On the Money: New Music Funding in the United States

DeWitt Wallace, the founder of Reader’s Digest, and his wife Lila left several charitable funds at their deaths, which grew substantially with the value of Reader’s Digest stock in the late 1980s. While the DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund has focused mainly on education, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund (fondly known as Lila) has put much of its resources into the arts. Through the 1990s, Lila was the largest private supporter of the arts and a major support to a wide range of activity in new music. Its importance to new music has since waned considerably.

Lila’s strategy has been to create and support large-scale programs housed in national service organizations. The first such effort was the Meet The Composer-Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Commissioning Program, which from 1988 to 1995 provided funds to commission over 300 works in every medium and many idioms. A milestone in the formation of public-private partnerships, the program was created when the National Endowment for the Arts agreed to relocate its own $200,000 commissioning program to Meet The Composer, in order to accept Lila’s offer to multiply the resources with another $500,000 per year.

Lila identified jazz as a particular interest in a 1991 study, and came out with three initiatives to support that part of the field: the National Jazz Network, a coalition of 19 arts presenters coordinated by the New England Foundation for the Arts; America’s Jazz Heritage, a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution to create exhibits and publications; and a series of initiatives with National Public Radio supporting broadcast of jazz.

Another initiative begun in the early 1990s, in partnership with the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) is called Arts Partners. This audience development initiative supports presenters in carrying out extensive residencies with visiting performers. Some of these involve composers, but support is for public interaction, not composition or performance.

Arts Partners has increasingly defined Lila’s thrust–a demand-side concern with the development of the audience, rather than a supply-side concern with the development of the art. The newest development is a project called LEAD, for Leadership and Excellence in Audience Development, which will complement Arts Partners and account for the bulk of Lila’s grantmaking in the arts.

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

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