5 Fantastic Piano Scholarships 2021

Image of piano player for our ranking of top piano scholarships One might be surprised to see only five scholarships for piano players featured on this list of five great piano scholarships.

The piano is a popular and well supported instrument. And, indeed, there are many piano scholarships that were not included on this list for a variety of reasons. First, this list features scholarships that are generally available to students across the country. Only one scholarship is limited by state, included as an example of the kinds of more local scholarships that are available.

This isn’t intended to be an exhaustive list. It’s supposed to showcase some great scholarships as a place to start. In the FAQ at the end of the article, we explain how you can go about finding more scholarships to meet your financial needs. Most articles that include more scholarships than are featuring more general music scholarships, which piano players will also qualify for. But those are easy to find and we wanted to feature scholarships that narrow down the competition for you.

Most of the other piano-specific scholarships you will find are tied to a specific college, or require you to have graduated from a specific high school or reside in a specific county. Featuring all of those would only be relevant to a tiny minority of our readers, and waste the time of everyone else scrolling past them. Saving time and properly directing your energy are key components of successful scholarship hunting. We only included piano scholarships that will be relevant to almost everybody reading the article.

Check out the FAQ for scholarship application strategies, tips and tricks on how to efficiently broaden the scope of your scholarship search, and other relevant information. Good hunting!

Reviewing the Top Scholarships for Piano Players Available

1. National Federation of Music Clubs

Scholarship Website

The National Federation of Music Clubs holds a number of music scholarship competitions each year. The biggest competition of these annually awards a $3,000 prize for first place ($500 for second place) in each instrument category. Competition for the scholarship is narrowed by the requirement that all competitors must be members of an NFMC organization. There are a great number of competitions offered by the NFMC, so taking that extra step of joining the organization could provide you with a lot of scholarship opportunities. Each competition may not be held every year. Please contact the organization for up to date information.

  • Scholarship Amount: $3,000
  • Scholarship Deadline: Feb. 15

2. Music Teachers National Association Scholarships

Scholarship Website

The MTNA scholarships are open to students whose teachers are current MTNA members. There is a $150 non-member fee to apply for the scholarships. The piano competition awards the most valuable scholarship offered by the MTNA with the national winner awarded $5,000, second place $1,500, and third place, $750. There are also merit awards of $100. The prize pool is similar for the voice category and the brass/string/woodwind categories, except the top prize for those is $3,000.

  • Scholarship Amount: $5,000
  • Scholarship Deadline: Sep. 23

3. Nellie Love Butcher Music Scholarship

Scholarship Website

While this scholarship is awarded by the Daughters of the American Revolution, it does not specify that students must be members of that organization to be eligible. The scholarship is awarded to one male and one female music student each year pursuing a degree in either piano or voice. While special consideration is given to students attending the Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts in Washington D.C., anyone is welcome to apply. While the scholarship is only awarded for one year, students may reapply for the scholarship each year as long as they maintain a 3.0 or higher GPA.

  • Scholarship Amount: $5,000
  • Scholarship Deadline: Contact Organization

4. Jazz Education Network Scholarships

Scholarship Website

Pianists who are studying jazz in high school and/or planning to study in college should definitely check out the scholarships available from the Jazz Education Network. The network offers scholarships between $1,000 and $3,000 that also include up to $1,500 financial aid to attend the JEN conference and a year’s free membership in JEN.

  • Scholarship Amount: $1,000-$3,000
  • Scholarship Deadline: Sep. 15

5. Lucia A. Wright Piano Scholarship

Scholarship Website

The Lucia A. Wright Piano Scholarship is offered through the Rossini Club. The scholarship is open to piano students who are Maine residents. This scholarship was included as a good example of scholarships offered on state, regional, and local levels. While you might not live in Maine, there is a good chance that there are scholarships like this offered in your state or community that aren’t well advertised online. Make sure you check with local music organizations and your school guidance counselor.

  • Scholarship Amount: $1,500
  • Scholarship Deadline: Contact Organization

Frequently Asked Questions About Piano Scholarships for College

Any advice on how to prioritize scholarships when looking and applying for them?

Scholarship hunting can be time consuming. And the application process can eat up a lot of your time. This is especially true of music scholarships because many organizations that award the scholarships do so based on performance competitions. Performance competitions can be time consuming as many of them require you to travel to a venue, which if the trip there and back can’t be done in a day, means applying for them can take multiple days and also cost you money. This diminishes the return on investment you can expect from the scholarship. It means if you don’t win, or take the top prize, you can lose money applying for some scholarships.

Based on this fact, we suggest you try to find scholarships that allow digital submissions or, as some do, have a multi-phase process where if you qualify as a finalist, they help pay for your travel. These should be your top priority scholarships. If you are considering live performance competitions, it’s best to select those closest to you, or choose really big awards that can make the time and expense of travel worth it.

Other factors to consider are the number of potential competitors. It’s best to apply first for piano only scholarships. Then scholarships that can be awarded to either piano or one other instrument. This limits the pool of potential competitors in those scholarships. Once you identify the piano scholarships you want to apply for, you can check out scholarships for music and performing arts students. These will have bigger competition pools, but many will have larger awards.

Where can I find out about scholarships not on this list?

There are tons of small community organizations, schools, and places of worship around the country that offer scholarships to their local students. These represent incredible opportunities if you qualify for them because depending on where the scholarship is offered, the pool of competitors can be much smaller than nationwide scholarships. Check with your school guidance counselor and make good use of the internet to research scholarship opportunities in your local area. Ask your parents to inquire about scholarship opportunities available through their workplace. There are tons of scholarships around the country that end up not giving out money because nobody applies. Even a $500 scholarship, while it doesn’t seem like much, can cover the cost of books for a semester or two. Good places to check out for music-specific scholarships are local arts initiatives and foundations; anywhere that runs performing arts programs for the community or students. And make sure to ask, because even if these organizations don’t offer scholarships themselves, they may know of local scholarships that might be available to you.

When should I start looking for scholarships?

Junior year of high school is a good time if you want to get ahead. You can do all your research, start gathering relevant information about your grades, write any essays you need ahead of time, and begin preparing and practicing the pieces you plan to perform, or at least start your planning. I wouldn’t wait any later than the summer of your senior year to start looking for scholarships if you can help it. But keep in mind, it’s only too late if the application deadline for the scholarships for your first year of college has passed. Even if it takes 10 or 20 hours to prepare and apply for a $2,000 scholarship, if you get it, that’s $100-$200/hr for the effort you put in, which is great money for a high schooler!

The number of scholarships I want to apply for is starting to feel overwhelming. How do I keep all this information straight?

Apps are your friend. Day planner and calendar apps can be especially useful. You can also use google drive to create individual folders full of the information you need for each individual scholarship application. Make sure that if you need reference letters, you ask for them with plenty of lead time, as you can’t control how long it takes your reference to get the letter to you. If you’re planning to apply for competition scholarships, have fun with it! Play the music you like to play (in whatever genre the application requires) and have a good time! Don’t stress about which piece will give you the best chances. The best way to showcase what you can do is to play what you love. Think about times you’ve gone to see music live, or watch a video of somebody playing music online. If you can tell they’re having fun, aren’t you more engaged in the video? Aren’t you more likely to also have a great time and really appreciate what they’re doing? The judges are humans too! They want to see people who are passionate about music, and that’s more likely to come across if you are enjoying yourself. Plus, playing pieces you love will make practicing easier and more fun. So you’ll probably play better than if you just pick whatever you think the judges might like. You have no idea what they like. So play what you like.

Any other tips for affording school more generally?

In media, especially television shows, scholarships are often used to raise the stakes. The main character won’t get to go to college if they don’t get this super important scholarship! The reality is that there are a lot of practical ways to afford college. Scholarships are great for helping you minimize your student debt. But private scholarships like the ones featured here aren’t going to be able to foot your whole bill. One of the most important steps to financial aid is to fill out your FAFSA early. This gives you the best shot at the grants (you don’t have to pay back grants) you qualify for. It also will give you a good idea of how much financial aid you need from any given university you choose to attend, and how the various scholarships you’re applying for can help you. Pick the universities you want to apply to early, and if they have early application, then definitely apply early. Often applying during early application qualifies you for the maximum possible financial aid you can receive from your college or university. The later you apply, the more likely limited scholarships from the school will have already been awarded. Once accepted, make sure you contact the financial aid office and find out if there are any special scholarships through the school that you can apply for that aren’t automatic. These are rare, but sometimes exist. If money is a major concern for you, consider state schools, which are significantly cheaper than private ones and often just as good. You can also see if your local high school has any arrangements with local community colleges. You might be able to get a year’s worth of general education credits out of the way for free as a high school student, reducing the number of years you pay for college and even letting you graduate a year early in some cases. There are a lot of opportunities for cash-strapped students looking to minimize their college costs!

GCD Staff
March 2021

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This concludes our coverage of top piano scholarships for college 2021.