McKnight Fellowships

McKnight Fellowships for Musicians

McKnight Fellowships logo

MacPhail Center for Music is proud to be the administrative home for the McKnight Fellowships for Musicians

Founded on the belief that Minnesota thrives when its artists thrive, the McKnight Foundation’s arts and culture program is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the country. Support for individual working Minnesota artists has been a cornerstone of the program since it began in 1982. The McKnight Artist Fellowships Program provides annual, unrestricted cash awards to outstanding mid-career Minnesota artists in 15 different creative disciplines. Program partner organizations administer the fellowships and structure them to respond to the unique challenges of different disciplines. Currently, the foundation contributes about $2.8 million annually to its statewide fellowships. For more information, visit

The McKnight Fellowships for Musicians are intended to recognize and support mid-career musicians living and working in Minnesota who demonstrate a sustained level of accomplishment, commitment, artistic excellence, a distinctive musical voice, and a significant performing career over a period of time. The McKnight Fellowships for Musicians are committed to honoring the breadth of Minnesota musicians of all genres; aesthetically, geographically, and culturally.

If you are a performing musician in any genre, MacPhail Center for Music invites you to apply for a McKnight Fellowship for Musicians.

About the McKnight Fellowships for Musicians

With the generous support of the McKnight Foundation, MacPhail awards four $25,000 fellowships to outstanding and distinctive mid-career solo artists or small ensembles/bands. A McKnight Musician Fellowship can help an artist set aside periods of time for study, reflection, experimentation, and exploration; take advantage of an opportunity, or work on a new project. Ensembles/bands recognized as finalists and/or fellowship recipients will split awards between members; individual ensemble/band members will not each receive the full award amount. Awards are subject to state and federal income tax guidelines.

Application Deadline: 
Monday, January 30, 2023
3:00 p.m. CST

You will not be able to upload files after 3 pm CST on January 30, 2023. At that time the system immediately stops accepting applications, even if you are in the middle of working on it.

Start your application early. Please plan to make sure your system is compatible with the application process, your submitted materials are correct and functional and you understand how the system works. Late or incomplete applications will not be accepted. 

When creating your profile please uncheck the box to make your profile discoverable.  You do not need to have a discoverable profile.  If you already have an account, turn this off by clicking on the “Discover Me” tab and then changing the “Discoverable” button to red.

Communication to you regarding the status of your application will be sent through Acceptd. If you choose to turn off email notifications please remember to log in to the system to check on the status of your application.

Information Session:
Lindsay Lewis, McKnight Musician Fellowship Administrator, and a representative from Springboard for the Arts, will conduct an information session via Zoom on January 8th from noon-2pm to go over the application process, both its content and technical aspects.

RSVP here no later than January 5th at 10am CST to be sent a link to join the Zoom call.

*A recording of the information session will be available online at after January 12th, 2023.

A four-member panel consisting of experienced and well-respected music professionals selects the McKnight Musician Fellows. The panel members are performing musicians, producers, composers, directors, and educators with an appreciation for and knowledge of a diverse range of musical styles and genres. All panelists are from outside the state of Minnesota. Panelists, insofar as possible, represent a diversity of age, ethnicity, gender, and geography.

The McKnight Musician Fellowship panelists remain anonymous during the selection process.

Applicants are evaluated and selected based on the quality of their work as evidenced in submitted materials, most importantly work samples. Distinctive musical voice, exceptional artistic merit and the content of the artist statement will be considered during the selection process.

Consideration is given to accomplishments to date as well as promise for continued development and the impact the fellowship will have on the artist. The panel will also be asked to consider the breadth of artistic practices among Minnesota musicians, which include a wide range of styles and genres, which may be influenced by ethnicity, gender, and geography.

Solo artists and ensembles/bands in all styles compete together.

Panelists will review the tracks submitted as a part of Work Sample A. The panel will choose approximately one-third of the applications to advance to the second round. Panelists are not given the names of applicants in the first round. Login to your account on Acceptd at any time to check on your application status.

The panelists will review the tracks submitted as a part of Work Sample A & Work Sample B, the live performance video, résumés, and artist statements. After making individual selections from the full list of second-round applicants, panelists will meet via conference call to discuss the applicants who are of greatest interest to them. Nine solo artists/ensembles/bands will be selected to perform in the live auditions. Applicants will be notified about their application status via Acceptd the week of April 3rd.

Finalist Auditions:

Finalists are invited to perform for the panel at MacPhail Center for Music on Friday, May 5, 2023. 

All finalists must be present to be considered for a fellowship on May 5th – no exceptions.

Finalists receive a $1,000 honorarium for their performance; for fellowship recipients, the honorarium is considered part of the $25,000 award.

Finalists present a live performance of no longer than 20 minutes; panelists have up to an additional 15 minutes to ask questions of and talk with each artist/band/ensemble.

Panelists consider the performance and conversation with finalists alongside previously submitted materials in selecting four solo artist/band/ensemble fellowship recipients.

Finalists are not required to perform works from their online submissions at the final audition. 

Performance times are scheduled by lottery.

Finalists are notified of the judges’ decision by phone no later than 9:30 p.m. on May 5th. 


Please read carefully. Applicants who do not meet the following criteria and expectations will not be considered and should not apply.

The intent of this program is to recognize and support midcareer artists living and working in Minnesota who demonstrate a sustained level of accomplishment, commitment, and artistic excellence. Artists who are eligible for these fellowships:

  • Have or maintain MN residency for at least one year before application and for the fellowship year.
  • Are mid-career with a body of work demonstrating a sustained level of accomplishment, commitment, and artistic excellence.
  • Can only apply to one McKnight Artist Fellowship in any artistic discipline within a year.
  • Can only apply as a solo artist or an ensemble/band member within a year.
  • Have not been a recipient of a McKnight Artist Fellowship within any artistic discipline in the last five award years.  Recipients of 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 & 2022 McKnight Fellowships in any discipline are not eligible.
  • Demonstrate growth and ongoing artistry since their most recent McKnight Artist Fellowship.
  • Are not staff, board, or immediate family of the McKnight Foundation or fellowship administrative partners.  (Independent contractors and faculty are not considered staff and are therefore eligible to apply).
  • Are not enrolled full-time in an academic program.


  • Have performed together for three or more years with the same members and name as stated on the application.
  • Be made up of no more than five members.
  • Be an active ensemble/band, having at least four significant performances in each of the last three years. If the pandemic prevented your ensemble from performing four times in 2020, 2021, or 2022 please contact Lindsay Lewis to discuss your eligibility.

Application Guidelines & Requirements

You must provide live or studio recordings, totaling 24 minutes of material, made in the last four years. Recordings should represent your highest quality, best work. Solo artists must submit recordings of solo performances, and ensembles/bands must submit recordings that feature all ensemble/band members listed on the application. Recordings of solo artists and ensembles/bands can include accompaniment. However, the panelists should be able to easily identify and listen to the applicant’s performance. Panelists will know the instrument being performed. Do not include any introductory spoken commentary on your recordings.

Time requirement: 4 minutes or less

Work Sample A should include one or more of the solo artists’ or ensembles’/bands’ works, which when added together, do not exceed a combined total of four minutes. Fading in or fading out a recording is acceptable to avoid exceeding the time allotted. Work Sample A is the only material reviewed by the panelists in the first round.

Time requirement: 20 minutes or less

Work Sample B must contain two or more additional works, which when added together, do not exceed a combined total of 20 minutes in length. Fading in or fading out of a piece of music is acceptable to avoid exceeding time allotted. The panelists will listen to Work Sample A and Work Sample B of all applicants who advance to the second round.

Applicants will be disqualified from the competition if the total time of all works included in Work Sample A exceeds 4 minutes or in Work Sample B exceeds 20 minutes.

It is recommended that all works be uploaded as individual tracks so that panelists may easily advance through the applicant’s recordings.

Applicants must submit a supplementary page listing the names of the works and composers submitted on Work Sample A & B to be submitted as a PDF.

Upload a video of a live performance no longer than five minutes, made in the last four years. The video does not have to be in front of a live audience but must be unprocessed. The audio must be from the same take as the image. Clips from different recordings may be put together into one video to total up to five minutes. The video may or may not include songs performed in your Work Sample A & B recordings. Ensembles/bands must submit recordings that feature all ensemble/band members listed on the application. Recordings of solo artists and ensembles/bands can include accompaniment. However, the panelists should be able to easily identify and listen to the performance of the applicant.

An artist statement no longer than 500 words.

Your artist statement might address the following:

  • What is your background as a performing musician?
  • How would you describe your distinctive musical voice?
  • What do you see as the future of your art form and how does your work contribute to that?
  • On the spectrum of cultural advocacy from allyhood to cultural appropriation, where does your music lie?
  • What are you doing as a performing musician that isn’t already being done?
  • What is next for you as an artist?

If you are a previous McKnight Fellowship for Musicians recipient please answer the following question:

  • How has your work developed since your last award?

2-pages or less. Submit as a PDF.

Submit a current résumé pertaining to the solo artist’s or ensemble’s/band’s music career that highlights your professional accomplishments and achievements including performances, recordings, awards and grants. Ensemble/band résumés must include at least 12 significant performances (4 per year) from the 3 years prior to the application deadline.

Given the constraints caused by the pandemic, if the ensemble has fewer than 3 performances in 2020, 2021, or 2022, the application will still be considered. If you had performances scheduled during 2020, 2021, or 2022 that were canceled, please feel free to list those on your resume and indicate that they were canceled.

At the top of your résumé please include each applicant’s name (up to 5 for bands/ensembles), the solo artist’s/ensemble’s/band’s name, and corresponding instrument/s.

Résumés may not include: email addresses, website addresses, quotes or reviews, pictures, photographs, cover letters, or letters of recommendation.

Clearly legible copy of a driver’s license for each applicant or other proof of legal

Minnesota residency to be submitted as a PDF.

Past Recipients of McKnight Fellowships for Musicians


Jaye Sinkfield, aka DIVAJ—Rapper, Hip-Hop, Saint Paul DIVAJ is a Minnesota Twin Cities based live performer, writer, and recording artist. They are Black Femme Queer hip-hop artist with the talent and skill to rise to the top of the entertainment industry, a business mindset to impact the culture of both consumer and community, while intentionally healing black wounds, protecting feminine bodies, and valuing queer authenticity through their art. They stand tall in their blackness, bloom effortlessly in their femininity, and embrace their authentic queerness.

Rebecca Merblum, Cello—Classical, Minneapolis Rebecca Merblum is a cellist based in Minneapolis, originally from Connecticut, who has woven her musical life around chamber music, collaboration, and teaching. She plays as a frequent guest with the St Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Minnesota Bach Society, among many. During the pandemic Rebecca crafted collaborations with the James Sewell Ballet and composer, Chad Hughes exploring the evolution of dance forms from the 18th century to the present. Driven by the interwoven nature of the artistic process Rebecca also held a Target Center Residency at the Weisman Museum entitled Cello Conversations. The final panel ‘What Do You Hear’ inspired the project to continue into its second phase and it is now supported under the umbrella of Springboard for the Arts Fiscal Incubator Program. Early in 2020 she was awarded a grant for her initiative ‘Your Dance’ by Springboard for the Arts as they addressed Artists Combating Isolation. Rebecca is also very much involved in mentoring and working with students in Nairobi as a part of the Art of Music Foundation. She is the Co-Artistic Director of the Kenya International Cello Festival coming in May 2022 along with her newly launched Chamber Music Series in partnership with the Fueled Collective – ‘Sound Dialogue.’ Most recently Rebecca was awarded an Artist in Residence Grant in connection with the Global Music Initiative at MacPhail. Her chosen project is entitled Threads and speaks to the invisible nature of connection as represented in sound, language, and visual art.

Paula Gudmundson, Flute—Classical, Vadnais Heights Paula Gudmundson focuses on centering her work around collaboration, community engagement and bringing voice to the absent narratives in the arts.  This includes creating recordings, editions, commissions, and collaborations which push our field beyond the concert stage. Gudmundson has performed at numerous music festivals and events, including regional, national, and international conferences of the College Music Society, National Flute Association conventions, Minnesota Public Radio’s Class Notes Artist, International Flute Festival of Costa Rica, and La Côte Flûte Festival.  Recordings include La Flauta of Buenos Aires (2012), Breaking Waves (2019) and Melodies of the Forest (2022). Gudmundson is Associate Professor of Flute and Music Department Head at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Lewis McCaleb aka Lewiee Blaze, Voice & Piano, Hip-Hop, Minneapolis Lewis McCaleb aka Lewiee Blaze is a Universal Artist & Visionary. He co-founded N4 Collective, an Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation cooperative that provides personal, professional, and economic opportunities to artists and entrepreneurs. N4 represents New Mindsets, New Media, New Leaders, and New Narratives, a philosophy created to promote self-care, self-expression, self-confidence, and self-worth. Born and raised in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, Lewiee has overcome life’s challenges and aspires to inspire others by providing content about truth, love, peace, freedom, and justice. 

Fode Bangoura, Djembe, West African Percussion, Brooklyn Park
Chastity Brown, Voice, Blues & Singer-Songwriter, Minneapolis
Chad Heslup aka Longshot, Vocals—Hip Hop, Minneapolis
Catherine Ramirez, Flute—Classical, Northfield

José A. Zayas Cabán, saxophone—new/classical, Minneapolis
PaviElle French, voice—soul, Columbia Heights
Diane Miller, a.k.a. D Mills, voice—Hip-Hop, folk, alternative, rock, Minneapolis
Kirsten Whitson, cello—classical, St. Paul

Sedra Bistodeau, 
violin and fiddle, Princeton
Gao Hong, traditional Chinese music, Northfield
Maria Isa, Afro-Latin hip-hop, St. Paul
Will Johnson (W/ILLS), post genre, St. Paul

Jonatha Brooke, singer-songwriter, Minneapolis
Kill the Vultureship-hop artists, Minneapolis
MaLLyhip-hop artist, Minneapolis
Clara Osowskivocalist (mezzo-soprano), Brooklyn Center

Tonia Hughes, 
voice, Minneapolis
Aida Shahghasemi, voice and composition, Minneapolis
Carrie Henneman Shaw, voice, Saint Paul
Tim Sparks, guitar, Burnsville

Francesca Anderegg – 
Javier Santiago – jazz
Pooja Pavan
 – composer Tracey Engleman – voice

Atlantis Quartet 
– Zacc Harris, guitar; Brandon Wozniak, tenor saxophone; Chris Bates, double bass; Pete Hennig, drums
Troy King (King Fuvi), emcee and songwriter
Pat O’Keefe, clarinet and bass clarinet
Wilhelmina Smith, cellist

Danami Maurice Champion, songwriter, musician; from St. Paul
Ignacio Nachito Herrera, pianist, arranger and musical director; from White Bear Lake
Siama Matuzungidi, guitar; from Minneapolis
Jacqueline Ultan, cellist, composer; from Minneapolis

Haley Bonar, voice, guitar, piano, keyboard, from St. Paul
Cléa Galhano, recorder, from St. Paul
Paul Metzger, banjo, from St. Paul
Maiya Papach, viola, from St. Paul

Christopher Atzinger, piano, from Dundas
Gao Hong, pipa, from Northfield
Laura MacKenzie, flutes/pipes/whistles/concertina/voice, from Northfield
Karen Mueller, autoharp, from Minneapolis

Orkestar Bez Ime, Colleen Bertsch, violin/vocals; Dee Langley, accordion/vocals; Katrina Mundinger, clarinet/percussion/vocals; Natalie Nowytski, vocals/percussion
The Roe Family Singers, Quillan and Kim Roe
John Snow, oboe
Noah Hoehn, harmonic/marimba/voice/percussion

Bryan Nichols, pianist
Nirmala Rajasekar, veena player
Parker Quartet, Daniel Chong, violin; Karen Kim, violin; Jessica Bodner, viola; Kee-Hyun Kim, cello
Carrie Henneman Shaw, voice

Asako Hirabayashi, harpsichord
Bernhard David Scully, horn
Christopher Marshall, bassoon
Fora Baltacigil, double bass

Linda Chatterton, flutist
Sarah Kwak, violinist
Gao Hong, Chinese pipa player
Arek Tesarczyk, cellist

Noah Hoehn, harmonica player
David Karr, saxophone player
Charles Lazarus, trumpeter
Matthew Young, violist

Katja Linfield, cellist
Patrick Harison McPeck, accordionist
The Minneapolis Quartet, string quartet

Connie Evingson, vocalist
Amy and Sara Hamann, piano duo
Ross/Rapier Cello Duo
Voice Trek, vocal ensemble

Stephanie Arado, violinist
Artaria String Quartet
John Snow, oboist
Thomas Turner, violist

Steven Copes, violinist
Noah Hoehn, harmonica player
Dean Magraw, guitarist
Stephanie Wendt, pianist

Leibundguth-Witt Duo, flute & piano duo
Neal and Leandra, voice/guitar duo
Nina Tso-Ning Fan, violinist
Soyulla Duo, violin & cello duo

Dare to Breathe, vocal ensemble
Gao Hong, Chinese pipa player
Prudence Johnson, vocalist
Anthony Ross, cellist

The Bakken Trio, piano trio
Rosalyra Quartet, string quartet
Timothy Paradise, clarinetist
Connie Evingson, vocalist

Duologue, flute & guitar duo
Jorja Fleezanis, violinist
Diane Jarvi, vocalist & instrumentalist
Peter Mayer, vocalist/guitarist

Linda Chatterton, flutist
Laura MacKenzie, Celtic multi-instrumentalist
Ruth MacKenzie, vocalist
Sunita Staneslaw, harpist

Ensemble Capriccio, string trio
Gao Hong, Chinese pipa player
Shank-MacLaughlin Duo, violin & piano duo
Tadeusz Majewski, pianist

Contact & Resources

If you have questions after reviewing these guidelines, please contact:

Regarding Eligibility and Guidelines:
Lindsay Lewis
Phone: 612-767-5586

Regarding the Online Application Software:
Acceptd Customer Support
Phone: 1-888-725-2122

If you need access to a computer or internetconsider going to your local public library or Springboard for the Arts

McKnight Artist Fellow Logo
McKnight Musician Fellows should feel free to use these logos which have been designed for McKnight Artist Fellows.

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