Lilly Endowment makes record investment in American pianists

As seen in the Summer 2016 edition of the Steinway Chronicle

Sean Chen

Sean Chen


INDIANAPOLIS, IN – The American Pianists Association, a valued partner of Steinway & Sons, has captured the ears and heart of Lilly Endowment Inc. to the tune of nearly $5.3 million.

It’s the single biggest gift for APA, one of the nation’s premier talent organizations dedicated to assisting extraordinary pianists between ages 18 and 30. Lilly Endowment is one of the largest private foundations in the United States. Established in 1937 by members of the Lilly family through gifts of stock in Eli Lilly & Co., the endowment has a strong history of supporting the arts and cultural groups based in its hometown of Indianapolis.

“APA discovers some of the most promising young American pianists,
advancing their careers especially through its Classical Fellowship Awards and Jazz Fellowship Awards,” says Ace Yakey, Vice President for Community Development at Lilly Endowment. “APA’s efforts significantly enhance Indianapolis as a place that values the arts and supports emerging artists. We look forward to seeing how this grant will help APA continue to help young musicians thrive for years to come.”

The news found APA President Joel Harrison honored and gratified. Traditionally, Lilly Endowment’s support “has had a tremendous impact on our work,” he says, adding the historic grant will help APA continue its long-term commitment to finding world-class rising stars through highly innovative competitions. The organization helps artists build a bridge between professional training and a full-fledged career.

Yale School of Music alum Sean Chen, who claimed the 2013 DeHaan Classical Fellowship, released his debut album “La Valse” on the Steinway & Sons label. His record deal was part of a prize package that exceeded $100,000. Last year, Sean added the Annenberg Prize – and another $100,000 – to his impressive list of musical accolades.

Sullivan Fortner performs with the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Rochestra. Photo: Mark Shelton

Dianne Reeves shares a smite with APA President Joel Harrison. Photo: Mark Shelton


Sullivan Fortner, the 2015 Cole Porter Fellow in Jazz, began playing in church choirs around his native New Orleans at the age of nine and later attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. He holds jazz performance degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Manhattan School of Music. Sullivan has studied and performed with many great musicians including the Marsalis Family, Donald Harrison, Nicholas Payton, Billy Hart, Gary Bartz, Marcus Belgrave, The Jordan Family, Irvin Mayfield, Peter Martin, Dave Liebman, and a host of others.

Founded in 1979 in New York City as the Beethoven Foundation, APA relocated to Indianapolis in 1982, ultimately expan- ding its advocacy role to include jazz as well as classical pianists. The non-profit organization is headquartered in Lilly Hall at Butler University.

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