About the Foundation
The Shen Family Foundation, through The Ted & Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund, concentrates its grant-making in the area of musical theater through its funding support of the works of exceptionally gifted and highly original musical theater composers. Under the Foundation's Musical Theater Composers Initiative, whose mission is to encourage originality, innovation and high artistic aspiration in the musical composition component of musical theater, grants are made to selected not-for-profit organizations to support original commissions, theatrical productions and cast recordings of the works of composers who have the potential to advance the art form. At this juncture, the Foundation's grants are focused almost exclusively on its commissioning programs with Signature Theatre and the Public Theater (see below) and on major New York productions of works by its "core" and its other commissioned composers.
During the past several decades the artistry of the "music" component of musical theater productions has become increasingly marginalized by commercial producers' preoccupation with the entertainment appeal of story lines, casting and production values and preference for musical scores deemed to please to mass audiences through the familiarity of their sound. This has led to a predominance of new scores written in derivative genres of pop, rock and pastiche and, at least in commercial productions, a virtual disappearance of originality and innovation in music-writing. Inspired by the creative genius of Stephen Sondheim - that most extraordinary of exceptions to those tendencies - The Shen Family Foundation directs its Musical Theater Composers Initiative to support the works of musical theater composers who have the talent and commitment to create scores that can challenge the boundaries and sustain the vitality of American musical theater through their ability to astonish by means of their distinctive individualism and boldness of invention.
The Foundation's Musical Theater Composers Initiative concentrates its funding support on the works of a "core" group of exceptionally gifted and highly original musical theater composers. To date, that group of composers has remained relatively small and consists primarily of: Stephen Sondheim and, among the next generation of composers, Ricky Ian Gordon, Adam Guettel, Michael John LaChiusa, Gabriel Kahane and Joseph Thalken. Since 2002 the Foundation has committed grants to not-for-profit organizations to support more than 50 projects by these five composers. In addition, through its "Next Generation" program with Signature Theatre and the "Musical Theater Initiative" program at the Public Theater, the Foundation has provided grants for the commissioning of a broader group of emerging composers whose musical theater writing is similarly distinguished by originality, innovation and an advanced harmonic sensibility. Altogether, since 2006 the Foundation has funded the commissions of 17 new musical theater works from "core" or emerging composers.
General Funding Guidelines
The Foundation's grants are subject to the following general funding guidelines: