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Scholarship Program Based on Financial Need

The Opportunity Grant program offers scholarships to students in our area who have an interest in studying music and financial need.  Our teachers will offer reduced tuition, the branch will contribute a portion of the tuition and the student's family will pay a small amount.   The branch accepts donations of pianos or other instruments for use by the students selected for the program.  The attachments below include a general information sheet, a letter to be sent to local schools to help locate eligible students and the application form for potential candidates.

 Opportunity Grant scholarships awarded by the Los Altos Branch of the Music Teacher’s Association make private lessons affordable for well-motivated young people whose families are otherwise financially unable to afford the full cost of private study.  A community of caring individuals—parents, teachers, donors, other professionals—join together to make the program work.

 The program coordinates a three-way sharing of the financial burden:  the teachers reduce their tuition, the scholarship family pays a small co-payment, and the scholarship funds pay the rest.

Selection Process

Scholarship announcements are distributed in April to school principals, newspapers, and radio stations. Applications are available online and by mail.

To qualify, students must be in grades 2 through 12 for the upcoming school year.  The application includes a brief financial statement.  In addition to tuition co-payments, families will be responsible for the costs of educational materials (about $25 per year) and transportation to and from the weekly lessons.

Interviews of candidate students with their families are conducted in late June by the scholarship director accompanied by a committee of two other teachers.  Interviews are friendly, encouraging, and short (10 minutes or so).

Scholarships and their amounts are awarded based on many factors including:  amount of funds available, number of qualified students, number of continuing students, availability of teachers in proximate area of family, degree of financial stress on family, etc.  Yearly per-person income of OG families has historically been below $10,000—for example, a family of 4 whose gross income per year is $40,000 or less.  Our bottom line in awarding scholarships is to help the greatest number with the greatest need.  Students must also demonstrate enthusiasm and commitment to qualify.

The committee selects a range of grantees including students with obvious talent and financial need, as well as students with severe financial stress who are already placed in a teacher’s studio.  But especially the committee is looking for the beginning student with a passion for music study and little money for lessons.

The scholarships remain in effect for one school year beginning in September.  Scholarships may be renewable on a year-to-year basis, provided funds remain available and acceptable musical progress is being made.  Evaluation surveys, sent in spring to each OG teacher for every OG student, weigh heavily on decisions for applicant renewals.  Approximately two-thirds of students continue their scholarship to the next year.


Donations to support the scholarship program come from various fund-raising efforts, including benefit concerts and donations from individuals and organizations.  Donations are tax-deductible. 

Often families have no instrument for practice.  The program in Los Altos will be seeking instrument donations as well as donations for piano moving, instrument rental and tuning of donated pianos.  Overhead costs, including photocopying, postage, office supplies, etc., are voluntarily assumed by involved teachers.

Program Success

The Los Altos Branch Opportunity Grant program is based on a very successful similar program in Santa Cruz County.   As in Santa Cruz, we hope to attract not only unusually gifted musicians but also any student with enthusiasm and interest, regardless of physical and learning differences.

Many Opportunity Grant recipients in Santa Cruz County are involved in philanthropic performances such as nursing home concerts.  Some have been composers, contest prize winners, collegiate music majors, and at least one became a high school music teacher.

The Los Altos Branch is hoping to repeat the success of our sister organization in Santa Cruz, who in 13 years has awarded over $48,000 in scholarships with approximately the same amount donated by the participating teachers in the form of reduced tuition.

The fact is that there are many children out there with musical gifts waiting for a chance for expression.  Opportunity Grant Scholarship show how a community of caring individuals—parents, teachers, donors, and other professionals—can join together to allow that music to be heard.

Larry Masinter,
Aug 22, 2009, 10:46 AM
Larry Masinter,
Aug 22, 2009, 10:39 AM