Staunton Music Festival receives NEA Challenge America Grant

The Staunton Music Festival is one of only 162 grantees nationwide to receive a Challenge America Fast Track grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The CAFT program primarily supports projects of small and mid-sized arts organizations that extend the reach of the arts to underserved audiences—those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography or other factors. Staunton Music Festival and the other winning applicants in 46 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands receive grants of $10,000 each.

Staunton Music Festival offers year-round concerts by nationally and internationally acclaimed artists. It focuses on the nine-day Summer Sounds festival in August, with a noon-time and an evening concert each day. According to the NEA, the Staunton Music Festival’s grant award is evidence of the artistic excellence and artistic merit of the festival.

Executive Director Jason Stell explains that the grant allows the festival to offer free noontime concerts every day during the August festival, and to involve even more world-class professional performers in those events. “Part of the grant money will also help us to market the SMF to more distant cities, which continue to send us more patrons each year. Those patrons ask us to publicize more widely in DC, Baltimore, up and down the east coast. With this grant we can afford to place information where lovers of classical music from all over will discover it,” Stell said.

Staunton Music Festival’s 2012 season begins Feb. 10-12 with a lecture recital and two concerts featuring the late works of Schubert. Festival favorites Gabriel Dobner, Kevin McMillan, Carsten Schmidt, and James Wilson will perform. Details are at

As National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman notes, “Art works everywhere. Taken together, the Challenge America Fast-Track grants provide an extraordinary sampling of the work that arts organizations do to reach underserved communities. With these grants, we are helping to ensure that art works for all Americans.”

The NEA program is called Fast-Track because of its expedited review timeline. SMF was notified of the award approximately six months after applying. With 375 eligible applications submitted from across the country, there was significant competition for funding for these grants.

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector.  To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at


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