NEA Arts Magazine

Turning up the Volume

Nurturing Music and Opera Artists and Audiences Nationwide


Photo of Wayne Brown

Music and Opera Director Wayne S. Brown at the May 2008 announcement of the NEA Opera Honors in New York City. Photo by Fadi Kheir

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has been assisting the music field in America for more than 40 years, and has witnessed the evolution of a dynamic musical landscape. The number of orchestras grew from just over 100 in 1965 to more than 1,800 in 2008, performing in excess of 36,000 concerts annually. The current economic situation facing everyday Americans, however, is likewise contributing to the challenges that nonprofit organizations are beginning to experience. Needless to say, when nonprofits are in a positive, balanced position, they are more likely to invest in new artistic works, demonstrate an increased commitment to arts and arts education, and invest in creative and community partnerships. And that is where the Arts Endowment comes in.

For projects like the New World Symphony's orchestral academy, which provides professional development to emerging artists, or the Boston Early Music Festival production of an opera that has rarely been seen in four centuries, NEA support is crucial. Through NEA investment, these organizations receive validation for their projects that often leads to increased audiences and financial support.

Music grants, however, cover more than just classical and opera. NEAsupport for jazz programming has been strong from the beginning of its history, increasing from $20,000 in 1970 to $1.5 million in 1980 to $2.8million in 2005. Jazz projects supported by the agency have included festivals and concerts aswell as special projects such as NEA Jazz Master Billy Taylor's Jazzmobile in NewYork.

In addition to grantmaking, the NEA supports the music field in other substantive ways. Over the past six years, Chairman Dana Gioia has expanded national music programs like the NEA Jazz Masters initiative to include touring, broadcasts, and educational programs. In addition, NEA Opera Honors, a new lifetime achievement program -- the first in 26 years -- was created this year to recognize a stellar group of American musical greats in that field.

In these pages you will read about these projects and initiatives and more that demonstrate the creative vision and achievement of the music and opera fields in America.

Wayne S. Brown
Director, Music and Opera