Attention Music Nonprofits: Aaron Copland Fund for Music is Feeling Generous

Aaron Copland was instrumental (pun very much intended) in creating a distinctly "American" form of contemporary music, free from the vestiges of old Europe. Copland's commitment to this goal continues to this day thanks to the Aaron Copland Fund for Music. Launched in 1992, the fund's mission is to "encourage and improve public knowledge and appreciation of contemporary American music."

The fund has issued a call for applications for its supplemental grants program, which is designed to "support nonprofit organizations that have a history of substantial commitment to contemporary American music but whose needs are not addressed by the fund's programs of support for performing organizations and recording projects."

Before we take a closer look at some of the more pertinent application criteria, a bit of context is in order. Reflecting on Copland's legacy and the work of his fund, we couldn't help but sense a bit of irony. The underdog is now the boss. After all, as previously noted, Copland — who was born in 1900 and was subsequently dubbed the "Dean of American Composers" — oversaw the establishment of uniquely American form of composition. Unlike the abstract work of more experimental classical contemporaries or jazz composers, his most famous works, like "Appalachian Spring" and "Billy the Kid," were digestible and accessible to the American public. Copland created music for the people.

And over a half-century later, it's safe to say that Copland succeeded (although some people may argue otherwise). Therefore, the challenge for music nonprofit organizations is a real one. Given the near-ubiquity of contemporary American music, can composers create work that is vibrant, unique, resonant, and not derivative of the fund's namesake? After all, the fund notes that "projects having to do with a broad spectrum of American music will be viewed more favorably than those having to do with a single work or composer." (In other words, composers of homages to "Fanfare to the Common Man" need not apply.)

Other important application criteria include the following:

  • For the 2015 grant round, support will be given only to projects that begin between September 2014 and August 2015.
  • Multi-year projects will be considered if they begin in the current season, but projects that already have begun generally will not be eligible for support.
  • Applicants must be nonprofit organizations as defined by Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
  • Organizations must have been in existence for at least two years at the time of application.
  • Presenters or organizations that are otherwise involved with performances must have presented two full seasons prior to the season for which support is requested.
  • Projects that are part of the curriculum of an educational institution are not eligible for support.

Link to full RFP here.