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.

Our funding guidelines have been impacted by COVID-19, and all school-sponsored engaged learning activities (including any activity funded by EXCEL sources, such as projects, ventures, and/or internships) are subject to both University and state regulations. REVIEW THE NEW GUIDLINES BEFORE APPLYING

Current SMTD students are eligible to apply. Student ventures should be currently active in at least their second consecutive year of activity. Past Enterprise Fund recipients and EXCELerator Fellows not currently in the Winter 2022 incubator cycle are eligible for consideration. Please direct other questions concerning eligibility to

Please combine all your required documents into ONE PDF prior to submission.

The complete application must be submitted via the online application form by March 18, 2022. Finalists will be selected by Friday, April 1.

Narrative – your 1,000-word (roughly four pages), should describe the venture, its mission, and recent activities and address the award criteria below.

Project Budget – we recommend you use the EXCEL Budget Spreadsheet, but you may use your own format if your budgeting documents provide more clarity on funding need and usage. This can be advantageous for organizations with multiple income streams and larger, e.g. five-figure, annual revenue. Be sure to list all expenses, indicate those that the EXCEL Prize will cover and include secured funding from other sources and other projected revenue streams.

Supporting Materials – at minimum, include your articles of incorporation (or, if you are not yet formally incorporated, documentation that the venture has been active for more than a year), and a recommendation letter from a faculty member which directly addresses the venture. Faculty recommenders may submit their recommendation letter through our online form if they do not want to send those materials to the student applicants for submission.

Live Pitches – Finalists will be required to present live pitches to the EXCEL Prize funding committee on Tuesday, April 12 between 6:00-9:00PM. The 2022 EXCEL Prize recipient(s) will be announced by Tuesday, April 19, 2022.

The EXCEL Prize evaluation committee will consider the following criteria in determining the 2022 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 that others are not (or how is it distinctive)?

Social impact: Is the social impact of the venture clearly defined? What needs are being 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 planning, leveraging both fiscal savvy and multiple income streams.

Representation: Ventures spanning all disciplines within the performing arts, including those that are interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary, are encouraged to apply.

Just a Theory Press (EXCEL Prize ‘21) is an independent music publisher specializing in new music. They are based in Michigan and rooted in responsible, ethical publishing. At least 5% of each sale on their website goes to a charity of the composer’s choice, and over half of each sale goes directly to support the composer. They print on paper that is sustainably sourced and any paper scraps that are too small to reuse are composted and used in local gardens. Larger scraps are turned into notepads and sketchbooks.

The Latin American Music Initiative (LAMI) (EXCEL Prize 20’) is designed to advocate for the awareness and inclusion of Latin American academic music in and outside our continent, in order to be programmed, performed and enjoyed by a wide variety of interpreters and audiences. LAMI’s mission is to convene a community of musicians interested in the study, understanding and promotion of Latin American music around the globe.

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.