main navigation bar - top row

main navigation bar - bottom row

main menu


Meta Weiser EXCEL Fund

Retired Ambassador Ronald N. Weiser (BBA '66) and Eileen Weiser (MMus'75) have designated a $1 million gift which will establish the Meta Weiser EXCEL fund in honor of Ron Weiser's mother. The Meta Weiser EXCEL Fund will support EXCEL's extensive programming, including workshops, guest residencies, and the distribution of $100,000 in project, venture, and internship funding annually.

Making Big Things Happen

Do you have a project or idea that will advance the performing arts?

Does your chamber ensemble want to go pro?

Do you want to organize a dance festival or bring new plays to the stage?

Maybe you have an idea for a killer smartphone app that will enhance the audience experience?

Whatever your dream, the EXCEL program can help put your ideas into action. We provide $100,000 in funding support annually for current U-M students through three different funding pools.


Email and include “EXCEL Funding Questions” in the subject line.

Note: EXCEL cannot guarantee space availability in U-M facilities, and any project funded by EXCEL must request space usage according to SMTD scheduling guidelines. All requests from funded projects for SMTD instrument usage must be approved by respective faculty supervisors.

EXCEL Enterprise Fund

The EXCEL Enterprise Fund is a new funding resource for SMTD students. It offers micro grants of up to $1,000 for students to support individual or team projects that have significant professional development and community impact. In exceptional cases proposals may be awarded up to $1,500.

read more

Funding Cycles + Deadlines:

Round 1: deadline is October 6, 2017 / notification date: October 20.

Round 2: deadline is November 17, 2017 / notification date: December 1.

Round 3: deadline is January 19, 2018 / notification date: February 2.

Round 4: deadline is March 9, 2018 / notification date: March 23. (pending available funds)

EXCEL will not consider Round 2 applications until after Round 1 is completed. Likewise, if all funds are exhausted through Rounds 1-3, EXCEL may cancel Round 4.

Eligibility Requirement:

Primary grant applicant must be a current undergraduate or graduate student in SMTD at the time of application but additional team members can be from any U-M unit.

Projects that are eligible for Rackham Graduate funding will be considered. However, masters and doctoral students eligible for Rackham funding should first consider and, where appropriate, apply for that funding. Such applicants will need to clarify why an EXCEL Enterprise Fund micro grant is the best fit for their proposal.

Past EXCELerator Fellows who are current undergraduate or graduate SMTD students are eligible to apply for funding for continuing projects or new ones.

Applicants may receive one Enterprise Fund micro grant per year, and the selection committee may elect to defer funding until a later cycle (pending proposal revisions) if issues are found

Criteria for Projects:

Projects must be SMTD-based and include the performing arts as a primary focus. Performance, research, and/or pedagogical projects are all eligible. We encourage projects that involve other units, including collaborations amongst students from both arts-related and non-arts disciplines.

Project components funded by the EXCEL Enterprise Fund should be realized by the start of Fall 2017.

Projects should demonstrate:

A) Clearly defined professional development impact for the applicant/team.

B) Community impact of the project; this can be framed around the U-M campus, another geographic location, and/or the applicant's field of study.

C) Costs beyond the typical and ordinary costs of a curricular activity. For example, we will not award funding for basic costs of a senior recital or performance (e.g. the fee for a collaborative pianist, instrument or parts rental, recording/documentation costs, reception food, etc.) and typically do not award funding for the purposes of compensating U-M students involved in such activities. Costs that go beyond the typical and ordinary expenses of a curricular project, enhance it in a significant way with regard to criteria A and B may be considered. For example, costs associated with taking a senior recital on tour, collaborating with an external organization to host a special research presentation, or engaging other collaborators or resources to broaden the scope and impact of a project might be considered.

Projects are expected to be student-led.

Note: EXCEL cannot guarantee space availability in U-M facilities, and funded projects will need to request space usage according to SMTD scheduling guidelines. All requests from funded projects for SMTD instrument usage must be approved by respective faculty supervisors.


How to Apply:

Submit the following documents prior to the deadlines above through the online portal:

1. Grant Narrative – please address the following questions in a 500-word document (Word or PDF format ONLY):

List the applicant names, student ID numbers, and degree programs, including the primary applicant (team leader).

Describe your project and expected impact for your community (campus, local, or field of study).

If this is a group project, describe the professional development benefits and challenges of this collaboration for your team.

How do you anticipate carrying out the project? Explain the general timeline and describe team member responsibilities.

If you are a graduate student eligible for Rackham Graduate funding, indicate why you are applying to the EXCEL Enterprise Fund for this project.

2. Project Budget – may be attached as Excel spreadsheet or embedded in narrative document:

List all expenses and indicate those that this Enterprise Funds micro grant will cover

Include secured funding from other sources and other projected revenue streams

3. Supporting Materials – at minimum, a recommendation letter from a faculty mentor is required for full consideration. You may attach up to two additional documents or links that help demonstrate the merit of your project (i.e. drawings, videos, advertisements, etc.).


Performing Arts EXCELerator

The Performing Arts EXCELerator is an entrepreneurial fellowship program open to all U-M students with early-stage performing arts ventures as individuals or teams. There is no limit on team size, however we recommend 2 to 4 members, and encourage interdisciplinary projects involving two or more U-M departments. Fellows are chosen by application and receive mentoring and support, will have access to up to $1,000 seed money for their projects during Winter 2018. Each team will also have the chance to pitch for up to $4,000 in additional seed money. Additionally, teams will be featured on the SMTD EXCEL website and will be considered for additional external engagements with EXCEL partners.

National Sawdust

EXCEL's partnership with National Sawdust will enable SMTD students the opportunity to perform, workshop, or be in residence at the Brooklyn-based venue. Students interested in the National Sawdust partnership should apply through the Performing Arts EXCELerator.

read more

Eligibility: at least one member of your team must be a currently enrolled U-M student at the graduate or undergraduate level. We will consider early-stage ventures that have already been formally incorporated, but that is not necessary to participate. Accepted Fellows will be expected to meet regularly with EXCEL staff and attend a series of workshops designed to help them launch and/or grow their venture. Expect the requirements of becoming an EXCELerator Fellow to be the equivalent of an additional 3-credit course or 10 hour/week part-time job over the course of the Winter semester.

Selection Criteria

The selection committee is searching for ventures that maximize the following criteria:

Artistic excellence

Innovative approach to creative arts expression

Social impact

Skills of applicant or team

Educational contribution to participating student(s)

Potential for sustainability

Feasibility of progress within academic year

Balance within fellowship pool

Clearly articulated value proposition of the art venture’s product or service as well as your target customer profile


How to Apply

1) Send a 2-page “Letter of Intent” (roughly 500 words) to apply through the online portal Friday, October 6. Successful letters will address the selection criteria given above, and specifically address the professional development and community impact of this enterprise. Please also include a simple budget summary (your projected income and expenses) in tabular or brief paragraph form, and a one-page faculty letter of support. You may also include up to one additional supporting document (optional) that demonstrates the potential of this project. All documents should be combined and submitted as ONE PDF File. At the top of your document include the name of your project and all the names, degree programs, and U-M ID numbers of your project's core team members. Be sure to review all of the required documents before submission, found here.

2) Finalists will be invited to submit a full application including a budget, reference, and artistic samples by Friday, November 17 and complete the following:

A) Attend an EXCELerator Proposal workshop
B) Pitch their proposal to the EXCELerator Selection committee

Fellows will be announced in December 2017.

Note: Strong EXCELerator applications that are not selected for the Fellowship may be automatically qualified for an EXCEL Enterprise Fund micro grant, depending on eligibility and funding availability All teams who submit Letters of Intent will be considered for referral to other opportunities, including potential engagements with National Sawdust. EXCEL cannot guarantee SMTD facility usage for any funded projects, and all Fellows must request space usage according to SMTD scheduling guidelines. All requests for SMTD instrument usage must be approved by respective faculty supervisors.



The School of Music, Theatre & Dance EXCELprize recognizes extraordinary excellence in performing arts entrepreneurship, leadership and social impact. It is awarded at the annual EXCELebration in April to a University of Michigan student or student team that has established a standout performing arts venture. Beyond the cash prize of $10,000, the awardee will receive mentorship by EXCEL staff.

read more

Eligibility: Current SMTD students are eligible to apply. Student ventures should be currently active in at least their second consecutive year of activity. Past Eligible Fund recipients and EXCELerator Fellows not currently in the Winter 2018 incubator cycle are eligible for consideration. Please direct questions concerning eligibility to

Application Procedure: All applications should describe the venture, its mission, and recent activities and address the award criteria below. The complete application, including all listed components, must be submitted via email to by March 9, 2018. Select in-person interviews will follow, and the 2017 EXCELprize recipient will be announced at the departments year-end EXCELebration on Tuesday, April 17, 2018.

Application Components:

  • Application Cover Sheet
  • 750-1,000 word narrative (3-4 pages) addressing the Award Criteria below
  • Documentation of organizational status (articles of incorporation)
  • Budget projects showing how EXCELprize funds would be used, alongside additional income streams
  • At least one, but no more than three, faculty letter(s) of support (faculty must send directly to EXCEL)
  • Two work samples demonstrating artistic excellence, social impact, and strategic vision (video, audio, and/or print documents)

Recommendation: Faculty letter(s) of support should address the criteria below, and must be sent separately to directly from the faculty author.

Award Criteria

The EXCELprize evaluation committee will consider the following criteria in determining the 2017 recipient(s). In your narrative, address the following questions:

Artistic excellence: What is the venture's mission and how does it pursue artistic excellence?

Innovation: What component(s) of this venture stand out as innovative, entrepreneurial, and/or disruptive? This could include both social impact and/or distinctive approaches to creative arts expression. What is it doing (or how is doing it) that others are not?

Social impact: Is the social impact of the venture clearly defined? What needs are addressed? Is it developing effective solutions to pressing challenges?

Professional development: Does this venture provide significant professional development and growth potential for students? How so?

Sustainability: How will the EXCELprize lead to sustainability and transformative change for this organization? How will funding be used and will it help the venture to grow? Preference will be given to applications that demonstrate potential for sustainability, with clearly defined financial plans, leveraging both fiscal savvy and multiple income streams.

Diversity of venture ideas within the nomination pool will also be considered.



EXCEL Internship Fund

The EXCEL Internship Fund provides students grant awards up to $1,000 to cover living and travel expenses related to a summer internship. In special cases, students may receive awards above $1,000.

Priority Deadline: March 23, 2018; notification date: April 6. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until funding is exhausted.

read more

Eligibility Requirements

  • Applicant must be a current undergraduate or graduate student in SMTD at the time of application.
  • Applicant must be seeking an internship that does not provide a stipend.
  • Applicant must have an internship experience secured in order to apply for funding.
  • Students who have received other project awards from EXCEL may apply for the Internship Fund.
  • Internship must be completed by the start of Fall 2018.

Criteria for Internship

  • The internship should generally require at least 100 hours of work.
  • The applicant must demonstrate why the Internship is crucial to their professional development.
  • The applicant must include a link to the organization and describe its stature in the 300-word narrative.

How to Apply

Send the following documents via email to prior to deadlines above:

  1. Grant Narrative - please address the following questions in a 300-word document (roughly one page, PDF format ONLY):
    • List your name, student ID number, and degree program at the top of the narrative.
    • Please describe the internship itself and the organization you will be working at. What are the core responsibilities of the position?
    • Please describe, in detail, how this internship will impact your professional development, and how it relates to your overall career goals. Why is working at this organization an important opportunity for you? What do you hope to learn from your experience?
    • Please describe the time commitment of the internship, and the specific duties for which you will be responsible.
    • Describe your personal financial circumstances, and why you need this funding to engage in this internship.
  2. Project Budget - may be attached as a spreadsheet or embedded in narrative document:
    • List all of your expenses and indicate those that the internship award will cover.
    • Please include secured funding from other sources as part of the budget.
  3. Supporting Materials
    • Required
      • A one page recommendation letter from a faculty mentor
      • A written statement from the internship organization confirming your standing internship offer including start/end dates, number of hours required for the internship, and general responsibilities of the role.
    • Supplemental: A maximum of two additional documents or links that help demonstrate the merit of the experience.



EXCEL Cover Photo



The cover of Made at Michigan featuring EXCEL Prize winner Melissa Coppola

main navigation bar - top row

main navigation bar - bottom row

Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower