From Oregon to Boston: 5 projects the NEA funded in 2016

How valuable is the National Endowment of the Arts? Here are five recent music-related projects that benefited from NEA grants
  • Third Coast Percussion perform at the 59th GRAMMY Awards in 2017
    Photo: Rich Polk/
    Third Coast Percussion perform at the 59th GRAMMY Awards in 2017
March 20, 2017 -- 7:00 am PDT

Though its future is uncertain thanks to the "shortsighted and alarming" 2018 White House budget, the National Endowment for the Arts is an integral part of the fabric of American culture. According to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, funding from the NEA "made possible nearly 44,000 concerts, readings, performances and exhibitions in 2012," and "more than 75 million individuals attended such live events." Furthermore, the health of the arts is good for the economy. According to a 2010 study, the arts generate $135 billion in revenue and 4.13 million jobs across multiple industries.

To give you just a small sampling of the reach of the NEA, and to understand why it's such a vital part of our arts and education community, check out five projects that were awarded NEA grants in 2016.

Jazz for the masses in Boston

Each year, the Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival brings jazz to the Boston community for free, enriching the local culture and getting children interested in music with a KidsJam and instrument petting zoo. The festival's NEA grant provided support to keep the multistage festival free and offer a jazz-related walking tour of Boston's South End neighborhood.

Composing new music in Chicago for GRAMMY winners

The Chicago Philharmonic Society used their NEA grant to commission composer Augusta Read Thomas to write a new piece featuring GRAMMY winners Third Coast Percussion and conductor Scott Speck. The philharmonic will make their latest composition accessible to the public by holding open rehearsals for children and senior citizens.

Watch Third Coast Percussion perform with Ravi Coltrane on the GRAMMYs

Bringing music to at-risk students in Houston

Focused on developing "life skills through music," the Diaz Music Institute used their NEA grant to bring Latin jazz and afro-Cuban Caribbean music to at-risk students in schools across Houston. Students learned percussion, rhythm training, choreography, and improvisation.

Gathering the world to sing in Montana

Every three years, the International Choral Festival brings together choirs from around the world to celebrate vocal music in Missoula, Mont. An NEA grant helped sponsor the 2016 festival, which included indoor and outdoor performances, masterclasses and workshops, and community outreach concerts.

Experiencing the indie musician lifestyle in Oregon

My Voice Music, a nonprofit in Portland, Ore., hosted a project for underserved and diverse youth communities to give them the experience of being an independent artist. The NEA grant supported students writing, recording and releasing their own song through camps, workshops and individual lessons.

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