Grant Writing Advice and Tips: The Grant Helpers Blog

School Music Program Grant Opportunities

Posted by Paulette Pierre on Wed, Nov 4, 2015 @ 10:11 AM

It is an unfortunate fact that, with school districts tightening their belts, they tend to eliminate the programs they deem may have the least impact. They will focus on those programs that aid the students in the rudimentary courses—math, science and English—while cutting back on those programs that give the students a well-rounded education. Music programs can be one of those on the “cut back” list.

Happily, this tide is turning. According to a survey conducted in early 2015 by the NAMM Foundation (The National Association of Music Merchants), “77 percent of teachers and 64 percent of parents agree that music and arts education are either ‘extremely important’ or ‘very important.’” In addition, “63 percent of teachers and 57 percent of parents believe music education should be a required subject in middle school.” Private funders seem to agree. Here are a few foundations that offer grants for school music programs across the country.

Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation

Founded in 1996 by the creative talent behind the movie of the same name, this is one foundation truly championing the underserved populations. While they will accept applications from private schools, preference is given to music programs serving low-income public school students that participate in the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch program. The school must already have an established music program, so funding for start-up programs is not given. This grant program is different than most in that it funds only musical instruments that have been donated new or refurbished. The 2016-2017 grant cycle just closed (November 3, 2015), but it's an annual cycle, so you can use the year to prepare for the Fall 2016 submission. View grant requirements on the foundation’s website for more details.

Tip: The foundation does not offer cash grants, so be specific as to what musical instruments your program needs and why.

Music Empowers Foundation

Started in 2010, The Music Empowers Foundation “provides funding to nonprofits that provide music instruction to children in communities where it does not exist or is underdeveloped.” This means nonprofit organizations, universities, and other foundations working to facilitate music programs in underserved communities and schools. The foundation’s website does not list specific past grantees or a range of funding offered, but does highlight some recipients. One grantee featured on their website was an arts school in New York that received a $20,000 grant. There is no specific grant cycle announced, so the applications may be funded on a rolling basis. Applicants are encouraged to email the foundation directly to apply.

Tip: Foundations, such as this one, appreciate smart collaborations and partnerships. If your organization can partner with other community groups, this will make your application much more competitive.

The Mockingbird Foundation

Begun in 1996 by fans of a rock band, The Mockingbird Foundation is 100% volunteer-run (rare in the grant making world) and funded through donations online. This business model is intended to direct more of the dollars raised go towards deserving nonprofit organizations. The foundation has three funding priority areas, two of which are directly related to music programs focused on underserved communities. According to the foundation’s website, “Mockingbird is particularly interested in projects that encourage and foster creative expression in any musical form” and “encourages applications associated with diverse or unusual musical styles, genres, forms, and philosophies.” Grant requests range from as little as $100 up to a maximum of $5,000. Applicants must first submit a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) through the foundation’s online form. The Letters of Inquiry are accepted on a rolling basis from January through August 1 of each year. If chosen, applicants are invited to submit a full proposal.

Tip: While the range of grants may be lower than other foundations funding similar programs, sometimes even a small grant can be an important boost for an existing, well-run program. Don’t overlook the benefits of smaller grants.


A Grant Helper can review and advise on an initial letter of intent, to help you get past the first gate in funding. Contact us for assistance for all of your grant needs.


Photo Credit: Eaglebrook School

Topics: music grants, grants for new music instruments, school resources, grants for music education, grant opportunity, grants, school grant