Examining Our Arts Funding Institutions

newmusicbox Fall 2007

Even if everything is in order with organizations granting funds for new music (which probably seems unlikely to many,) more transparency and easily accessible information about them would be helpful.  We need a comparative study of these organizations listing the budgets, how much went to their operating costs, how much went to composers, listings of the boards over the last 20 years or so, a similar listing of the judges used to evaluate scores year by year, listings of all grant recipients with the amounts received, charts showing the sources of funding (governmental, foundations, corporations, private, etc.), charts showing the comparative make-up of the boards (composers, performers, corporate executives, music administrators, etc.), charts showing the regional distribution of the grants, and charts showing the regional distribution of board members and jury judges. 

 And even if it were complex, we need comparative charts based on the musical styles of board members, juries, and grantees.  The study could include numbers for board members who also received grants, both during their tenure or within a certain number of years afterwards.  Comparative numbers could also be provided for teachers who are board or jury members who awarded their current or former students grants.  Comparative summations could be made of each organizations rule’s (if any) for ensuring impartiality and objectivity among jury judges and board members.  A summation could be given for how each organization selects its board.


To insure impartiality, the study would need to be made by investigators who have few connections to the new music world.  If wouldn’t be helpful if the study looked like the new music world and its favorites patting themselves on the back.  There is no doubt that composers would find a comprehensive, impartial study very interesting and useful.


One part of the divide I think Andy forgot to mention is that those who have received a number of grants seem to feel these organizations are in good order, while those who have not received grants are critical.  With more objective information it would be easier to develop unbiased views and resolve these conflicts.  It might also help the organizations function better.


Unfortunately, none of this resolves the problem that America ’s system of privately funding the arts is inherently flawed.  The United States is the only country in the world with such a radical and isolated system.  Even a cursory view of the cultural climate in Europe illustrates how much better an effective system of public funding is.  Germany , for example, has 23 times more full-time, year-round orchestras per capita than the United States .  Germany has 80 full-time, year-round opera houses, while the US doesn’t have any – zero!  Even the Met only has a seven month season.  For a comparison of the American and European systems see my article, “Marketplace of Ideas: A Personal Commentary on European and American Arts Funding” at:




One last thought. Many arts administrators have a biased interest in maintaining America ’s deeply flawed system, because they have developed their careers, expertise, and status around working with private funding.  We have a broken system with a vested interest in replicating itself.