Why Is the Knight Foundation Funding Macon's Music Nonprofits?

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation recently awarded $363,000 to 11 arts-related nonprofit organizations across Macon, Georgia. A closer analysis reveals that music-oriented organizations were the big winners. Six of the recipients are devoted to musical education, performance, and networking, and their collective funding totals $170,000.

If there's anything nonprofits from other parts of the country can take away from Knight's announcement, it's this: Embrace your city's musical heritage. While we tend to consider places like Nashville, New Orleans, Memphis, New York, and Chicago as cities with particularly rich musical histories, Macon is right up there. The relatively small city of only 155,000 has given birth to an eclectic roster of artists, including Otis Redding, Little Richard, the Allman Brothers Band, as well as contemporary performers like violinist Robert McDuffie and country star Jason Aldean. 

The city's arts organizations are well aware of this impressive track record and they wisely leverage it to help secure funds from national organizations like Knight. The best example is the Otis Redding Foundation. This organization, which netted a $50,000 grant from Knight, celebrates the legacy of the famous soul singer by providing scholarships for the "Big 'O' Singer/Songwriter Camp," to 20 aspiring young Macon musicians. Knight's funding will double the duration of the camp, which pairs students with professional musicians, composers, producers and choreographers. At the conclusion of the two-week program, artists will perform their work in a public showcase.

Foundations love these types of immersive musical education programs. One case in point is the Sphinx Organization, a Detroit-based classical music training organization that has partnered with IMG Artists, a global music management firm, to have aspiring young musicians perform with experienced classical artists and take their show on the road. 

The Otis Redding Foundation received the second-largest grant from Knight, just behind the Macon Arts Alliance, who netted $67,000 to roll out Amplify, a new professional development program that will "identify and meet the needs of creative professionals in Middle Georgia." While this program isn't exclusively devoted to music, its expansive nature will inevitably support aspiring musicians, agents, and producers, and with good cause. Given the fact that the music industry is undergoing a rapid transition following the demise of the CD and the rise of music streaming, creative professionals in this field will need all the help they can get.

We'd also like to call attention to the organization that received the third largest grant in Knight's round of funding — Streetline. This group, which netted a $50,000 grant, will expand it's Camp Drums and Dreams program by nearly 50 students. The program is an eight-week summer camp that provides "lessons in music theory, percussion techniques and showmanship."