• David Grammig

Movements In Music & Collectibles Through Family Sponsorship

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

“Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything.” — Plato

COVID-19 has descended upon the entire world, yet there are stars of hope philanthropically.[1] In the midst of this dark pandemic, people all over the world have stepped up to the plate and donated at least $10.3 billion to philanthropic causes in May 2020 alone, according to Candid, a nonprofit organization tracking major grants. [2]

Philanthropy resulting from COVID-19 has been directed to urgent needs—supporting basic needs in communities, investigating options for a vaccine, and filling societal inequities that will continue to worsen over the longer term.[3] With the public sector having to redirect funds that had otherwise been spent on other forms of societal investment such as music and the humanities, the private sector (i.e., wealthy individuals, families, and other organizations) will need to consider their role in filling the gap. [4]

The focus of this article is on music philanthropy and its unique way of helping to even society’s playing field through education, therapy, and cultural enrichment. Families and individuals can and have played a key role in this endeavor. Throughout the centuries, many families and individuals have successfully deployed their wealth to invest in a better society through the humanities, particularly music. COVID-19 has now uncovered an even greater opportunity to foster an appreciation for the arts, which enriches society.

Musical Sponsorship

Investing in music and the arts as a form of philanthropy provides public and private benefits. [5]

There are countless examples of individuals, families, and organizations who recognize the importance of providing extraordinary music to society through investing their philanthropic capital in ways such as:

· Education and training of future musicians;

· Music and arts therapy;

· Curating musical instruments, manuscripts, recordings, and collectibles;

· Continuing the tradition of musical instrument craftsmanship; and

· Sponsorship of artists.

Arts Education and Training of Future Musicians - Settlement Music School, China’s Cultural Shift

· Settlement Music School is a community music school with branches in and around Philadelphia. Founded in 1908 by two young women, Jeannette Selig Frank and Blanche Wolf Kohn, it is the largest community school of the arts in the United States offering 10,000 weekly services at six branches in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to thousands of people of all abilities, ages, races and financial means. Many families, individuals, and organizations donate to this school, which builds skills for a lifetime and has produced alumni such as Albert Einstein, Chubby Checker, and Kevin Bacon.[6]

· In China, an estimated 40 million children now play the piano, and additional millions play the violin. The government has reversed a previous stance about banning Western music and dismissing classical music studies as bourgeois. Establishing opera houses, concert halls and symphony orchestras is now a priority. Jindong Cai of Stanford University, who conducts in both China and the United States, describes the push in soft-power terms: “A product manufactured in China is not as important for China's international profile. Cultural power is much more important.”[7]

Music Therapy - Shelter Music Boston

Shelter Music Boston (SMB)[8] delivers monthly chamber music concerts to the Greater Boston area homeless shelters, providing classical music as a social service. One of their principles is that every note invests in the capacity of classical music to create social change in environments of great need. SMB believes all people deserve access to the dignity, creativity, and passion of classical music.

Music Curation – The Morgan Library

The Morgan's music collection located in New York City is the result of the generosity of several donors and lenders beginning in 1962 with the Dannie and Hettie Heineman Collection, a small but exceedingly well-chosen selection of music manuscripts, placed on deposit and then formally given to the Morgan in 1977. In 2008 the Morgan acquired the James Fuld Collection, by all accounts the finest private collection of printed music in the world. The Music Manuscripts Online project has been created to provide online access to high-quality images and descriptions of music manuscripts owned by The Morgan Library & Museum.

Musical Instrument Craftsmanship & Artist Sponsorship – Steinway & Sons

For over 160 years Steinway & Sons has been dedicated to making the finest pianos in the world. Their pioneering handcrafted methods are still employed today to ensure the instrument remains an instrument of uncompromising expression. Steinway cultivates relationships with pianists of every age, ethnicity, and genre to make possible the performance of extraordinary music for audiences around the world.

Philanthropic Giving Trends and Best Practices

COVID-19 has accelerated trends and best practices in overall philanthropy, which can benefit philanthropists interested in investing wealth in music-related educational, health, and cultural initiatives and programs. These developments are outlined below.

Develop an Appropriate Philanthropic Structure

Selecting an appropriate structure, such as a private foundation, for an individual or family’s philanthropic capital is imperative to proper wealth preservation and planning. Private foundations can be organized as a trust, not-for-profit corporation, or an LLC. In certain circumstances, a vehicle that may be taxable in the short-term such as an LLC could provide other benefits in the long-term such as flexibility regarding assets contributed, investments made, and recipient funds. [11] For musicians or philanthropists, the primary benefit of operating business operations through an LLC is to limit owners’ liability for the business’s contractual obligations, debts, and other liabilities.

Collaborate with Other Donors

Today, two-thirds of the world’s billionaires are faced with decisions about how to best sustain their legacies through the transfer of their wealth to family generations and philanthropic causes.[12] They have a tremendous opportunity to redefine traditional philanthropy[13] in many forms such as programs for the arts and education, socially-focused investing, endowments, and foundations. By collaborating with other donors, more can be accomplished through shared experiences and networks. The establishment of the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University is an example of co-partnering from both external supporters and community partners, which was made possible by an unprecedented $101 million gift to the University in 2006 by the late Peter B. Lewis.

Support the Public Sector/Investment into Local Communities

Many arts institutions are sustained by government sources such as the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in the U.S. NEA’s funding is project-based and goes to thousands of nonprofits each year. Its projects include partnerships and special arts initiatives, research, and other support that contribute to the vitality of neighborhoods, students and schools, and the workplace, and enhance culture. Pre-COVID-19, music (and arts) education programs were being cut due to lost tax revenue sources.[14] In New York City, arts spending will be cut by 11 percent in response to closing a $9 billion budget gap due to lost tax revenues because of the coronavirus shutdown.[15]

Accelerate Pace of Giving

Families, individuals, and foundations may decide that investing in philanthropy now when it is most needed will have greater impact than delaying into the future. In the U.S., a private foundation must make annual qualifying distributions (which include grants) of at least 5% of the foundation’s net asset base. Recently, The Ford Foundation, which has a $13.7 billion endowment, announced plans to distribute proceeds from a $1 billion bond offering and raise its annual payout from 6 to 10 percent.[16]

Ease burden on grantees

Through acting in a concerted way, philanthropists could collectively develop a grant-making platform to efficiently manage the grantee application process. Such a platform would store grant review and approval history, calendar application dates, and automate solicitations to potential donors.


COVID-19 has accelerated trends in philanthropy such as social impact philanthropy, donor collaboration, and integration with wealth planning. Investing in music is an area for advancing humanity with an immeasurable benefit to society. Private philanthropy now more than ever can help achieve this noble objective. As a patron of the arts, classical pianist, Board member at two cultural institutions, and global citizen, I believe the times that we live in have brought to the forefront the need for positive impact at this critical turning point in history, which the humanities can foster.

Mary Elizabeth Klein currently serves as Chief Operations/Financial Officer for a privately-held, multi-stakeholder global law firm; held senior partner leadership roles in transactions and governance at Ernst & Young LLP; and realigned the operations for a multi-billion dollar single-family office. Mary has represented Carnegie Hall as an Advisory Director for over nine years and serves as a member of the Investment Advisory Committee of the Art Students League of New York. You can contact Mary Elizabeth by e-mail: MaryEKlein.LLC@gmail.com 

or phone: +1 732-248-9526.

[1] Martin Luther King, Jr. “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” [2] Candid, June 2020. Millions of nonprofits spend trillion of dollars worldwide. Candid is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to obtain information individuals need to do good. [3] McKinsey & Company, May 21, 2020, “A transformative moment for philanthropy.” [4] Brookings, March 23, 2020, “How will the coronavirus affect state and local budgets?” Large scale “social distancing” will reduce consumer spending and workers’ wages and, in turn, cause sales and income tax revenues to significantly decrease. [5] Joseph Pergola, “Music Education in Crisis,” School Band and Orchestra Magazine, February 2014. [6] For further information, see https://settlementmusic.org/about-settlement/history/. Settlement Music School includes The Kardon Center for Arts Therapy, whose mission is to provide creative arts therapy services that are accessible to all. [7] “Government in Beijing Boosts Growth in Classical Music”, Financial Review, December 7, 2016. [8] For further information see https://www.sheltermusicboston.org. [9] Tracy Nowski, Maisie O’Flanagan, Lynn Taliento, “A Transformative Moment for Philanthropy”, McKinsey & Company, May 21, 2020, p. 2. [10] Paula D. Johnson, “Global Philanthropy Report”, Harvard Kennedy School, the Hauser Institute for Civil Society/UBS, p. 27. [11] Sarah D McDaniel et al, “Taxable Foundations”, Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management. [12] UBS/PWC Billionaire Report. [13] Philanthropy literally means benevolence or love for humanity. The philanthropist seeks to render help to other people or for the common good. Traditional philanthropy is represented by donations and gifts associated with the principle of ‘give money and step away.’ [14] Joseph Pergola, “Music Education in Crisis”, School Band and Orchestra Magazine, February 2014. The largest source of funding for public schools comes from property taxes. Property taxes decline when people do not buy or lose their homes due to foreclosure. State and federal money to schools continues to decrease and school operating costs increase. [15] Julia Jacobs, “New York City Cuts Art Spending by 11 Percent to Close Budget Gap”, New York Times, July 1, 2020. [16] James B. Stewart and Nicholas Kulish, “Leading Foundations Pledge to Give More, Hoping to Upend Philanthropy”, New York Times, June 10, 2020.

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