A Quick Look at Mellon's Big Give to This Innovative Music Education Program

Many of you, we assume, are familiar with the Venn Diagram, described as "a diagram representing mathematical or logical sets pictorially as circles or closed curves within an enclosing rectangle (the universal set), common elements of the sets being represented by the areas of overlap among the circles." (Phew.)

If you're an arts organization vying for foundation dollars, this approach may come in handy when thinking about funders like the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Mellon makes no secret about its devotion to a set of arts-related goals. One is making the arts — particularly the "high arts" like opera or classical music — more accessible. Another is providing art experiences for traditionally under-represented demographics. Each goal, in essence, is its own circle. And if you create an arts program that overlaps both circles, presto—you're suddenly speaking Mellon's language.

To see what we mean, check out news from Nashville, where the Nashville Symphony's Accelerando music education program recently netted a $959,000 Mellon grant. The program is open to students in grades four through 10 and designed to prepare gifted young musicians from underrepresented communities to pursue music at the collegiate level and beyond.

Set to launch in September 2016, Accelerando will "engage individual students over a multi-year period with extensive training, performance and learning opportunities, and will also offer guidance, counseling and assistance in applying for collegiate music programs. Participants will be selected through an audition process and will receive year-round instruction from a Nashville Symphony musician or a highly qualified local instructor, along with summer workshops, camps and classes."

So, let's recap. A program that prepares kids for a career in the field of symphonic music? Check. A program that also brings traditionally under-represented demographics — in this case, "ethnic communities that are underrepresented in today’s orchestras" — to this esteemed art form? Check. And (bonus circle) providing valuable music education at a time when many district budgets have yet to recover from the Great Recession? Check.

Followers of Mellon, of course, won't be surprised by this recent give. But to put it in context, feel free to check out two related posts. First, a look at how Mellon is working to boost professional parity in the orchestra world through a $900,000 grant to fund the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music's new fellowship program. And second, check out the foundation's efforts toward the advancement of female conductors with a $500,000 grant to the Dallas Opera.