McKnight Fellowships

McKnight Fellowships for Musicians

McKnight Fellowships logo

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 14 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 per year to its statewide fellowships. More Information.

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.

Application Deadline:
Monday, January 24, 2022
3:00 p.m. CST

McKnight Fellowship for Musicians 2021-2022 Press Release

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 that are 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.

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 optional live performance video, résumés and artist statements. After making individual selections from the full list of second round applicants, panelist 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 by email one month prior to the live audition date.

Final auditions will include two parts: a recorded audition, and a live question and answer session with the panel held via Zoom.

Recorded Audition
Finalists will be invited to MacPhail Center for Music to record a 20-minute live performance in Antonello Hall.  Recording sessions will be offered by appointment April 18th-22nd and April 25th-29th, 2022 at MacPhail Center for Music and will be managed by MacPhail’s Web and Multimedia Technician.  Appropriate precautions will be taken to ensure the health and safety of those involved.  If you are selected as a finalist and in April you do not feel comfortable going to MacPhail to record your audition, reach out to Lindsay Lewis to discuss alternative options for submitting your recording.  Finalists are not required to perform works from their online submissions at the final audition.  

Question and Answer Session with the Panel
On May 13th, each finalist will have a 20-minute question and answer session with the panel members via Zoom.  Performance recordings will be shared with the panel prior to the Zoom call.  All finalists must be able to participate in a Zoom call on May 13th to be considered for a fellowship – no exceptions.  Interview times are scheduled by lottery.  

Finalists receive a $1,000 honorarium for their performance; for fellowship recipients, the honorarium is considered part of the $25,000 award. Panelists consider the performance and conversation with finalists alongside previously submitted materials in selecting four solo artist/ensemble/band fellowship recipients. Finalists are notified of the judges’ decision by phone no later than 9:30 p.m. on May 13th.


Please read carefully. Applicants who do not meet all of 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 prior to application and for the duration of the fellowship year.
  • Are midcareer with a body of work that demonstrates 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 2017, 2018, and 2019, 2020, and 2021 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 or 2021, please reach out to 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 three 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 performance of the applicant. Panelists will have the knowledge of 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 three 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 and be submitted 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 or 2021, the application will still be considered. If you had performances scheduled during 2020 or 2021 that were cancelled, please feel free to list those on your resume and indicate that they were cancelled.

At the top of your résumé please include each applicants 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, web site 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


Fode Bangoura, Djembe—West African Percussion, Brooklyn Park Born in Conakry, Guinea, Fode Bangoura has been recognized internationally for his work as the lead drummer with the acclaimed ensembles “Les Merveilles de Guinée.” A protege of the late, Mohamed Kemoko Sano, Fode is now one of the most respected and sought-after drummers of his generation.

Teaching and performing in Japan, China, Europe and across the U.S., Fode brings a unique energy and electricity to audiences around the world. He has toured with some of the biggest names in African music, such as Sekouba Bambino and Sekouba Kandia Kouyate. In 2007, Fode was honored to have a featured spot on MTV during the celebration of Black History Month and performed at the prestigious Apollo Theater in a tribute to Bob Marley.

In 2008, Fode co-founded Duniya Drum & Dance Company and began the Fakoly Dance and Drum Project, an annual drum and dance conference held in Minneapolis, MN giving students the opportunity to study and perform with the best of the best in Guinea drum and dance. Fode continues to search for new ways to share his unique art form with others and to bring his rich culture to the world.

Chastity Brown, Voice—Blues & Singer-Songwriter, Minneapolis Chastity Brown is a storyteller in the blues tradition. The Minnesota-via-Tennessee songwriter and musician tells stories populated by marginalized characters to stake her own space as a queer black woman and to speak to other experiences oftentimes ignored. The daughter of a black blues musician and white Irish mother who was raised in Tennessee, she’s made a home in Minneapolis for more than a decade. She was signed by Red house Records and released her acclaimed album Silhouette of Sirens in 2017 which was chosen as a “First Listen” by NPR. She’s gone on to tour internationally and support the Indigo Girls, Jayhawks, Micheal Kiwanuka, The National, and Justin Vernon. She’s also toured as backing vocalist and opening band for Ani Difranco on US, UK, and EU tours. In 2019, she was chosen to perform alongside the MN Orchestra directed by Osmo Vanska, where she presented an evening of her original songs.

Chad Heslup aka Longshot, Vocals—Hip Hop, Minneapolis Chad Heslup is a dedicated and experienced rapper, producer, writer, and actor with years of experience in working hard to bring his creative vision, and those of his clients to life. Known by his stage name, MC Longshot, Chad has quickly built a reputation as the hardest working MC, composer, vocalist, and producer in the industry.

Getting his start back in 2002, Chad’s story begins in southside Chicago, where he was raised as the oldest of 6. After moving around the city frequently, Chad was eventually forced into the foster system. During those trying times and formative years, Chad consistently found himself turning to music. Carefully, he nurtured this interest and passion into raw talent, which went on to gain recognition as he was named a member of the Boys Hope Scholarship program at just 12 years old. Chad continued to pursue his education, graduate high school, and accept his enrollment into Drake University.

Embracing the name Longshot, Chad subtly referred to his upbringing while embracing his newfound popularity as a rapper and MC. After just two years at Drake University, Chad moved to the east coast to pursue his musical career. He went on to release his first single in 2002, along with his first full length album titled, “Open Mouth’s Fed,” just a year later with EV records. He even landed a spot on URB Magazine’s “Next 100 List” in 2003.

During the mid-2000’s, Longshot began collaborating with some of the biggest names in the Chicago scene. Titled, “Civil War pt.2,” his 30-track LP went on to receive critical acclaim and only further helped Chad develop his reputation as a talented MC, a creative producer, and a musician with the mind of a visionary who had the foresight to see just what the Chicago hip hop scene needed to bring it all back together.

Chad has gone on to release two more full length albums under the name Longshot. And most recently, his song titled, “Hip Hop Is…” won the Jake One/RSE Song Writing Contest. After receiving more than 1,000 entries and over 7,000 votes, Longshot was chosen by fans as the winner of the competition. His next single is poised to be produced by Jake One and distributed by Rhymesayers Entertainment.

Catherine Ramirez, Flute—Classical, Northfield: Dr. Catherine Ramirez is an active solo, chamber, and orchestral musician and teacher who aims to bring hope, connection, and inspiration through music to others. Recognized for her “sensitive and artistic” (Flute Talk Magazine) performances as “a communicator through music” (American Record Guide), Catherine has captivated listeners from her humble roots along the U.S. Southern border to audiences around the world. A three-time international prize-winning flutist and Artist-in-Residence at St. Olaf College, she has concertized on four continents, served communities through outreach endeavors, and published her work on optimal musical communication in major print and online magazines.

In addition, one ensemble and four solo artists were named finalists and are set to receive $1,000: Emmanuel Duncan and Sarah Lanier-Duncan, aka iLLism, of Minneapolis (Hip Hop and R&B), Nathan Hanson of St. Paul (soprano saxophone—jazz/improvise), Christopher “Kip” Jones of Minneapolis (violin—narrative), Allalaghatta Pavan aka A. Pavan of Minneapolis (Tabla– Hindustani (North Indian) Classical) and Ginna Watson of Golden Valley (violin, vielle, rebec, harp– Early/world/folk music).

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

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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