Music Scholarships & Awards

Music Lesson Scholarships

Please note that most music lessons are now available without additional fees. For more information, see Music Lessons.

Competitive Awards

Hill Ensemble Scholarships (Fall Auditions)

The Hill endowed fund was established in 1891 by Dr. James L. Hill D.D., class of 1871. It provides merit scholarships to outstanding students in vocal and/or instrumental performance. In 2016, the endowment was split into two different types of award. The new Hill Ensemble Scholarships provide music lesson scholarships tied to participation in selected Music Department Ensembles (Grinnell Singers, Grinnell Symphony Orchestra, and Jazz Ensemble). Winners are chosen by ensemble directors during regular ensemble auditions held during the first week of the fall semester. Check posters in Bucksbaum for audition dates/times, or email the ensemble director.

Winners receive a music lesson scholarship of $265/semester (renewable for spring semester) for the CURRENT academic year. This amount covers 100% of the fee to upgrade from 30 to 60minute lessons for one year. In exchange, winners agree to participate in the ensemble for each semester that they receive the scholarship. The lessons must be in the area relevant to the student’s participation in the ensemble (i.e. voice lessons for a Grinnell Singers award). Winners must register for both lessons (2 credits) and the musical ensemble (either for 1 credit or 0 credits [audit]).  

Hill Solo Awards in Music (Spring Auditions)

The Hill Solo Awards recognize outstanding solo performers. They are open to students in any major or year. Winners who are music majors or graduating seniors receive cash prizes; all other winners receive a two-semester music lesson scholarship for the FOLLOWING academic year. This award may be taken either as free 60-minute lessons or two courses (in the same semester) of free 30-minute lessons (the first course is covered by the Comprehensive Fee). The top winners among the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd- year contestants in the Hill Auditions will receive the Curd Outstanding Instrumentalist Award and the James Outstanding Vocalist Award.

Application forms are due in March; auditions are held in April. The Music Department will provide a keyboard accompanist for contestants who need one. Those who require an accompanist must submit a copy of the keyboard part with their application; they are responsible for contacting Melinda Westphalen to arrange rehearsal times with the accompanist. Contestants should perform no more than six minutes of music, either excerpts or complete movement(s). If two or more shorter works are performed, they should be of contrasting styles. Contestants should provide two copies of the music (including accompaniment) for the judges on the morning of the competition.

For more information about the Hill Solo Awards, please contact Eric McIntyre.

Curd Outstanding Instrumentalist Award and James Award for Vocal Performance

The Curd and James awards recognize the top instrumentalist and top vocalist among the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd- year contestants in the Hill Solo Auditions. Graduating seniors are not eligible. Recipients must be in good academic standing. To be eligible, contestants must enter the Hill Solo Awards Competition

The Curd Outstanding Instrumentalist Award was initially established by Leslie Stearns '87 in honor of Berneil Mueller, a longtime member of the Music Department staff. As a student at Grinnell, Leslie had worked with Ms. Mueller and valued the interest and support in students that she demonstrated. When the Curd Endowed Fund was established in 2003 (see below), this award received permanent funding and was renamed.

The James Award for Vocal Performance was established in 1997 by Irma Cooper '34, former opera singer and professor at Ohio State, in memory of her Grinnell College friend and roommate, Frances Collins James '34.

The winners receive:

1) a scholarship worth $265/semester to upgrade from 30 to 60-minute lessons in the area for which the award was received for the FOLLOWING academic year, plus:

2) up to $1140/year towards expenses that will enhance the student’s study of musical performance (music majors, who already receive free lessons, will receive an additional $540 towards these expenses). In consultation with their regular vocal or instrumental teacher, each student will present a proposal to the Music Department for approval. Allowable expenses may include (but are not restricted to):

  • Travel to attend a masterclass or workshop in musical performance
  • Travel and tickets to attend a recital or concert off-campus
  • Private coachings with a master teacher brought to campus
  • Professional recording session to prepare a CD/DVD for graduate school/employment auditions, demo for recording contract, etc.
  • Hire professional musicians to perform with the student in a recital at Grinnell College (N.B. piano accompaniment is already provided free of charge)

Grinnell Symphony Orchestra Soloist Auditions

The Grinnell Symphony Orchestra invites eligible students to audition for an opportunity to perform as a soloist with the Grinnell Symphony. Applications are due in October for the auditions held in November. Selected performers are featured on a GSO Concert the following spring.

The auditions are open to orchestral instrumentalists (and saxophonists), vocalists, guitarists, and pianists. Students auditioning on orchestral instruments must be members of the Grinnell Symphony. Pianists, guitarists, and vocalists must be enrolled in private lessons, and saxophonists may be either taking lessons or members of Symphonic Band or Jazz Ensemble.

Instrumentalists should prepare a single movement of a concerto or work for solo instrument and orchestra. Particularly short multi-movement works may be eligible but must be approved in advance. Vocalists should prepare one or two arias or songs (songs must have an orchestral accompaniment available). All selections must be approved by the director of the Grinnell Symphony in advance of the auditions.

Selection of soloists is determined by one or two judges in collaboration with the director of the Grinnell Symphony. Judges may choose to select one or more soloists to perform with the orchestra. In the case that no performances are deemed qualified, the judges reserve the right to select no candidate. For more information, contact Eric McIntyre.

Steiner Awards for Creativity in Music

The Steiner endowed awards were established in 1913 by Mr. and Mrs. Edward A. Steiner in memory of their son Henry-York Steiner, who died as a teenager. Edward A. Steiner was the Rand Professor of Applied Christianity at Grinnell College from 1903 to 1941; Steiner Hall was named for him in 1959. Steiner Awards are also offered annually in the departments of English (short fiction) and Art (art history).

The Music Department awards Steiner prizes in two fields: composition and research. Students from any major at Grinnell College are eligible to compete; students may enter both the composition and research contests. Students must complete an Intent to Enter Form (due in April). Winners receive a cash prize and are honored at a luncheon with music faculty. For more information, please contact Mark Laver.

Steiner Awards for Music Composition

Compositions may be of any length, style, or genre (including electronic), and may have been performed or not. Contestants must submit one hard copy of their composition (if possible, both a score and a recording in CD format) and a short paragraph describing their compositional process. Entries will be judged by a composer from outside the Grinnell College community. One or more awards may be given, depending on the recommendation of the judge.

Steiner Award for Music Research

Research entries should demonstrate original thought on some musical topic; they may grow out of a class project and are not restricted to classes in the Music Department. The award will be made on the basis of an oral presentation only; a written version of the paper is not required. Presentations should last approximately 20-25 minutes, plus 20-25 minutes for discussion afterwards. Presentations will be judged by faculty outside the Music Department.

Curd Ninth Semester Fellowship in Music

The Music Department offers an opportunity for continued independent study by a music major in the semester immediately following graduation.* This fellowship provides a stipend of $4000 plus $600 for supplies for a semester of research or creative work to develop a stronger portfolio in preparation for graduate school or a career in music. In exchange, the Fellow is expected to serve the Department by assisting with minor class-related jobs, giving demonstrations in his/her discipline and/or presentations of work in progress when called upon, and presenting his/her work publicly.

Applications, consisting of essay and portfolio, are due to the Music Department Chair in early March. The essay should describe in detail the scope of the proposed project, how it contributes to the applicant's long-range career plans, what courses and other work the applicant has done to prepare for this project, and why the Fellowship is necessary to complete the project. The portfolio should include three to five examples of the same type of work as proposed for the Fellowship (i.e. written compositions, recordings of performances, research papers, electronic compositions, etc.) The winner will be selected by the voting members of the Music Department. The Department reserves the right not to award a Fellowship in a given year.

* Students graduating at mid-year should apply the spring before their graduation. They would then hold the fellowship in the spring following graduation.

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