Colburn Foundation: Grants for Music

OVERVIEW: Endowed in 1999 by the late Richard D. Colburn, the Colburn Foundation aims to support the classical music community, mostly in the Los Angeles Area and Greater Southern California. 

IP TAKE: The foundation has a strong web presence, but unsolicited requests are not encouraged. Grantseekers interested in getting on this funder's radar should reach out to its grants administrator. Those working within classical music and classical music education in Southern California may have the best shot with Colburn. 

PROFILE: The Colburn Foundation was endowed in 1999 by the late Richard D. Colburn, who steered Consolidated Electrical Distributors (CED). The Colburn family was once on Forbes' Richest American Families list. Colburn was known for keeping a low profile, but apart from business, he also had a deep passion for the arts, particularly music. He was an amateur viola player for most of his life (he passed at the age of 92), and also was a lifetime director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a benefactor of the annual Colburn Celebrity Recitals, and a cofounder of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, among other civic involvements. Colburn also helped finance the Colburn School, a performing arts school in downtown Los Angeles that focuses on music and dance. 

The Colburn Foundation is now steered by a small board and staff, which includes several Colburn family members. The foundation is well-endowed with assets (more than $153 million in a recent year) and has given away around $6 million annually in recent years. The foundation states that its mission is to "promote a vibrant classical music community, particularly in Southern California, and to make grants to artistically excellent organizations for the performance and presentation of classical music, as well as for music education and the training of musicians." 

Some of the foundation's grantees include American Youth Symphony, which Colburn has been supporting since 2006, Arts for All to support in school music programs, music scholarships at California Institute of the Arts, Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, Long Beach Opera, The New School - New York String Orchestra Seminar, and Taos School of Music. While Colburn clearly has a preference for Southern California in its grantmaking, other areas of the country like New York, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico also have outfits that receive funding.

Most grants are under $100,000, and few exceed that number. The foundation continues to direct millions of dollars to the Colburn School, for instance. The Los Angeles Opera Company, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra have also been strongly supported. Grantseekers should be aware that the foundation discourages unsolicited requests. The first step for anyone looking to get on this funder's radar is to email grants administrator, Felix Racelis, at


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