The Lewis Prize for Music

The Lewis Prize for Music has now closed the 2020 Letter of Interest application for its inaugural awards process. 

We invited leaders of youth music programs who meet the criteria detailed below to submit a Letter of Interest (LOI) by September 16. In January 2020, we will announce three multi-year awards of $500,000 each.

The Lewis Prize’s mission is to create fair and vibrant communities through music. Music is a potent force for inspiring positive social change. Young people who learn, perform, and create music of all genres are a source of talent and ingenuity for leading this change. Providing high-quality, diverse, music education brings the benefits of music to every person and every neighborhood.

Achieving this ambition requires the skilled creativity of community leaders working together. We are committed to empowering leaders who have big dreams, inspired strategies and the relentless persistence to ensure every young person has the opportunity to learn and make music.


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The Leaders We Seek

The 2020 Lewis Prize awards will be given to leaders who:

  • Pave the way for young people to learn, create, and perform music at levels of excellence, as well as develop their leadership skills

  • Are collaborative and innovative, with a proven track record that reflects knowledge of and concern for correcting unequal opportunities

  • Use their creativity and craft to lead efforts for making music education available for ALL young people.

If you are a leader in this work and have others following your lead, we want to know about it.


The Lewis Prize awards in 2020 will be given to leaders at the head of organizations which serve the least resourced youth and their communities with high quality music programs that are not school music classes (but may be in partnership with schools or in-school music), often referred to as Creative Youth Development or CYD, that:

  • Embody academic rigor and artistic excellence, culturally responsive curriculum and civic engagement

  • Train and include young people in leadership roles and responsibilities

  • Have a timely and relevant project and vision that disrupts, transforms, or creates new systems to level the playing field and ensure fair opportunities for all youth

  • Are committed to openly and broadly sharing knowledge, lessons learned, and practices with the field


  1. Your youth music program/work explicitly addresses opportunity gaps or mitigates circumstances of marginalization for the young people you serve

  2. At least 75% of the time youth spend at your program is devoted to learning, creating and performing music

  3. Your music program/work serves youth outside of school hours

  4. Your program/work has been in operation for at least five years

  5. You have been the leader of this organization or work for at least three years

  6. Your leadership (Board of Directors and/or senior management staff) has at least one member who resides in or represents the community that you serve

  7. Your program/work takes place in the United States and serve young people residing in the US

  8. Your organization is an independent 501(c)(3) or you have a partnership with a 501(c)(3) as a fiscal sponsor (examples: nonprofit, faith organization, university, school district, community center, foundation, etc.)?

  9. The leader of the 501(c)(3) or fiscally sponsored project must write LOI


Frequently Asked Questions

What is The Lewis Prize for Music?

The Lewis Prize for Music is an annual award established by philanthropist and social impact investor Daniel R. Lewis to resource champions and leaders of music programs and projects to create more fair and vibrant communities.   

What are the sizes of the Prizes?

In 2020, three $500,000 awards will be given. The funding will be distributed over multiple years. 

How many years of funding doES the Prize Awards provide?

The Prizes are multi-year grant awards that span across 2-5 years, depending on the individual characteristics and needs of each leader and their program goals. 

How do I apply?

The 2020 application process is now closed. If you would like to receive information about applying in the future, please provide your contact information here.

If I am declined for a Prize in 2020, when can I reapply?

The Lewis Prize will open its 2021 award opportunities in 2020. We will notify everyone who started a 2020 LOI application when the 2021 LOI will open. We will also notify everyone who provides their contact information here.

The Lewis Prize Criteria mentions “Creative Youth Development.” I’m not familiar with this term. What does it mean?

Creative Youth Development (CYD) describes programs that blend excellence in artistic instruction with principles of positive youth development. More information about CYD and its growth as a field can be found at the Creative Youth Development National Partnership

If you have additional questions not answered above, submit them via our Contact Form

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Founder and Chairman

Daniel R. Lewis

Mr. Lewis has worked over the last 19 years on philanthropic interests, with the greatest focus being on social and musical arts investing. He initiated the Cleveland Orchestra’s multi-week residency in Miami as founding chairman of the Miami Music Association, the support organization created in 2006 to produce 3-4 weeks of Cleveland Orchestra concerts and educational activities in Miami-Dade County each season. He was the board chair of the Festival of North American Orchestras, the sponsoring organization for Spring for Music at Carnegie Hall. Spring for Music's format is now part of the Kennedy Center, renamed the Shift Festival. He also served on the executive committee of The Cleveland Orchestra and the board of the League of American Orchestras.

Mr. Lewis recently founded and chairs M:X (Miami Experimental), to pursue making music education accessible and affordable to all Miami-Dade County children. The Lewis Prize for Music, his most recent start-up, is another ambitious effort to drive social change through musical arts. Mr. Lewis is also chairman of The Management Center, which provides management training and consulting to socially and politically progressive organizations, and is on the board of Third Way, a centrist progressive think tank.

He graduated from Miami University with an accounting degree, taught three years at inner-city Cleveland's Glenville High School, was a real estate developer in Phoenix, and retired from Progressive Corporation having had general management, control, claims, product management, and board membership responsibilities.

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