Questlove Launches Fully Funded PhD Scholarship Program for Philly Creatives

Questlove
Image: Jeff Kravitz / Getty Images

Academy and Grammy-Award winner Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson has partnered with the University of the Arts in Philadelphia to establish scholarships for a brand new Ph.D. program, the Philadelphia Tribune reports.

The Balvenie Fellowship offers recipients “a fully funded three-year program in the Ph.D. program of Creativity that begins in June of 2022.”  Outside of an intensive two-week summer immersion and long-weekend visits, all course work will be completed remotely. James Brandon Lewis, an acclaimed saxophonist, composer, and writer,  is the first-ever recipient of this fellowship. He’s based in Brooklyn, NY. 

“We’re honored to be granting this scholarship to James Brandon Lewis, who is already a well-established and incredible saxophonist,” Questlove says. “I’m looking forward to seeing what he achieves while honing his craft in my hometown of Philadelphia, and the impact he will have on the music community.”

The Balvenie, a single malt scotch whisky distillery, partnered with Questlove to create “Quest For Craft,” a long-term mission to showcase the connection between craft and creativity, which is how the scholarship was born.

Dr. Jonathan Fineberg, the program director of the Ph.D. in Creativity program at the University of the Arts said he had no idea that purchasing a home from Questlove’s Manager, Shawn Gee, would be the impetus for launching The Balvenie Fellowship in partnership with The Roots drummer.

“I created this Ph.D. program because we’re still using a five-hundred-year-old model,” Fineberg said. “It hasn’t really changed. It’s great for people who want to be very focused in a narrow kind of way and they know what the field is.”

Fineberg explained to Gee how he enjoyed Questlove’s book “Creative Quest” and assigned it to his students.

“‘Creative Quest’ is one of the most interesting books about creativity that I’ve ever read,” Fineberg added.  “He’s so honest and smart about what he is doing. I thought my students really needed to read this.”

According to the report, the program will center on exploring the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences, and students in the program are tasked with researching how creativity is cultivated in each field. 

What makes this Ph.D. program so unique is that it’s a low-residency, dissertation-only course of study to be completed in three years. Most Ph.D. programs can take six or seven years to complete.

Greg Levine, the Vice President of Marketing for The Balvenie USA expressed his excitement about the innovative program.

“As the union between The Balvenie and Questlove is centered around the creative process and the many forms it takes, we’re always looking to uplift others who are refining their own craft in new and exciting ways, which makes James Brandon Lewis the perfect candidate for the Ph.D. program.”

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