John S. and James L. Knight Foundation: Grants for Music

OVERVIEW: The Knight Foundation is one of the larger grantmakers in the arts, especially when it comes to more innovative, modern forms of expression, which includes many different types of music projects. It is especially interested in ideas that incorporate technology and that bring diverse communities together through "shared experiences."

IP TAKE: Unlike many of the other larger organizations that make music grants, the Knight Foundation is fairly wide-ranging in the genres they consider, which is helpful for grantseekers whose project leans more toward the popular culture end of the spectrum.

PROFILE: The Knight Foundation was founded by John and James Knight, who were once print media moguls, owning newspapers in 26 cities across the United States. It seeks “to foster informed and engaged communities,” which it believes “are essential for a healthy democracy.” The foundation focuses its grantmaking in and around those 26 cities, but not exclusively. Of the four Knight Foundation initiatives, music falls under Arts (the foundation does not have a grantmaking program exclusively dedicated to music).

The Knight Foundation has an emphatically eclectic mix of musical tastes that include opera, hip hop, symphony, and jazz, so unlike some of its peers, the field of genres it supports is decidedly more open. A few examples of past Knight Foundation grants include $500,000 to the Akron Symphony, $135,000 to the Curtis Institute ArtistYear Fellowship, and $75,000 to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

The Knight Foundation harbors a strong belief that the arts are "a catalyst for public dialogue, and that shared cultural experiences contribute to a sense of place and communal identity." Consequently, it prioritizes projects that have a community aspect and bring people together around arts based events. Some of its main strategies in this area revolve around "creative placemaking," making projects general and available to everyone, and spurring innovation. Grantseekers whose project tries something new and attempts to bring a diverse set of people and cultures together around a music based project have a very good chance at attracting the attention of Knight.

Submit letters of inquiry online and describe the project in about two pages. The Foundation reviews inquiries and notifies grantees of its decision via email. If it likes what it reads, a Foundation representative requests a full proposal. There are no exact deadlines for LOIs, however, grantseekers are required to submit a full proposal within four weeks of submitting an idea.


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