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Funding Diversity in Music

When Hillary Herndon, professor of viola, sought diverse music selections for her students, she had to conduct research to find those sources each time. The process sparked an idea that has received external funding for an anthology called, “Celebrating Diversity in String Music,” which has already received funding from two sources.

“This music can be hard to find and hard to know if it’s appropriate for the student’s level. We’re trying to create a series of graded pedagogical anthologies with music written by composers not historically represented in our performance and teaching repertoire,” Herndon explains.

“As teachers, we work with students from very young ages to graduate students. They represent a wide range of abilities. We want this anthology to be a go-to place for all music students.”

UT music professors playing string instruments

Working on the Celebrating Diversity in Music anthology are, from L to R, Hillary Herndon, Wesley Baldwin, Jon Hamar, Evie Chen, and Sarah Buzalewski (graduate teaching assistant).

She explains the project that also involves Wes Baldwin, professor of cello; Jon Hamar, assistant professor of jazz and classical double bass; and Evie Chen, lecturer of violin.

Working with Hannah Schmidt, research development manager, the team first received $22,000 from the Sphinx Organization to create five volumes of sheet music at the beginners’ level for the violin, viola, cello, bass, and string ensemble, each with a piano accompanist.

Then, the National Endowment of Arts provided $10,000 to create recordings to accompany that first set of volumes. To date, 33 pieces of music have been collected for the beginning volumes, featuring Black and Latinx composers.

Herndon says that Schmidt helped in a variety of ways. Their first introduction came when Schmidt visited the music department to share the resources available in the Office of Research, Innovation and Economic Development. This includes the Pivot software that helps faculty find opportunities. Schmidt is available to meet individually with faculty to share specific opportunities and to help develop strategies to pursue them.

In this case, one of Herndon’s graduate students found the Sphinx opportunity, and Schmidt helped the team polish their funding request prior to submitting. Herndon commends Drew Haswell, research coordinator for the College of Arts and Sciences, who helped develop the initial budget and trim it as the funder requested.

For the NEA opportunity, Herndon turned to an email from Schmidt that lists funding opportunities. “I keep it printed and posted above my desk,” she says. “This was a limited submission, so it had to go through the college first. Then we had a short time to work with her once we were selected,” Herndon explains the process.

“Hannah recommended we talk to someone from the NEA panel about our vision. We initially planned to print the intermediate and advanced volumes. However, they don’t do publications. Rather they do performances, usually live. During the pandemic, however, recordings were fine.”

So, the team pivoted rapidly for a complete rewrite of their request. “Hannah helped us and talked us through the possibilities. With only a few weeks to prepare, it was very intense; it was a very long application.”

Herndon encourages others in the humanities and arts, especially her colleagues in the Music and Fine Arts Department, to reach out to Schmidt for help in finding funding. “She knows of resources I wouldn’t have found,” she says.

In terms of pursuing external funding, Herndon speculates that if someone applies to 10 programs, maybe they’ll get funding for one. “If you only know of one or two sources of funding, that’s not such good odds,” she says. “Hannah’s net to cast is wider.”

In addition to finding the funding, Schmidt also helps faculty craft their message to appeal to the funders, Herndon adds. “For example, NEA wanted us to identify 10 key people. “This is such a big project, we wanted to highlight the big names. But Hannah noted that wasn’t as personable, and we needed to have ourselves on the list. We’re so used to deferring to others, we were hesitant. She gave us the permission.”

For more information on Pivot and finding funding for any discipline, contact Schmidt at