School of Music, Theatre and Dance at the University of Michigan


Engage Your Entrepreneurial Spirit

The Excellence in Entrepreneurship, Career Empowerment & Leadership (EXCEL) Lab is SMTD’s home base for performing arts entrepreneurship, leadership, and career services. We take a personalized, collaborative approach to professional development by first exploring students’ individual visions and goals, and then connecting them with the resources they need to thrive. Whether you are seeking out a new career pathway or honing in on your competitive edge, EXCEL offers comprehensive access to skill-building, mentorship, and funding to help make your dreams a reality.

The EXCEL Lab catalyzes success for SMTD students and alumni through weekly workshops, 1:1 mentoring, and more than $100,000 in student project and venture funding. Our programming is made possible by the Eileen Weiser EXCEL Fund, thanks to a generous gift from The Weiser Family.

Stay up to date about student projects, special guests, and other upcoming activities with the EXCEL Log.

EXCEL is committed to providing the resources each SMTD student needs to launch and sustain a life in the arts. We expand the professional development bandwidth of your degree program and support a variety of your needs, from the job search to project management and more. EXCEL is committed to helping each student turn ideas into action, while broadening the spotlight on success so that every member of our community can emerge from Michigan poised to claim their individual leadership potential.

Our work aims to advance systemic change around practices of arts leadership, management, and entrepreneurship, guided by three strategic priorities:

  1. Fostering community in online environments by elevating a diverse array of student stories and new programming formats that will better serve an increasingly virtual world.
  2. Elevating anti-racist agendas throughout SMTD, and developing best practices to situate social and racial justice at the heart of our training programs.
  3. Deepening our offerings by intentionally sequencing courses, workshops, and experiential learning opportunities to enrich the potential for budding arts leaders to catalyze change.

“The constant support of the EXCEL department helped us continue with our festival during the pandemic. The suggestions given to us during those hard times were especially helpful, and the support to our SA’OAXACA faculty was an aspect that helped keep the momentum of the festival going.”

Gwendolyn Matias-Ryan

Creator & Artistic Director of SA’OAXACA, SM ’19, Viola

Students attended an EXCEL coaching session, event, or class during the 2021-22 school year

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.

Funding Opportunities

Eileen Weiser EXCEL Fund

The Weiser Family have designated a $1 million gift to establish the Eileen Weiser EXCEL fund. The Eileen 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.

EXCEL Enterprise Fund

The EXCEL Enterprise Fund 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.

General EXCEL funding information and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

For more Enterprise information and to apply

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. Interdisciplinary projects involving two or more U-M departments are encouraged. Selected projects receive mentoring and support, and have access to up to $1,000 seed money, with an opportunity to pitch for up to $4,000 in additional funding.

General EXCEL funding information and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

For more EXCELerator information and to apply


The School of Music, Theatre & Dance EXCEL Prize recognizes extraordinary excellence in performing arts entrepreneurship, leadership and social impact, and is awarded 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 receives mentorship by EXCEL staff.

General EXCEL funding information and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

For more EXCEL Prize information and to apply


EXCEL connects students to paid internships with partner arts organizations that provide exclusive opportunities to SMTD students. Past partnerships have included the Metropolitan Opera, the University Musical Society (UMS), the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, DanceWorks Chicago, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, the EXCEL Internship Fund provides students with grant awards to cover living and travel expenses incurred through accepting unpaid or underfunded summer internships.

Internship Opportunities with EXCEL Partner Organizations

Internship Fund guidelines and application

Two students holding an oversized award check for $10,000 at the end of the year EXCEL celebration.


EXCEL takes a cohort of students to New York City! We spend the weekend going behind-the-scenes of Broadway and visiting some of the city’s leading performing arts organizations. The trip is heavily subsidized to minimize student costs. EXCEL sponsors similar experiences in cultural centers around the world.

The EXCEL Lab 2022 Annual Report

library books

Research Guide

Suggested resources related to performing arts entrepreneurship and leadership in U-M Libraries, at the University, and beyond.


EXCEL Publications

Explore EXCEL’s impact at SMTD in the EXCEL 2020 report, which chronicles the Lab’s first five years through quotes and information about 50 student and alumni projects.

Check out our student written blog the EXCEL Log for content focused on current student interests, projects, and more!

students EXCEL

EXCEL Coaching Appointments

Current students can use these links to schedule a one-on-one appointment with a member of the EXCEL Team:

Contact Us

Students may also email with general inquiries and will be directed to an appropriate staff member.