Grant renews the Mellon Foundation’s support for the next three years following an initial grant of $1.8 million for the program, a partnership between the Sphinx Organization, New World Symphony, and the League of American Orchestras

DETROIT, MICHIGAN (JANUARY 6, 2022) — The National Alliance for Audition Support—a partnership between the Sphinx Organization, New World Symphony, and the League of American Orchestras—has been awarded a grant of $1.95 million by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Created in 2018, the National Alliance for Audition Support (NAAS) is an unprecedented national and field-wide initiative with the long-term goal of increasing diversity in American orchestras. The Mellon Foundation was the primary underwriter of NAAS with a grant of $1.8 million for the first four years. The new, increased, grant provides continued support through 2024. In addition to the Mellon Foundation support NAAS receives additional financial contributions from over 100 orchestra partners through annual dues.

The customized array of support offered to Black and Latinx artists through the NAAS includes:

Mentoring through matching participants with appropriate mentors in the orchestral field.

Audition preparation through intensives offered by the New World Symphony.

Financial support in the form of stipends for audition travel and other professional development expenses.

Audition previews through the Sphinx Orchestral Partners Auditions Excerpt Competition, enabling orchestras to familiarize themselves with the talent pool.

To date, NAAS has assisted 299 musicians resulting in 81 successful auditions and placements. Of these 81 positions, 29 are fulltime, 16 temporary, 5 substitute positions, and 31 fellowship positions. Over the next three years NAAS expects to serve at least 350 underrepresented classical musicians and provide approximately $600,000-$750,000 in direct support to artists, continuing to advance diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) in the nation’s orchestras.

Susan Feder, Program Officer, Mellon Foundation Arts & Culture, said:

“The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Sphinx Organization have partnered for more than 13 years in providing robust training, mentorship, and performance opportunities for highly talented artists from communities poorly represented within the classical music field and art form. At this time, we are pleased to provide continued underwriting support for the National Alliance for Audition Support (NAAS) program, which has already served nearly 300 musicians and placed many of them in professional positions. We’re particularly gratified by the involvement of more than 100 orchestra partners to help sustain NAAS, and are confident in NAAS’s central role in the short and long-term to make the field more inclusive and equitable.”

Since 2008, the Mellon Foundation has provided Sphinx—that in 2022 celebrates 25 years of transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts—with over $6 million in support. In addition to NAAS, it supports the Sphinx Virtuosi ensemble national tours and SphinxConnect, the organization’s annual convening.

Sphinx President and Artistic Director, Afa S. Dworkin, said:

“We are profoundly grateful to the Mellon Foundation for their belief in this work. Unprecedented in its scope and vision, we believe that NAAS empowers countless deserving artists while creating a tangible pathway for orchestras to evolve as inclusive artist collectives committed to excellence and diversity.”

In addition to its core program offerings, the NAAS program sparked the creation the NAAS Musician Database, a resource database of over 230 Black and Latinx musicians that aims to connect musicians of color with orchestras and other artistic institutions for engagement opportunities. NAAS has also developed a cross-sector coalition of artists, musicians unions, orchestra personnel managers, and orchestra artistic directors. This coalition provides over 100 orchestras with guidelines and resources to inform their DEI policies and best practices, including the development of guidelines/recommendations for orchestra audition, hiring and tenure practices, and demographic data collection on audition applicants.

The guidelines were published in January 2021 and have since gained significant traction serving as both a resource for the field, as well as a catalyst for substantive discussions and strategy development at industry meetings and conferences. Several NAAS orchestra partners are working to pilot and adopt elements of the NAAS audition/hiring/tenure guidance as part of their organization’s operations and processes. The publication of the guidelines also raised the visibility of the NAAS program outside the U.S. and Sphinx is currently advising the London Philharmonic on the development of hire/tenure guidelines.

For more information about NAAS, visit