Accelerator Academy

MCA Academy

The Musician Changemaker Accelerator (MCA) Academy is a 6.5-month incubator and training opportunity that empowers musicians to develop entrepreneurial approaches to their social change work. Led by experts in the fields of social justice, nonprofit work, business leadership and arts industry, the MCA is designed to be a transformative experience for each musician, sparking their capacity to support themselves while being effective change agents for communities-in-need. Integral to this work is an equity lens that anchors engagement and program development around the core values of inclusion, cultural and socioeconomic sensitivity, and respect for all approaches and points of view.

The MCA Academy Provides:

  • Instruction: 6 weeks of professional development training for social change musicians with ideas for revitalizing their communities
  • Mentorship: Each artist is paired one-on-one with a high-caliber arts and social justice mentor, during and for 5.5 months after instructional period
  • Exchange: Artists share lessons learned and best practices with cross-genre peers through small group work
  • Tool Kit: Throughout the program, artists work to develop a detailed outline of their social change project and a roadmap for connecting with the resources and partners to make their concept a fundable reality
  • Exposure: Year-round opportunities to celebrate the work of alumni artists and visibility at the culminating celebration/showcase

The MCA Academy is a program of Music to Life, made possible by a generous contribution from the Mellon Foundation:

Mellon Foundation

...and delivered with our partners:

Mascoma Bank

WHO: The experience is limited to 10 social change musicians of all genres oriented toward one of our social justice pillars: civil rights, human rights, poverty, health or climate change.

WHAT: An intensive curriculum that will explore tools to organize, plan, and raise funds for a music-driven social change concept, with the goal of developing an individualized, feasible proposal that prepares each artist to take their concept into their community, in partnership with key stakeholder/s: nonprofits or social enterprise organizations, funders, underwriters and/or fiscal agents.

WHEN: Eight consecutive weeks followed by 6 months of mentorship and peer to peer gatherings to discuss experiences, typically conducted 1-2 times a year.

WHERE: Training sessions will be held online via Zoom and course materials will be shared through Google Classroom. The culminating event/showcase may be in-person or online and typically takes place 6-8 months after the completion of the 8-week course.

Accelerator Academy Curriculum

The 8-week Academy curriculum is taught and facilitated by experts in the music, nonprofit, business and entertainment industries in 2-week themed sessions. Each week includes two days of 1.5-hour instructional meetings, a coordinated/curated Lunch & Learn (hour-long facilitated discussion by invited guest) and relevant readings or assignments (no more than 1-2 hours per week for participants).

WEEK 1 — (Orientation) - Who We Are

Orientation to the program including introductions (artist participants, instructors and curriculum), walkthrough of the process and review of expectations.

WEEKS 2 & 3 — Phase I: Effective Storytelling

Exploring the basics of a good idea: sharing our stories and building a compelling proposal and an effective marketing campaign.

Equity Lens:

  • Set rules of engagement; ensure that conversations don’t get derailed; caring for self while also caring for community.
  • Cultural implications of your work; what values will you lead with?
WEEKS 4 & 5 — Phase II: Program Development

Taking your story from concept to program: understanding your audience (those community members you wish to serve), the basics of a fully functioning program, collaborating with a nonprofit, and how to know you’re making a difference.

Equity Lens:

  • Untangling your real worth (historical, how we grew up, perceptions of our place in the world).
  • Working across differences, cultural competency.
  • Digital divides, providing equal access.
WEEKS 6 & 7 — Phase III: Securing Partnerships and Resources

Connecting with and marketing to the key nonprofit partners, funders and other sources of support to help launch and sustain your program.

Equity Lens:

  • Researching a like-minded partner, being conscious of the population you’re trying to reach.
  • Branding-how can you offer an authentic, honest voice to your work, what does it mean to be an ally?
  • Self care-what does it mean to share the burden, can you allow this, don’t always have to be the lone wolf.
  • Open topic-reflections, shared questions/concerns about next steps.
WEEK 8 — (Closing) - I'm Ready, Coach!

Concluding session of the course to share lessons learned, present artist concepts, meet coaches for the next segment of the Accelerator.

Following the 8-week instructional period, musicians work closely with their coaches to complete the following benchmarks over 6 months:

Months 1-2: 

  • Concept developed (initial proposal and budget)
  • Stakeholder mapping
  • Community Partners identified, secured & collaborations outlined ($500 to community partner)

Months 3-4:

  • Community Partner collaboration continued and finalized
  • Program pilot outlined (artist applies for pilot funds from $2K pool)
  • Program pilot scheduled
  • Introduce artists to pitch coaches

Months 5-6:

  • Program pilot conducted and assessed
  • Meetings scheduled with pitch coaches
  • Grant proposals developed (in collaboration with partner)
  • Final pitches captured on video

COST: There is no fee to apply. Once accepted, artists are granted a $500 participation fee (includes all instructional time and materials), up to $2,000 in pilot program support and matching grants from Music to Life for their programs developed under the Accelerator, and additional earned income via available grants and performance opportunities. The Academy is valued at $7,500 per artist and has been generously subsidized by the Mellon Foundation and Music to Life’s program partners. Please reach out to us at with any questions.

Given Music to Life’s commitment to racial justice, equity and inclusion, we strongly encourage applications from women, people of color, and those who identify with or are members of historically marginalized or underrepresented communities.

In order to keep program tuition fees accessible for all, Music to Life is seeking additional individual and corporate support. If you'd like to sponsor an artist through providing a scholarship, please contact us at

NOMINATIONS/APPLICATIONS: Nominate a musician who you think would benefit from social change entrepreneurial training and we’ll invite them to apply - reach out to with artist name and contact information. If you’re a social change artist, you can nominate yourself - applications will be issued shortly; or contact us at to request one. We’ll notify you when applications open for the 2023 cohort.

Hear from Accelerator alumni about the experience:

“Being able to build, understand, and express a budget has been hugely helpful. Also, building strong language around the program and why it’s important- [...]Overall, I feel I’ve been given courage and validation for my work.” -Emilia Dahlin, Accelerator 2020

“I think I am much more suited to lead a program after the Accelerator. More aware of the different moving pieces and their functions. I believe I will be able to use what I have learned to better my workshops as well as my business practice.” -Nicholas Trahan (GeNreal), Accelerator 2020

“I can envision making my living bridging music and activism in a way that is inspiring, exciting, and feels purely organic and true to who I am.” -Sasha Klare-Avyazian, Accelerator 2020

Learn more about the work of our Accelerator Alumni on our News page.


How are artists chosen for the Accelerator program?

The Music to Life (MtL) team, and often members of the sponsoring community (area DJs, music industry personnel, educators and nonprofit advocates), evaluate candidates for artistic talent, experience with social change work, capacity as 'influencers' and feasibility and sustainability of their concepts.

What happens next?

A written contract is developed with the selected artists stipulating expectations and setting the terms of our collaborative experience.

What is the value of the Accelerator Academy?

Each of Music to Life's Accelerators are valued at approximately $7,500 per applicant.  This includes artist stipends and expenses for pilot instruction, development and graduation showcases, entrepreneurial assistance/training and technical assistance for participating artists, and any travel and conference participation costs.

How do I mentor a Musician Changemaker?

Music to Life taps a diverse roster of mentors from around the country and within a Musician Changemaker's location or region. Mentors are seasoned professionals in the music, nonprofit and commercial industries (sometimes a combination of all three) who can offer critical business, marketing and program development skills to musicians in the program. Time commitment varies but is typically a minimum of 1-2 hours/week over 3-4 months. Honoraria and/or stipends are typically offered to qualified mentors.  Please contact us to learn more.

How long is the Accelerator program?

The duration is 8 months: 8 weeks of Academy classes followed by 6 months of mentoring and a culminating event/showcase.

How many artists participate annually?

Our Accelerator Academy typically runs 1-2 times per year and each Academy accepts up to 10 social change musicians of diverse backgrounds, styles and approaches.

How is impact measured?
Key Artist indicators: 
  • Personal/professional artist goals: what are they, what does success look like? Do participants’ goals change over time?
  • Learning objectives: are artists learning and applying the materials? Have they taken it to heart?
  • Impact objectives: is the program changing the way artists do their social change business (their work, their earnings potential as social change artists and their capacity for community impact)?
How/When Indicators are collected:
  • Application stage. Goals, diversity, mentorship preferences, course ideas.
  • Weekly evaluation. Artist surveys and group leader check-ins.
  • Mid-program evaluation. Artists deeper evaluation; mentor matching/troubleshooting.
  • Final artist survey. What you learned, how you'll incorporate the training; did the program achieve your stated goals?
  • Six-month mentorship. Evals 2x month. Satisfaction, helpful in the moment; shorter term: What are you absorbing? Did you learn what you thought you'd learn? How will you incorporate it?
  • Post-pitch survey: what did you actually do? Have you implemented it?
  • Longer-term surveys. Has this program made your social change arts business better? In what way/s?
What happens when the Accelerator is done?

Music to Life helps artists and their communities sustain impact by facilitating collaborations with local organizations like Grammy Chapters and local arts advocacy groups or agencies. Additional opportunities are available to select artists through Music to Life's performance platforms (Brave Troubadours, Hope Rises, etc), National Network (Office Hours mentorship, 6x year newsletter) and/or facilitated partnerships with major music services to help amplify artists’ work, reach and impact.

What types of social change does Music to Life support?

As a hub of musical activism for the most pressing issues of our time, Music to Life stands against bullying, gun violence, police misconduct, poverty, and war, and stands for civil rights, democracy, disability rights, environmental rights, human rights, immigrants’ rights, indigenous people’s rights, LGBTQ rights, prisoner’s rights, women’s rights, and worker’s rights.

On a more fundamental level, Music to Life and its network of social change artists believe that everyone, no matter what station or in what season in life, has inherent dignity and worth and understands the power of music to bring people together, tear down divisions, help people facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles, mental health challenges, physical illnesses, and heal communities.

What is the organizational structure of Music to Life?

Music to Life is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with Executive and Advisory Boards drawn from a national roster of leaders in industry, philanthropy, business, and nonprofits. Guided by a strategic plan, Music to Life closely monitors organizational activity in four key areas: fundraising, marketing/communications, governance/operations and program/business development.