Columbia University in the City of New York

Jazz Artist-in-Residence

Photo courtesy Miguel Zenón

At the intersection of music and the mind

Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute is committed to creating a dynamic and exciting environment for the exploration of the mind and brain. Advances in a field as wide as brain science necessitate an approach that transcends disciplines and boundaries. To foster a connection between music and sciences, Columbia's Zuckerman Institute established the Jazz Artist-in-Residence program in 2019. This program sponsors musical artists for a period of engagement, inspiration and discovery at the Institute. The inaugural Jazz Artist-in-Residence, pianist and composer Helen Sung, connected with the scientific and local communities, and debuted original compositions inspired by the brain.

The 2020 Jazz Artist-in-Residence at Columbia's Zuckerman Institute is saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón.


About Miguel Zenón

Multiple Grammy Nominee and Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow Miguel Zenón represents a select group of musicians who have masterfully balanced and blended the often contradictory poles of innovation and tradition. Widely considered as one of the most groundbreaking and influential saxophonists of his generation, he has also developed a unique voice as a composer and as a conceptualist, concentrating his efforts on perfecting a fine mix between Latin American Folkloric Music and Jazz.

Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Zenón has released twelve recordings as a leader, including the Grammy Nominated Típico (2017), Yo Soy La Tradición (2018) and Sonero: The Music of Ismael Rivera (2019). As a sideman he has worked with jazz luminaries such as The SFJAZZ Collective, Charlie Haden, Fred Hersch, Kenny Werner, David Sánchez, Danilo Perez, The Village Vanguard Orchestra, Guillermo Klein & Los Guachos, The Jeff Ballard Trio, Antonio Sanchez, David Gilmore, Paoli Mejias, Brian Lynch, Jason Lindner, Miles Okazaki, Ray Barreto, Andy Montañez, Jerry Gonzalez & The Fort Apache Band, The Mingus Big Band, Bobby Hutcherson and Steve Coleman.

Zenón has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe and The Chicago Tribune. In addition, he topped both the Jazz Artist of the Year and Alto Saxophonist categories on the 2014 Jazz Times Critics Poll and was selected as the Alto Saxophonist of the Year by the Jazz Journalist Association in 2015, 2018 and 2019.

As a composer he has been commissioned by SFJAZZ, NYO Jazz, The New York State Council for the Arts, Chamber Music America, Logan Center for The Arts, The Hyde Park Jazz Festival, The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, MIT, Jazz Reach, Peak Performances, PRISM Quartet and many of his peers. Zenón has given hundreds of lectures and master classes at institutions all over the world, and is a permanent faculty member at New England Conservatory of Music. In 2011 he founded Caravana Cultural, a program which presents free-of-charge Jazz concerts in rural areas of Puerto Rico. In April 2008 Zenón received a fellowship from the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Later that year he was one of 25 distinguished individuals chosen to receive the coveted MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the “Genius Grant”. Find out more at


Miguel Zenón's residency is hosted by Michael Shadlen, MD, PhD, professor of neuroscience and principal investigator at Columbia's Zuckerman Institute, with support from Chris Washburne, PhD, associate professor of music at Columbia University. If you would like to meet with Zenón during his residency, please contact [email protected].

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The Senses November 18, 2019

Inside the Jazz Lab with Helen Sung, Jazz Artist-in-Residence

Award-winning pianist completes a year-long residency at Columbia's Zuckerman Institute with a debut of original compositions inspired by brain science.

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Videos featuring Jazz Artists-in-Residence

Inside the Jab Lab at Columbia's Zuckerman Institute

As the first jazz artist-in-residence at Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute, Helen Sung spent months connecting with researchers about topics ranging from learning and memory to taste and smell. This video takes a look at how the experience inspired her, and how she inspired our scientific community: from hosting listening parties to investigate how people hear jazz, to playing for people with dementia and their caregivers.