BMI Foundation: Grants for College Performing Arts


OVERVIEW: The BMI Foundation works to encourage the "creation, performance and study of music" through various awards, scholarships, internships, grants, and commissions. Awards are given to individuals and non-profit music organizations around the country in support of everything from classical music groups, to "musical theatre programs for inner-city youngsters, to programs designed to preserve and continue such indigenous American music as jazz and blues." Higher ed giving falls squarely in that category.

IP TAKE: Most of BMI's awards are relatively modest, but if you’re a budding student musician looking for financial support to realize your latest project, this is one funder you don’t want to miss.

PROFILE: Most all of the BMI Foundation's funding comes from "BMI affiliated songwriters, composers and publishers, BMI employees, and members of the public with a special interest in music." They say that many of their donors give to the Foundation "in the spirit of giving back to the field of music, which they feel has been generous to them."

The foundation runs a range of different award programs, which are either open applications or by invitation only, as well as two commissions to identify and nurture new and rising talent. The awards are classified by type below.

Open Application Awards

BMI Future Jazz Master Scholarships: This $5,000 scholarship is awarded annually to a rising jazz star pursuing an advanced academic degree in one of several possible jazz-focused studies.

BMI Student Composer Awards: These prizes range from $500 to $5,000 each for classical music composers age 28 or younger, to help aid in their ongoing musical education. Students can be studying either “in an educational institution or privately.”

John Lennon Scholarships: Scholarship prizes totaling $20,000 are awarded for “the best original songs submitted” by 17-24-year-old U.S. college students and/or alumni.

Nashville Songwriting Scholarship: a $5,000 award “open to student songwriters of country music and related genres.” The award is given to the writer of the best song submitted.

peermusic Latin Scholarship - These are $5,000 scholarships “for the best original song or instrumental composition in any Latin genre” by a songwriter or composer between 17 and 24 currently enrolled “at colleges and universities located in the United States or Puerto Rico.”

Woody Guthrie Fellowship Program - These fellowships are awards up to $5,000 to support scholarly work on a "research topic or theme directly related to Guthrie’s life, work, or contribution to American music and world culture,” leading to “an original scholarly publication or product” and involving “a suggested minimum of two weeks of research at the Woody Guthrie Archives.”

Invitation Only Awards

David N. Baker Jazz Composition Scholarship This $2,500 award “is presented annually to a young composer enrolled full-time in a Jazz Studies degree or diploma program at the Indiana University (IU) Jacobs School of Music.” The award will go to “a student demonstrating excellence in jazz composition.”

Evelyn Buckstein Scholarship - Two of these are given out each year to students who are working to become “professional songwriters, composers, performers, or music teachers,” and provides “full tuition to attend the City College of New York.” Note that the most recent award listed on the foundation’s website is from 2011, so its current status is unclear.

General Grants - These are given out in order to further the "creation, performance and study of contemporary music." A subset of a general grant may include a Jeffrey Cotton Award, under “which presenting organizations may apply...defray the cost of rehearsing and presenting in concert the second performance of a chamber or orchestral work by an American composer."

Lionel Newman Conducting Scholarship: This award “gives young conductors the opportunity to work for a three-year period with the Los Angeles Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra.” Eligibility criteria are not listed, so contact the foundation for more information..

Theodora Zavin Scholarship: This scholarship is “presented annually to a graduating senior musician at LaGuardia High School of Music and Art & Performing Arts in New York City” in memory of BMI’s founding president.


Boudleaux Bryant Commissions: This program “funds the creation of new chamber works by former winners of the BMI Student Composer Awards.” As per the foundation, “For each commission, the BMI Foundation chooses a prominent contemporary music performer or organization and they in turn select a former BMI Student Composer Award-winning composer to write the commissioned work.”

Carlos Surinach Commissions - This program also “funds the creation of new works by former winners of the BMI Student Composer Awards.” It “identifies orchestras, chamber music groups and classical soloists with a strong record of performing contemporary music.” In each instance, “the selected performer or organization chooses a former BMI Student Composer Award-winning composer and premieres the commissioned work.”

An additional set of awards is also available in lyric writing and composition for participants in the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop in New York.


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