The School of Music, Theatre & Dance EXCEL Prize 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.

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 2020 incubator cycle are eligible for consideration. Please direct questions concerning eligibility to

All applications should describe the venture, its mission, and recent activities and address the award criteria below. The complete application, including all listed components (below), must be submitted via email to by March 6, 2020.

Finalists will be required to present live pitches to the EXCEL Funding Committee on Tuesday, April 14, 2020 between 6:30-9:30PM, and the 2020 EXCEL Prize recipient will be announced at the year-end EXCELebration on Tuesday, April 21.

Application Components:

  • 750-1,000 word narrative (3-4 pages) addressing the Award Criteria below
  • Documentation of organizational status (articles of incorporation)
  • Budget projects showing how EXCEL Prize 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 submit through our online portal. Please be sure to check EXCEL Prize  for the question regarding funding source on the form. If you have questions, please contact

The EXCEL Prize evaluation committee will consider the following criteria in determining the 2020 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 EXCEL Prize 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.

Anchorage Chamber Music Festival (EXCEL Prize ‘19) was founded in 2013 as the first top-quality, pre-college summer intensive chamber music program in Anchorage, Alaska. The festival has since helped more than 250 local students reach artistic excellence through their lessons, coachings, workshops, and by attending a first-rate concerts performed by renowned guest artists from across North America and abroad. The EXCEL Prize will allow the ACMF to expand its artist faculty and enhance their already robust offerings.

The SMTD & Our Own Thing Piano Partnership Program (EXCEL Prize ‘18) provides free weekly piano lessons to Ypsilanti students and was created to address the lack of diversity and representation in the field of classical piano. The EXCEL Prize allowed the program to supply students with keyboards for practice, give additional training for instructors, and support guest artist workshops.

Threads All Arts Festival (EXCEL Prize ‘17) began as an EXCELerator team, working to showcase artists of various disciplines. The EXCEL Prize allowed the team to expand the festival to two stages over three days and add elements like interactive installations.

Girls Rock Detroit (EXCEL Prize ‘16) promotes creative expression and self-esteem in young women and gender non-conforming youth through a week-long summer camp focused on music education. The EXCEL Prize allowed them to expand their programming and start an instrument loan program.