“Negro Spiritual” Scholarship Foundation
An Historical Sketch: This organization was founded in 1996 to ensure cultural preservation of a uniquely American genre of sacred music, and to provide a program of college tuition grant awards, music education and personal development mentorship for senior high school pupils. It began as essentially an all-volunteer operation, with first a Task Force, then a Board of Directors undertaking all the events and projects related to this program. The Community Foundation of Central Florida served as an incubator for the startup of the agency. A rigorous program of competition in the singing of arranged Negro spiritual songs was the vehicle by which students could earn tuition assistance grants for college. The first competition was held in 1997, with awards presented during the first Annual Gala in February of the same year. At the time of its founding the organization served a population limited to nine counties in East Central Florida. Within three years of its inception, the program had come to the attention of the Florida Vocal Association, the Florida Music Educators Association, and officials of the State of Florida. It was noted that this program demanded the highest level of technical achievement for the high school solo voice, and repeated requests were made by educators and parents beyond Central Florida that it be come more widely available. The GRADY-RAYAM PRIZE In Sacred Music competition subsequently became a statewide program in 2000. In 2006 the Foundation launched a GRADY-RAYAM PRIZE In Sacred Music competition for the Mid-South region of the United States, including Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. 2008 saw further expansion to the New England district (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) and the Capital district (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia), with a Southeast district (Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina) added in 2010. Today, the agency has an operating budget slightly in excess of $300,000, a diverse and committed Board of Directors, three full-time employees, one part-time bookkeeping consultant, an auxiliary volunteer organization, endowed funding vehicles in place for future stabilization, an alumni class of 49 awardees, and a national reputation for excellence in program delivery.