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Music Professor Zach Layton Receives MacDowell Fellowship

August 15, 2023

The sole criterion for being awarded a fellowship from MacDowell? Artistic excellence. Dr. Zachary Layton, assistant professor of music production, received the Norton Stevens Fellowship from MacDowell, an organization whose mission is “to nurture the arts by offering talented individuals an inspiring residential environment in which to produce enduring works of the creative imagination.”

“It’s an honor to be in the company of internationally recognized composers who have been in residence at the MacDowell fellowship in New Hampshire (the oldest artist retreat center in America),” said Layton.  The Norton Stevens fellowship was created to honor Aaron Copland, an American composer. “It’s very rewarding to be selected to receive such an honor. It was humbling but also empowering to know that I was walking the same grounds and working in the same cabins as people like James Baldwin, Thornton Wilder, Leonard Bernstein, Audre Lorde, Spaulding Grey, Virgil Thompson, Meredith Monk and so many more…” Layton added.

During his time at MacDowell in the summer of 2022, Layton composed an opera on paper at the piano. Now, elements of that work are on public view as an opera “installation” as part of The Arts and Technology Program on Governors Island. The piece was initiated by two other MacDowell fellows Layton met during his time there. “The fact that this kind of fruitful collaboration that can emerge from a chance meeting at an arts residency is what drives me as a composer…the possibility to create new work, community, and friendship.”

“We are fortunate to have incredible artists and scholars working closely with the students of Ramapo College, and their personal creative and scholarly work enhances the student experience through exposure and mentorship and brings attention to the wonderful work that the faculty are doing. Having Zach receive this opportunity will not only nurture his artistic growth, but will inevitably influence his teaching, and by extension impact the students of the Music Program,” said School of Contemporary Arts Dean Ken Goldstein. To learn more about Dr. Layton and the music program at Ramapo College, visit