Andrew W. Mellon Foundation: Grants for Music

OVERVIEW: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Performing Arts program awards multi-year grants to leading classical music, dance, and theater organizations that "contribute to the development and preservation of their art form, provide creative leadership in solving problems or addressing issues unique to the field, and which present the highest level of institutional performance." These grants support institutions at some of the very highest levels of performance.

IP TAKE: Mellon concluded their orchestra program in 2009, so it bears noting that their giving in this area has been severely cut back, but opera still remains a focus. Some of the best opportunities for less well established organizations are probably with some of Mellon's regranting programs, which are administered through partner organizations.

PROFILE: Founded in 1969, The Mellon Foundation was created by the children of Andrew W. Mellon to honor their father, the banker, industrialist, politician, and philanthropist. The foundation seeks to “strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies” and supports “exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work.” Most of Mellon’s music grantmaking happens through its Arts and Cultural Heritage funding program.

The foundation is one of the largest donors in the performing arts, so it should come as no surprise that it prioritizes some of the biggest symphonies and orchestras. It granted $3 million to Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2011. Other past grantees include the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts ($900,000), the Houston Opera ($750,000), and the Minnesota Opera ($750,000). Very few small opera houses or programs received funding directly from Mellon, though it does not restrict its grant making solely to large organizations. The Foundation's grant making decisions are based on artistic merit with special consideration given to programs supporting generative US composers.

The foundation does not award grants to individuals and the great majority of grants are awarded by invitation only. What this means is that if Mellon does not invite an organization to apply, either on its own or through a submitted inquiry, it will not receive funding. Some of the Foundation's regranting programs through partnership organizations, however, can provide perhaps more accessible opportunities for smaller organizations. In the area of music, this includes the following:

League of American Orchestras: Learning and Leadership Program - This program provides "training, information, templates, practical tools and resources on a variety of topics relevant to orchestras, in addition to information about professional development and grant opportunities."

Chamber Music America: Commissioning program - Grants under this program are made for commissioning fees, copying costs, and ensemble rehearsal honoraria. In order to be eligible compositions must be "written for small ensembles (2 to 10 musicians) performing one to a part, generally without a conductor, and may represent a diverse musical spectrum, including contemporary art music, world music, and works that include electronics." They must also be performed at least three times in the U.S.

New Music USA: Music Alive - This program includes orchestral residencies for composers and grants for the commissioning of new music.

Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation - With the support of Mellon, this organization "supports the travel expenses of U.S. theater, dance, and music ensembles that are invited to perform at important international festivals."

It should also be noted that none of the Mellon’s grants support individual artists, conservatories, schools of the arts, K-12 arts education programs, capital campaigns, or for the expansion or renovation of buildings and facilities.


  • Search for staff contact info and bios in PeopleFinder (paid subscribers only.)