2024 Meredith Willson Awards


The Meredith Willson Awards provide significant, multi-year, general operating support to vibrant organizations using music to achieve systemic change. Past recipients of both the Southern California and National Awards are listed below.

The Music Man Foundation anticipates awarding grants to five to ten organizations in 2024. Grants between $50,000 and $500,000 will be paid over a two-year period to support general operating expenses. Grant funds must be allocated by December 31, 2026.

Successful applications will clearly identify the primary system the organization is impacting, articulate how and why music plays a key role in advancing described changes, and demonstrate why the organization is well-positioned to take on this system change. Grants will not be awarded to organizations whose applications focus on developing new programs.

Grant decisions will take into consideration Leadership Letter submission, application, organization’s capacity for systems change as observed during site visit/organizational interview, and application assessments by an advisory panel of external reviewers. Grant amounts will take into consideration the organizational budget, scope of the organization’s accomplishments, plans, and partnerships, and alignment with The Music Man Foundation’s selection criteria.

Eligible organizations will be based in and primarily serving one or more of six Southern California counties (Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura).

Any organization that meets the eligibility requirements is encouraged to submit a Leadership Letter no later than March 8, 2024.

Eligibility Requirements

In order to be considered for funding, an organization must:

  • Be a non-profit organization with IRS-determined 501 (c)(3) status, or fiscally sponsored by a 501 (c)(3) entity since January 2021 or before.
  • Have been conducting programming utilizing music since January 2021 or before.
  • Have its primary service location in at least one of the following counties in Southern California: Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, or Ventura.
  • Have had at least one paid employee (part-time or full-time) since January 1, 2023 or before.
  • For organizations that have previously received a grant from The Music Man Foundation, the organization must be in good standing with the Foundation.
  • Not have a structural deficit.

Guiding Questions this Grant Process Will Explore 

  • What system is the organization impacting and why is the organization well-positioned to take on this system change? Why and how does music play a key role in advancing this change? What impact has been realized to date?
  • Can the organization demonstrate intentionality around its programming, including who is served, where, and why?
  • Who benefits directly and indirectly from this programming and in what ways?
  • How does the organization reflect a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion?
  • What does progress look like for the organization in the next 2-5 years, and what will progress within the system look like over the next 5-10 years?

Defining Systems Change 

The Music Man Foundation interprets systems change as shifting the underlying conditions that make service delivery necessary. We understand that the world operates in systems, and that isolated grants cannot make broad-based or lasting change. Because of this, the Foundation recognizes organizations trying to change the way a system functions. We rely on the expertise of our grant partners to identify the system which the organization is trying to impact.

Frequently Asked Questions

All questions and answers from the Information Sessions are provided here.

Information Sessions

45-minute information sessions took place on February 15 and February 23.

Office Hours

Optional office hours were offered on February 26 and February 27.

Leadership Letter

The Leadership Letter may come from the organization’s Executive Director, Board Chair, or Program Director depending on your organization’s leadership structure. The Leadership Letter should include the signature of its author.

In 1-3 pages:

  • Provide a brief summary of why your organization exists.
  • Share how long you have been in a leadership role at the organization and any noteworthy organizational accomplishments that showcase your leadership capacity.
  • Share how the organization uses music to advance systems change and how music is central to the organization’s mission.
  • Address what system your organization is impacting using music and why your organization is well-positioned to take on this system change. Articulate why and how music plays a key role in advancing this change.
  • Discuss ways in which your organization acts as a leader in your field.
  • Discuss your long-term aspirations for the organization and your vision of how the organization’s programming will directly impact system dynamics over time.

In conjunction with the Leadership Letter, we request every submission include a one-page document about the organization’s primary programs, as well as two board-approved organizational budgets that include revenue and expenses: one for the current fiscal year and one for the most recently completed fiscal year which reflects budget and actual figures. The Leadership Letter should not include a specific grant request amount.

An incomplete submission may result in your organization’s application being deemed ineligible.


Select organizations will be invited to submit an application. The application will include the following components (please note this is not the application):

  • Executive summary that includes an overview of the organization’s aspirations and its measures of progress.
  • Narrative portion that includes a discussion of the progress the organization aims to inspire, greater detail about programs and their participants, how the organization is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion practices, what activities are planned for the next two years, and what resources are required to achieve the organization’s mission-aligned goals.
  • Financial section that includes a projected organizational budget for the next fiscal year and the board-approved budget for the current fiscal year with actual financial performance to-date. Also, the most recently-available audited financial statements and/or balance sheets.
  • Leadership section that describes the staff structure and board governance.

Organizations will not have the opportunity to request a specific grant amount.

Selection Criteria 

  • Music programs are central to achieving the organization’s mission. Further, the connection between the organization’s mission and music programming is evident.
  • Demonstrated organizational accomplishments using music to advance changes within the system the organization is impacting.
  • Demonstrated understanding of the system the organization seeks to impact and insight as to why the organization is well-positioned to take on this system change.
  • Strategic collaborations and/or partnerships that reflect intentional efforts to play a leadership role in influencing system dynamics.
  • Organization reflects a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Demonstrated intentionality of programming, including intentionality around who benefits from the organization’s services.
  • Organization has a clear vision of its future intentions.
  • Organization has capacity to identify and track progress towards key milestones for the organization and the system the organization is impacting.

Past Recipients 

2022 Southern California Meredith Willson Award Recipients: Able ARTS Work, Community Power Collective, Give a Beat, The Harmony Project, Heart of Los Angeles, LA Opera, LA Philharmonic Association, Street Poets and Young Musicians Foundation

2023 National Meredith Willson Award Recipients: Braver Angels, CreatiVets, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Music Will and Save the Music.


  • February 15 @ 1pm PST and February 23 @ 10am PST: Information sessions held on Zoom
  • February 26 and 27, 2024: Optional office hours with Foundation staff
  • March 8, 2024 @ 11:59pm PST: Deadline for Leadership Letters
  • April 5, 2024: Select organizations invited to submit full application and schedule site visit/organizational interview
  • April – July 2024: Site visits/organizational interviews conducted
  • May 22, 2024: Deadline for applications
  • November 2024: Awards announced


Organizations whose work aligns with the goals of the Meredith Willson Award should get in touch via email:  [email protected].

Instructions for Using the Foundation’s Grant Portal 

For details about setting up your organization’s account and for additional tips on how to successfully submit an application to the Foundation, please find instructions here.