Yellow Jesus, and performed at SOB's, Trans-Pecos, as well as collaborated with rapper Kool AD on his 2016 mixtape PEYOTE KARAOKE. Film music website:

Next year, the Asian American Arts Alliance will administer its last of a three-part cycle of Fellowships recognizing Asian American early-career artists, age 30 or under, who show outstanding promise in their fields. The 2018 Van Lier Fellowships will be dedicated to visual artists and curators.


Asian American Arts Alliance is dedicated to strengthening Asian American arts and cultural groups through resource sharing, promotion, and community building. Since 1983, the Alliance has sought to unify, promote and represent the artistic and cultural producers of one of New York City's fastest growing ethnic populations. The organization is a diverse alliance of artists, organizations, and arts supporters who believe that working together as a panethnic, multidisciplinary community is essential to nurturing the development of artists and arts organizations and to providing meaningful and innovative ways for civic engagement in society.


Program Guidelines and Application

Requests for proposals for the 2017 Van Lier Fellowship in Music Composition and Music Performance closed on Monday, April 24, 2017. Please look for the 2018 RFP in early March 2018.


The Asian American Arts Alliance is pleased to administer, with support from the New York Community Trust, the 2017 Van Lier Fellowships. This year, in its second iteration of a three-part cycle of fellowships, the Alliance will be recognizing music artists in the categories of Music Performance and Music Composition


The Alliance will grant eight-month fellowships to one early-career Asian American musician and one early-career Asian American composer, age 30 or younger, whose work shows outstanding promise, who may benefit from further professional artistic development, and who is of limited financial means.


The Fellowship recipients will each receive an unrestricted cash stipend of $12,000 and an eight-month fellowship tailored to respond to the unique needs of each Fellow. The fellowship includes artistic mentorship with an established mid-career music professional, career coaching, and a range of technical support.

The Alliance’s mission is to strengthen Asian American arts and cultural groups through resource sharing, promotion, and community building. In line with these efforts, it is the aim of the Alliance’s Van Lier Fellowships to develop early-career individual Asian American artists living in New York City. 


Created by the will of Sally Van Lier, the Trust carries out Edward and Sally Van Liers’ legacy of arts appreciation by supporting arts groups and training programs to provide education, training, or other support.

The Alliance will be administering an open application process for this year's fellowships.


Asian American Arts Alliance Van Lier Fellowships will include:

*Unrestricted cash grant of $12,000 per Fellow during the fellowship cycle

*Eight-month fellowship (July 2017 - February 2018) with the Alliance, which will include a career/leadership coaching series, artistic mentorship with a mid-career music professional, and professional technical resources

*Fellows will have their individual profiles featured on the Alliance website.


The applicant MUST:

  • Be 30 years of age or younger (born June 15, 1987 or later)
  • Not be currently enrolled as a full-time or part-time student in a degree-granting program  between June 30th, 2017 and February 2018.
  • Be a resident of New York City (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, or Staten Island)
  • Be a U.S. citizen 
  • Be available to participate in the fellowship orientation and career coaching sessions in summer 2017 (exact dates TBD)


*Previous or current recipients of any Van Lier fellowships

*Undergraduate or graduate students who are currently enrolled in any degree program or who plan to matriculate in any degree program from the year 2017 through 2018

*Alliance board members and staff



  • Artistic Merit: Clarity, imaginativeness, and uniqueness based upon body of work and work samples submitted. Demonstrated ability to artistically innovate within the genre of music (examples of this could include original compositions, arrangements, diverse repertoire, new techniques, etc.)
  • Community Impact: Articulation of interest or hopes to make a significant impact on the Asian American arts community. This can be within the community, within the larger field of music, or society-at-large. Direct narrative addressing this criteria is recommended.
  • Potential for Growth: Extent to which the Fellowship will have a positive impact on the applicant’s goals and career.
  • Financial Need: Demonstrated need for financial support based upon applicant’s explanation of annual income and expenses. Finalists may be asked to provide further financial documentation.


Current Alliance staff, board members, and review panelists are not eligible. Immediate family of board members and review panelists are not eligible. 


Mid-February 2017                          Public announcement of open call

April 17, 2017                                   Submissions close by 11:59pm EST

May 2017                                          Artistic review period

Mid-June 2017                                 Winners announced



Applications must be submitted electronically by 11:59pm EST on Monday, April 17, 2017.


VAN LIER INFO SESSION: Wednesday, April 5th from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
RSVP for the session here:

Info Session Handout: VLInfo%20Session%20Handout2017%20.pdf



Who were the Van Liers?

Throughout their lives, Sally Van Lier and her husband Edward were avid visitors to the City’s museums, concerts, and plays, and introduced many young people to the arts.  Sally was a theatrical performer in the New York Theater in the 1920s and appeared in the original production of Showboat. To learn more, visit here.


How do you define “outstanding promise”?

The ideal applicant is an early-career music artist who shows both extraordinary clarity of artistic voice and innovation in their practice and will realize greater achievement with additional professional development support.


Do I have to be a member of the Asian American Arts Alliance in order to apply?

No, you do not have to be an Alliance member in order to apply.


What does a good work sample look like?

Good work samples are of high quality (audio and video), and demonstrate clearly how the applicant meets the criteria outlined for each award.


Can I apply as a singer in the performance category?

Instrumental and vocal performance are both acceptable (as well as hybrid performers, etc.).


I perform in an ensemble. Can I apply with my ensemble?

You may only apply as an individual. The fellowship is not given to groups. However, performance examples with others (concertos, chamber music, combos, collaborations, mixed-genres, etc.) will be acceptable as examples of accomplishment in music performance.


If I am both a composer and a performer, in which category can I apply in? Should I apply for both?

You may only apply to one category even if you are eligible to apply for both. You will be judged based upon the criteria outlined in the category for which you apply.

If you both compose and perform, wouldn’t that be considered breadth of work?

By breadth of work, we mean versatility within the given category.

Can composers submit an arrangement of a music piece in the public domain?

Composers can use a known tune as a basis for a large-scale composition, but not just present an "arrangement" of a previously written piece. 

How are the Van Lier Music Fellows selected?

The Fellows will be selected through an open call and jury process. Submitted applications will be reviewed by a jury composed of industry professionals. Current board and staff members of the Alliance will not participate in the review process.


When will the 2017 Van Lier Fellows be announced?

The Fellows will be announced in June 2017.


What if I have more questions?

You are welcome to inquire further by contacting Interim Director of Public Programs Ariel Estrada at


The Van Lier Fellowships are made possible through a grant from the Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund of the New York Community Trust.

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