On the Money: New Music Funding in the United States

The Pew Charitable Trusts are a collection of funds established between 1948 and 1979 by relatives of Sun Oil founder Joseph N. Pew. Their broad mandate to contribute to public health and welfare was originally confined to Philadelphia. Today, the Pew Trusts constitute one of America’s largest national foundations.

Support to the arts, including new music, began early in the Trusts’ history with operating support to Philadelphia arts organizations. That support was reorganized in the late 1980s as the Culture Program‘s “Philadelphia Program.” It was administered in New York by Meet The Composer, and there were many grants for new music including jazz. A competitive program supporting innovative projects, the Philadelphia Program is now administered in Philadelphia by Settlement Music School.

Pew was one of the foundations that stepped in to save Meet The Composer’s Orchestra Residencies Program when Exxon withdrew support in 1987. Pew support was earmarked for the Philadelphia Orchestra residency. Through that relationship, Pew became a principal supporter, with the Ford Foundation, of Meet The Composer’s Composer/Choreographer Project, a national commissioning program providing fees for both composers and choreographers to work together. The program was active from 1988 until 1999.

With the end of the Orchestra Residencies Program, Pew stepped up as the lead sponsor of New Residencies, Meet The Composer’s next-generation project to put composers in residence in a wide variety of community-based scenarios, nationwide. Pew’s commitment over the nine rounds of that ongoing program has amounted to over $3.6 million.

In 1999, Pew announced a shift in strategy. The Culture Program, while continuing the Philadelphia Program, now focuses on advocacy and public policy around the arts. Pew’s leadership in support for new music has ended, at least for now.

From On the Money: New Music Funding in the United States
by Theodore Wiprud
© 2000 NewMusicBox