OVERVIEW: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Performing Arts program issues 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 are top-of-the-line and are given to 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.
PROFILE: Even though the Foundation concluded its orchestra program, they still give in this area. Their other main focus in music is opera, which they are also quite selective with. 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, many of which are listed at the end of this guide.
The Mellon Foundation is one of the largest donors in the area of performing arts, so it should come as no surprise that the they like to give their money away to some of the biggest symphonies and orchestras. They gave a large $3 million grant to Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2011. Other recent large awards went to the John F. Kennedy 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 doesn't invite your organization to apply, either on their own or through your submitted inquiry, you won't 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 grants directly through Mellon go to individual artists, conservatories, schools of the arts, K-12 arts education programs, capital campaigns, or for the expansion or renovation of buildings and facilities.