The 10 Best Music Scholarships for High School Students

Musicians are driven by talent, dedication, and sheer passion for their art. They want to constantly improve, enhance their skills and widen their repertoire of works. 

They love to learn, which is why hundreds of artists flock to music schools each year.

But as much as musicians don’t like to admit it, these schools require a lot more than passion. They also require money.

Fortunately, thousands of dollars in scholarship money are made available every year. These scholarships vary greatly in awards and requirements.

Some want only a recording of the applicant playing their instrument, while others want paperwork and letters of recommendation. Some pay enough to cover fees and materials, while others cover the cost of the entire program.

In short, there’s a scholarship out there for the type of musician and need. You just need to know where to look for them.

This list covers the ten best music scholarships for high school students. Some of these scholarships focus on a specific genre of music or quality of the performer and some are available to just certain styles or musicians.

But you’re sure to find a perfect scholarship for the music lover in your life, so they can stop worrying about money and get back to the thing that makes them happiest: playing music.

High School Music Student
Image via Shutterstock

Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award

Presented by the NPR program From the Top as well as the Media Lab Fellowship, the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist award provides up to $10,000 in scholarship money to 20 musicians each year.

Winners receive not only money to pay for their college education, but also the opportunity to perform on From the Top.

Judges assess applications according to both their demonstrated musical ability and their financial need. For that reason, applications must include a recording of two musical performances as well as two recent tax forms from the musician’s family. Applicants must also provide contact information for two music teachers.

With this information, judges look at an applicant’s ability and need, as well as their educational engagement and creativity.

All materials must be received by November 22nd of each year. Winners will be announced early the next year and will be invited to perform on From the Top that same year.

Ocean Awareness Contest

Musicians who want to defend the environment should consider the Ocean Awareness Contest. Presented by Blue Seat, an environmental nonprofit group, the Ocean Awareness Contest invites submissions based on an innovative theme introduced each year.

In 2022, Blue Seat asked for submissions based on the theme, “The Funny Thing About Climate Change.” 

Musicians respond to the theme by creating a unique and humorous piece that invites audiences to take a fresh look at the issue of climate change. Judges hope to see submissions that make audiences laugh and think about the problem.

Winners receive awards ranging from $250 for honorable mentions all the way to $1500 for the first prize. Recordings must be submitted to Blue Seat by June 13th each year.

SB&O Scholarship Essay Contest

Presented by School Band & Orchestra Magazine, the SB&O Scholarship Essay Contest offers $1000 to five high school students. The contest asks each applicant a very simple question: Why did you join band and why do you stick with it?

The answer to that question must be no more than 250 words long.

Past winners have come from all over the United States, including Texas, Florida, and North Carolina.

Applications must be submitted by April 30th each year. The winners will be announced in the June issue of SB&O Magazine.

The President’s Own Concerto Competition

The United States Marine Corps is known for accepting the few and the proud. That tradition extends beyond soldiers and to musicians as well.

The President’s Own United States Marine Band, a part of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, hosts an annual Concerto Competition for high school musicians

Winners will be invited to appear as guest soloists with the Marine Band. They will also be awarded scholarships ranging from $2500 for the first prize to $1000 and $500 for the second and third prize.

To enter, high school musicians must record themselves performing a selection from the official repertory list. They should be accompanied by piano or a band/orchestra.

The video, as well as an application and letter of recommendation, must be submitted by November 15th. Finalists will be notified by January 1st of the following year.

VSA International Young Soloists Award

For many young musicians, playing at the Kennedy Center is a dream too great to even consider. But for winners of the VSA International Young Soloists Award, that dream can be a reality.

The program invites applications from high school musicians with disabilities. Winners receive a chance to play at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and $2000 in scholarship money.

The contest is open to any disabled high school musician, whether solo or in a band or ensemble. Applicants must provide a recording of no more than ten minutes, showcasing their best work.

Applications are due on March 14th of each year. Winners will be selected by a jury and announced later in the year.

YoungArts National Arts Competition

Designed to encourage artistic excellence on a national level, YoungArts is supported by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars. 

Every year, the Commission awards YoungArts honors to twenty students, recognizing their academic and artistic achievements.

These awards range from $1000 to $10000 in scholarship money, mentorship, and career connections.

The competition is open to musicians majoring in a wide range of classical instruments, from accordion and piano to double-bass and harpsichord. Applicants must provide a video of four performances, involving a selection of works provided by the Commission.

The deadline for the YoungArts National Arts Competition is October 15th of each year. The period for submitting applications will be announced every year on the YoungArts website.

Tri-M Music Honor Society Chapter of the Year Scholarship

Most scholarship applications are solo affairs, but most musicians practice their art collaboratively. The Chapter of the Year Scholarship offered by the Tri-M Music Honor Society recognizes this group effort by providing awards to an entire Junior and Senior Chapter.

To apply, chapters must design a project that engages their community. The project should be of academic, musical, and communal value. It should reflect the Tri-M values of leadership and service.

Applications for this award are due by April 29th of each year. Representatives and winners will evaluate them will be announced later in the year.

The winning chapter will receive $1000 in scholarship money, while the first and second runners-up will receive $800 and $600, respectively.

Against the Grain Artistic Scholarship

The Against the Grain Artistic Scholarship provides financial support to Asian American musicians in any form of performing arts. Winners receive $1000 in tuition money to help them pursue a degree in music.

To apply, you must have at least 25% Asian or Pacific Islander ethnicity, as well as a 3.0 or higher GPA. The application includes transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and an interview with judges.

But the most important part of the application is recordings of the applicant’s best work. Judges also require a short explanation of the provided work, including its overall artistic significance.

All of these materials must be submitted by May 31st of each year.

Congressional Black Caucus Spouses Performing Arts Scholarship

For African American or Black musicians currently attending high school in an area represented by a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Spouses Performing Arts Scholarship may be available.

Ten scholarships of $5000 each are awarded by the CBC to students working towards a degree in any one of the performing arts, such as dance, drama, and music.

The application process involves the submission of a two-minute performance video and a five-minute personal statement video.

In the former, students provide a record of their best work. In the latter, they explain how the award will help them achieve their goals.

Additionally, students must also submit an application, transcript, and two letters of recommendation.

The CBC makes their Performing Arts Scholarship available between January 3rd and April 30th of each year.

Berklee Presidential Scholarship

Berklee College of Music
Iryna Makukha |

The Berklee Conservatory is world-renowned as one of the best places for musicians to learn their trade. But not everyone has the ability to go to Boston to study at Berklee, nor can they afford tuition.

The Berklee Presidential Scholarship seeks to address both of those problems.

This award is great for students interested in applying to Berklee College of Music, as it covers the entire cost of tuition. Only a small handful are given out each year.

Instead of applying for a Berklee Presidential Scholarship, potential winners are automatically considered upon submission of their application to Berklee. They are then assessed by Berklee representatives, who consider the student’s talent and financial need.

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