The Lewis Prize for Music

The Lewis Prize for Music is excited to announce the launch of its inaugural awards process. 

We invite 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. 

We look forward to learning about you and all you are doing to make this goal a reality.



We invite Letters of Interest from innovative leaders who are striving to give all young people access to learning and making music.


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


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

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

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

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

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

  5. 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

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

  7. 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.)?

  8. 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 know if I qualify for The Lewis Prize?

Please see the Eligibility Requirements listed above. When filling out the application form on Acceptd, you will be asked several questions prior to the LOI to confirm that you meet the requirements. If you cannot answer “Yes” to all of the requirements, do not fill out the LOI; it will not be reviewed. 

Do I apply as an individual or as an organization?

The LOI must be written and completed by the leader who is applying. Leaders submit the LOI in tandem with the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization they lead or as the leader of a project that operates as a fiscally sponsored but independent project of a nonprofit organization. 

How do I apply?

Access the application link at Acceptd to fill out an LOI. Applications will be open from August 13, 2019 to September 16, 2019. 

What is the deadline for submitting a Letter of Interest?

September 16, 2019 by 11:59pm EST

What is the process after I submit an application?

10 LOI applicants will be invited to submit a full Request for Proposal (RFP) application in early October. All LOI applicants will be informed of their status and next steps by email.  

Who will be reviewing my Prize application?

LOI’s will be read and scored by leaders in the fields of music, education, youth development, community organizing, and philanthropy. Their rankings and recommendations will be reviewed by the Board of Directors, who will make the final selection of applicants moving into the next round.   

What will reviewers be looking for in the LOI?

We want to learn about you, your leadership, the ideas and thinking behind your vision for making music available to all young people, the progress you are making, and how you empower youth leaders. The Lewis Prizes will be awarded to people doing the best work, not those who submit the most well written LOI.

My video or audio recordings are not professional quality. Will this hurt my chances of moving forward?   

No. We understand that not every program or leader has the means to provide a professional recording. Though audio or video evidence is necessary, we are equally interested in the leadership and vision of each program and their leader.

How will I be notified of a decision? 

Applicants will receive an email confirmation of receipt of their LOI. All further status changes will be visible upon logging into your applicant’s account on our LOI platform Acceptd.

Can I send supplemental items for my LOI application?

The only applications that will be reviewed are those submitted through the Acceptd platform. Do not mail or email any materials.

Does The Lewis Prize for Music make site visits?

The Lewis Prize for Music views site visits as an integral part of the final selection process. Applicants invited to submit a full RFP application will also be asked to host a site visit for one or more Board members, the CEO and program staff. The site visits will take place between October 14-November 15, 2019. 

If I have been declined for a Prize, when can I reapply?

The Lewis Prize will open its 2021 award opportunities in 2020. We will notify anyone who started a 2020 LOI application when we open the 2021 LOI. 

I have only been working at my current organization for 2.75 years. Am I still eligible to apply? 

The 2020 LOI requires eligible leaders to have been serving a minimum of 3 years in their position. You may sign up to receive notification of future opportunities and ongoing updates from The Lewis Prize via our website Contact Form

The online application is asking if the leader of the organization is filling out the application. Our organization has a grant writer. May they fill in this application?  

The Lewis Prize values the voice of the leader. It is required that LOIs be filled out directly by the leader. Grant writers may be involved if applicants move to the RFP round. 

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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