Playing the cello is one of the most enriching experiences that life can offer, but financing the study of music and the purchase of an instrument and bow is a major challenge for most players and their families.

Over the last few years we have encountered a number of cellists who have received substantial support from a wide range of funds and charities which have helped them to acquire vocational training, instruments and bows. With their help and some further research we have put together an introduction to fundraising for cellists.

The UK is well endowed with local and national charitable trusts, each following the unique philanthropic vision of its founders. The majority of music charities have a remit to support students or young professionals in the early stages of their career, so the best time to apply for funding may be while you are still a conservatoire or university student, but there are many exceptions to this rule.

Preparing the ground. It pays to plan well ahead. Not only is the research and application process time-consuming but each charity has different application deadlines and dates of trustee board meetings, so if you’re hoping for help in buying an instrument or attending a summer course, it is best to start your research 18 months in advance. It is also a good idea to approach teachers or mentors, to ask if they would be willing to provide open or confidential references to support your applications. It’s well worth giving stamped addressed envelopes to referees to reduce the time and expense taken in helping you. Some charities such as Future Talent ask for regular reports on the progress of the young people they support, so potential candidates should ask themselves and their teachers if they are willing to take on this extended commitment.

Cello Busker

Most funding applications are means tested so you’ll need to have your financial details to hand. Some charities specify an upper income threshold, while others will also take into account your outgoings, particularly music lessons, summer courses, instrument and travel costs, which cut deeply into what might otherwise appear to be a healthy budget.

Specialist music charities will ask for proof of musical achievement as well as potential. Copies of examination certificates are usually requested, but references from music teachers are generally accepted if an applicant hasn’t taken any exams recently. Even when planning the timing of music exams it’s worth bearing funding applications in mind. Taking Grade 8 aged 13 may sound impressive but if the mark is low, it may disqualify the student from support well into the future. It might be worth waiting until the student can achieve a high distinction and therefore earn greater respect and support.

Many musical charities, such as the Countess of Munster Trust or specialist cello charities such as the Guilhermina Suggia Gift (administered by the Musician’s Benevolent Fund) and the Muriel Taylor Scholarship Fund ask applicants to audition for certain awards, so do check their audition requirements carefully to ensure that you are well prepared. Some charities offer interest-free loans rather than grants and it is well worth applying to these as well as to charities offering financial contributions.

Finding a sympathetic charity. The first big task is to find charities whose funding criteria match your credentials. There are two main angles to follow when seeking suitable charities: one is to research charities which specifically support string players and musicians; the other, equally productive approach is to explore charities in your geographical area which have a remit to support local people. If you are unsure whether you are eligible for support, it is worth emailing or telephoning to check; this could save you quite a lot of stamps and time.

If you like working online, a useful search tool is provided by Helping Musicians (previously known as the Musician’s Benevolent Fund):  Just indicate your age, gender, instrument and funding requirements and their funding wizard will identify a list of charities which might support you.

The Countess of Munster Trust: Support for purchasing instruments is open to young artists who received funding from the Trust towards their postgraduate studies and who have completed their studies and are either working in the music profession or looking to enter the profession.,

Many public and college libraries subscribe to a charity search engine called ‘Funderfinder’ which is free for library users but you can also buy access to Funderfinder for £5.50 for twenty-four hours:

Most music colleges have an affiliation with certain charities who give annual grants to students, so it is well worth asking your college and also your local council for advice on possible funding sources.

When researching charities, it is wise to pay careful attention to their eligibility criteria: for example, many charities will not consider applications from individuals, while some will only support people resident in their county; others may have an upper age limit.

Application forms. Most of the larger funds have an application form which you can complete online, download from a website or request in the post. If completing an application online, we would recommend printing it out and completing it by hand first. In this way, you will have all the necessary information to hand when you start working online and if the computer crashes or reboots unexpectedly, you won’t have lost all your data! Be as patient and painstaking as you can, filling in the form as completely and legibly as possible. The Arts Council say that 40% of the applications they receive cannot be considered as they are illegible. Some charities prefer to receive typed forms if possible. Take the time to fill in every section and don’t expect the recipient to gather information from a CV or biography if you haven’t fully completed the form.

As you work, bear in mind the philosophy behind the charity to which you are applying. If their founder left a bequest in 1780 to fund the purchase of tools, instruments or books to assist entry into a profession, trade or calling, then it makes more sense to ask for help funding an instrument rather than a contribution towards course fees and you’ll need to emphasise that the cello and bow are the tools of your trade. Be as factual and detailed as you can, and avoid unnecessary emotion as this may reduce the sympathy of a weary administrator!

If you are looking for funding for an instrument or bow, application forms may ask for details of the item you wish to buy. If you have not yet found what you are looking for, you could ask an instrument maker or dealer to provide you with a written estimate of the cost of an appropriate instrument or bow which you could then forward to the charity. If you are successful in receiving a grant, most charities prefer to pay their contribution directly to the seller of an instrument or bow, rather than to give you the funds for the purchase.

Applying to small charities. When raising funding for a cello purchase, Hetti Price had greater success with her applications to minor, non music-focussed charities than with large, very over-subscribed music trusts, so she warmly encourages applicants not to overlook the smaller general charities. Small charities rarely have formal application forms and may just ask you to write to them. Hetti suggests sending a cover letter indicating your name, age, address; what you’ve achieved (brief cv-like details); why you’re writing to them; what type and level of support you’re asking from them; how the money would help you and what you can offer them in return (for example publicity in your concert programmes). You could also enclose a full CV and an open reference, even if these have not been requested.

Keeping track of multiple applications can be quite a headache, so it is worth keeping a detailed record, perhaps in the form of a chart or year planner, including the names and contact details of your chosen charities, their application deadlines, the date you posted your application and a summary of their reply. This information can be recycled in future years if you plan to fund-raise annually. It is also important to keep photocopies of all your completed forms, in case they get lost in the post and to remind you exactly what you have said!

If, as we hope, all your hard work is rewarded by several offers of support, it is worth while staying in close touch with your supporters, letting them know of any successes, developments, important concerts or changes to your circumstances. There must be considerable satisfaction for a charity in knowing that they have supported someone who has made good use of their funds.
For a list of information sources and music charities, see below:

Information sources for cellists in the United Kingdom

(Please note that this article was published in 2010 so some of the following information may now be out of date)

Musician’s Benevolent Fund Funding Wizard:


Countess of Munster Trust The advancement of education in all branches of music in any part of the world, chiefly by the provision grants to assist music students with the cost of their studies Awards and loans for assistance in acquiring musical instruments considered when applicant about to enter or just entered musical profession, under age 28. Applications available from secretary from 1st Jan. Closing date 14th Feb.

Instrument loan/funding sources:

Awards for Young Musicians: Awards of between £200 and £2,000 are made annually to outstanding young instrumentalists under the age of 18, in any musical genre

The Emanuel Hurwitz Chamber Music Charitable Trust
Bursaries for postgraduate string players wishing to study at RAM, RCM, GSMD, RNCM & RSAMD.Contact:

Benslow Musical Instrument Loan Scheme

Felicity Belfield Music Trust. To advance the education of students of music through grants towards musical instruments. Telephone 01747 8532500 during office hours only, please.

Loan Fund for Musical Instruments. Assistance with instrument purchase by loans, at nominal rates of interest, repayable over max. period of 5 years. Because of fund’s limited resources, assistance restricted to those who have already started professional careers. Preference is given to British nationals. Not available to children of school age or students in early stages of training. The Secretary, 16 Ogle Street, London, W1W 6JA.
Tel: 020 7436 4816

EMI Music Sound Foundation. The Foundation was established by EMI in 1997 to commemorate the centenary of EMI Records. It is an independent charity which is dedicated to the improvement of music education. Applications can be made for the following: non-specialist schools to fund music education; individual music students in full time education to fund instrument purchase; music teachers to fund training. The Foundation also funds bursaries for music students through selected colleges and is a major sponsor of performing arts colleges as part of the government’s specialist schools scheme.

Dulce Haigh Marshall Trust. Grants for financial help to string players resident in Devon, including help towards the purchase of an instrument. Age limit 25. 01647-277276

Function Central – Supporting the mental health of musicians     A guide to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of musicians

Future Talent’s Young Musicians Development Programme  0203 457 1310

Offers financial support and development opportunities to young musicians; instrumentalists and singers from ANY genre of music, based anywhere in the UK, from challenging circumstances. This is typically families who have a household income of £30,500 per year, or less, before tax (incl. benefits).

Financial support, between £200 and £3,000, can be used on anything that will help nurture a young musician’s talent.  For example, funds can be used for lessons, a new instrument or case, courses, maintenance or sheet music.

The Programme runs in line with the academic year and aims to offer each musician:

  • Financial support of up to £1,000 per year.
  • Individual music and career advice from Future Talent’s Relationship Manager.
  • Mentoring sessions with a music professional relevant to the young musician’s instrument, genre or musical interests.
  • Opportunities to perform with the Future Talent Orchestra or another musical ensemble.
  • Performance opportunities in Future Talent Masterclasses.
  • An invitation to participate in a confidence and body language workshop.

Future Talent’s Fledgling Awards are also offered to young musicians showing great promise at the beginning of their musical education, but who may have to give up music entirely due to financial constraints.

Musicians Benevolent Fund Young Talent Awards (now known as Help Musicians UK).

Myra Hess Trust. Open to postgraduate level (over 20 & under 28 on closing date) pianists, violinists, violists, cellists and double bass players of exceptional ability for assistance towards final study costs, instrument purchase and costs of first recital. See Musicians Benevolent Fund website for up-to-date information. The Administrator, 7-11 Britannia Street, London, WC1X 9JS. Tel 020 7239 9100 Fax 020 7713 8942

Philharmonia Awards: The Philharmonia Orchestra administer a range of major awards:

Muriel Taylor Scholarship Fund Annual award for further study, of £2,000, open to any nationality aged 17-23 on 31st March

Abbado European Young Musicians Trust. Intended to help those, normally under 30, aiming for a professional career in music. Assistance (usually interest free loans) for young musicians to help buy suitable instruments, mainly strings, woodwind and brass.

Lawrence Atwell’s Charity. The Charity is aimed at young people who come from a low-income background. Grants made towards cost of musical instrument for postgraduate students only.

Cherubim Music Trust. Cherubim’s Fine Instrument Loan Scheme offers a range of professional quality instruments to talented performers between the age of 15 – 28, normally for a period of 5 years. Awardees are assisted in various other ways with concert opportunities and public relations advice.

Gerald Finzi Charitable Trust. Small grants to music students in UK to assist with instrument purchase. PO Box 137, Shaftesbury, SP7 0WX

Worshipful Company of Musicians

Future Talent is a registered charity that identifies, funds and nurtures young musicians between 5 up to 18 years old with supporting their musical development either through funding instruments or tuitions.

Take It Away. This scheme run by the Arts Council of England allows individuals to apply for a loan of up to £2,000 for the purchase of any kind of musical instrument, and pay it back in nine monthly instalments, completely interest free.

© Sarah Mnatzaganian 2010

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