7 Music Scholarships That Can Help Musicians Pay for College

7 College Scholarships for Musicians

Man playing a piano during a college recital

Juanpablo San Martín / Getty Images

Earning a music scholarship can reduce the financial burden of student loans and allow budding musicians the freedom to fully explore their chosen performing arts field. That's why it is especially important for music students to search for scholarships that might be able to support their artistic endeavors.

With that in mind, here are some scholarships that music students should know about.

ASCAP Foundation Scholarships

The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) offers more than 60 music awards and scholarships for students at different levels, including:

  • The Cole Porter Award: Presented annually to a recipient who writes music and lyrics and whose work shows promise.
  • The Fred Ho Award: Awarded to innovative composers whose work, in the spirit of Fred Ho, defies boundaries and genres.
  • The Leiber & Stoller Music Scholarship: This scholarship provides assistance to young aspiring songwriters, musicians, and vocalists.
  • The Michael Masser Music Scholarship: This scholarship was designed to support the educational advancement, professional development, professional training, and development of a student demonstrating outstanding talent.

Recipients are chosen by specified panels and/or music faculty, depending on the scholarship or award.

The BMI Foundation Music Scholarships

The BMI Foundation is dedicated to encouraging the creation, performance, and study of music. Throughout the year, the Foundation administers a number of competitions for awards, scholarships, internships, and commissions. They are available to a wide range of students and musicians and include the following:

  • The BMI Future Jazz Master Scholarship: An annual competition for rising jazz stars currently enrolled in colleges and universities across the U.S.
  • The Jean Banks Award: Prize presented annually to the lyricist(s) and composer(s) of the best new musical at the BMI musical theater workshop.
  • The peermusic Latin Scholarship: An annual competition for student songwriters and composers of Latin music enrolled in colleges and universities across the U.S.

Panels made up of some of the world's most distinguished artists and musicians select the final recipients. Some scholarships and awards are invitation-only.

The Concerto Competition for High School Musicians

“The President’s Own” United States Marine Band offers the Concerto Competition for High School Musicians annually. The scholarship winner will appear as a guest soloist with the U.S. Marine Band, as well as receive a monetary prize.

The scholarship competition is open to high school students in grades 9-12. Due to pandemic health concerns, the competition is open to string and piano players exclusively until 2022. Then, it will once again be open to woodwind, brass, and percussion musicians.

The scholarship winner will be awarded $2,500 for first place. Second-place and third-place winners will receive $1,000 and $500 respectively.

Davidson Fellows Scholarship

While the Davidson Fellows Scholarship is not exclusive to musicians, music is one of the areas in which students can apply. The fellowship is open to students who can demonstrate noteworthy achievements in their field through the creation of a “significant piece of work," such as an exemplary performance and/or another demonstration of extraordinary accomplishment.

Students who are interested must be 18 years old or younger at the time of the application deadline. Scholarship awards are granted in the amount of $10,000, $25,000, or $50,000.

Glenn Miller Birthplace Society Music Scholarship

This scholarship, which honors the memory of legendary band leader Glenn Miller, has been around since 1977. The Glenn Miller Birthplace Society sponsors this annual scholarship competition, which is open to high school seniors and college freshmen across the United States.

Finalists compete in the annual Glenn Miller Festival at Clarinda, Iowa, where three winners are chosen from each of the two categories: instrumental and vocal.

Students who are interested must be high school seniors or college freshmen at the time of the competition. In total, more than $12,000 in scholarships are awarded each year.

National YoungArts Foundation Scholarships

The National YoungArts Foundation offers scholarships in many disciplines of the arts; for musicians, these include classical music, jazz, and voice. Scholarship winners will receive financial awards, experience working with guest artists, and even become eligible to be nominated as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts. 

Eligible applicants include students who are in grades 10-12 or 15-18 years old on December 1 of the year they apply. Cash awards vary, up to $10,000.

School Band and Orchestra Essay Contest

Each year, School Band and Orchestra Magazine offers an essay contest for music students to win monetary prizes. In 250 words or less, applicants must respond to the question posed as the essay topic, which changes each year. In 2020, the question was: "How has playing an instrument changed for you during the pandemic?"

The essay contest is open to students in grades 4-12, so you don't even have to be in high school to apply—you can start saving for college early. Ten $1,000 scholarships are awarded: five for students in grades 4-8, and five for students in grades 9-12.