The Lewis Prize – Big Bucks for Big Results

Marty Steiner • April 2022Commentary • April 20, 2022

The Lewis Prize ought to be the biggest news of financial support in the entire music education community! Lewis annually awards four multi-year awards of $500,000 to each recipient organization, their Accelerator award, and a varying number of one year $50,000 awards, the Infusion award.

The vision of the Lewis Prize is for every young person, regardless of who they are or where they live, to access music programs from an early age. Due to inequitable systems, too many young people are not enabled to express themselves creatively. “This stifles their potential and deprives them from becoming powerful citizens”, states the Lewis Prize. “Through high-quality music learning, performing and creating experiences with peers and caring mentors and teachers, young people can develop greater agency over their lives and contribute positively to their communities. We (Lewis Prize) invest in and partner with creative youth development leaders and their organizations that are advancing change for young people through music and music education.”

Lewis funding is assisting in bringing music education to youth who may not have adequate access to music education. The Lewis Prize for Music believes music in the lives of young people is a catalytic force to drive positive change in our society.

Their four 2022 Accelerator awards this year will impact young people and their communities from coast to coast. Included are Intempo, located in Stamford, CT, RYSE Center in Richmond, CA, We Are Culture Creators in Detroit, MI, and the Heartbeat Music Project in Crownpoint, NM.

Intempo has recently focused on major grants to accomplish its goals. Founded in 2011, these goals include engaging, educating and enriching the lives of children and to help close the opportunity gap by developing youth’s musical, and interpersonal skills. The Intempo programs provide the opportunity for young people aged three through seventeen to express themselves through both traditional and classical music and instrumentation. Almost all the over 1,000 students that participate each year are from immigrant families. Their most recent programs at three Stamford public schools are specifically focused on new and recent arrivals as well as English learners. This population has been largely disadvantaged, especially during the pandemic. Intempo’s programs include after school and summer camps.

The RYSE Youth Center is located at Richmond, CA, in the Bay area near Berkeley. The big news in Richmond is the May 14th opening of the RYSE center building facility, the new RYSE Commons. Under the banner of Rooted and Rysing, this new 45,000 square foot facility will allow an increase in youth programs of 300%! The Commons will be a hub for healing, personal development, performances, launching businesses, exploring technology, and connecting with colleges, universities, and other partners.

The RYSE Lifeline program is a music program for youth to learn to write music utilizing new styles, techniques, and technology. It includes hip-hop history and the music writing trends of the past to help them create for today. The house band program includes music theory and live instrument instruction.

The Heartbeat Music Project (HMP), working with Navajo children on the reservation near Crownpoint, NM, will be able to both expand their geographic and tribal reach as well as enhance their current, highly successful, programs. SBO asked Gregory Lewis, acting director, how the Lewis funding will affect their future operations. “We are thrilled to be launching several new programs including a new Intertribal program which will allow students outside the immediate Crownpoint Community on this Navajo reservation to attend HMP offerings. Included will be free housing, meals, transportation, tuition, and access to instruments. This effort will lead to future access and inclusion of communities at other locations as requested by numerous tribal elders.”

Lewis added, “We have also launched the Arts Appreciation Program which will allow our students to attend artistic events which were not previously available to them. Our first event involved free family tickets to a Santa Fe concert along with the concert artist performer presenting a masterclass the next day in Crownpoint for our students. In addition to these new programs HMP will now expand their previously limited virtual offerings.

Aspyn, a student leader with Heartbeat, was interviewed about what the Heartbeat Music Project (HMP) has meant to her and how she became involved. She is an eighth-grade student at Hermosa Middle School in Farmington, NM. Farmington lies between three major Indian reservations. “I was taking voice lessons in Farmington with an instructor who was involved with HMP. He recommended I consider joining an HMP program. This would be a family commitment as the Crownpoint Reservation is over 80 miles away requiring a four hour round trip for every day I participated. My family was very supportive and encouraged me to participate!”

She went on to explain, “Initially my involvement was mainly for fun but as I became more involved and took up the violin, I became a student leader. As such I participate in the grant process, promote HMP and use my voice to bring attention to the lack of music education on the reservations.”

SBO asked Lewis how he became involved with HMP. Gregory Lewis is a Canadian born violinist and passionate music educator who has held multiple teaching positions at Yale University’s School of Music, as well as the Coburn School in Los Angeles. “I met Ariel Horowitz, the founder and artistic director of the HMP, at Yale where we were in the same program and graduating class. She discovered I was both passionate about music education and music’s ability to enrich lives. I was invited to be a teaching artist at HMP’s Summer Academy in 2018. While teaching that summer I was deeply inspired by the enthusiasm, joy, and dedication of the students. I also was struck by the wealth disparity in the United States and how that limited access to studying music. This combination of my passion for teaching music and heightened awareness of this disparity led me to join the HMP leadership team that fall.”

Detroit’s We Are Culture Creators (WACC) addresses the needs of young men of color and includes all art forms. The music elements are largely based on the Detroit hip-hop vocal form. WACC emphasizes the training and equipment to enable local talent to become the entertainers and entrepreneurs of the future. Workshops, practical training and discussion groups in artist management, artistic and financial literacy and business practices are provided.

Infusion 2022 awards provide a $50,000 one-year grant. This year’s recipients are New Orleans-based The Roots of Music founded by Derrick Tabb and, in South Los Angeles, Tenisha Hall’s White Hall Arts Academy.

Many involved in music and music education are aware of New Orleans’ role in music. After hurricane Katrina, as the city rebuilt, it was obvious youth, music education and the city’s marching bands were being neglected. Roots of Music was formed to address that shortcoming and to keep the city’s music traditions alive. This group now offers year-round music education, academic enrichment, healthy meals, free transportation, and musical instruments.

South Los Angeles appeared to be an arts desert, especially for the youth of the area. The White Hall Arts Academy began as low-cost private music lessons in Tenisha Hall’s home. It now offers free private lessons to more than 100 students, group lessons to over 200, and reaches over 500 in area schools and youth centers. A new online outreach has gone global with over 5,000 students, many in Europe, Asia, Australia, and across the United States.

The Catalyst Award, a $25,000, one-year grant, recognized the Media Rhythm Institute of Baltimore headed by Deverick Murray and Seattle’s Totem Star. Daniel Pak is the director. Media Rhythm Institute, founded in 2017, uses hip-hop as a foundation and focuses on music composition and performance; music journalism; dj-ing; and sound engineering. The group ensures the existence of accessible resources, exposure, visibility, and advocacy. Its main purpose is to instill confidence in their young creatives.

Totem Star has mentored over 3,500 youth, ages 14 to 21, in music production, instrument lessons, music business and life skills since its founding in 2010. Today they have partnered with the city of Seattle and a public development authority to build their own home and studio building.

A dozen other groups, all semi-finalists for the Accelerator Prize, received a single year grant of $15,000. Each recipient group of this award had impressed the selection committee enough to be recognized.

What impact do the various Lewis Awards make in the music education world? Stamford Connecticut’s Intempo response was, “Our programs reach thousands of students and their communities each year. Most of our families are Hispanic/Latino from a dozen countries including Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, and even India. We serve ninety in our flagship music school, 600 to 700 through our in-school programs in the Stamford and Norwalk school districts, and more than a thousand in our summer programs.”

Altogether this year’s Lewis Awards commit $2.375 million to 23 organizations across the country. In addition, their special Covid Community funds have assisted other community groups.

The application period for the 2023 Lewis Prize awards opened on March 24. Organizations that believe they may qualify for these awards should access the Lewis website,, for application information. A Lewis Prize may enable your organization to improve even more young people’s lives through music education!

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