Music Action Lab 2.0

September 25—October 20, 2017


San Francisco | Silicon Valley | Mexico


Applications are now closed.



with musicians from around the world


new music addressing global social issues


your music, yourself, and your community

The Music Action Lab is an innovative, scholarship-based music residency:

• Uniting musicians from across the globe to create social impact through music

• Awarding up to ten talented musicians with all tuition, including living, food, and travel expenses to advance their artistry

• Integrating a dynamic, hands-on curriculum in social innovation and leadership development

• Creating a collaborative platform for experimentation, creativity, and innovation

1 Month of Nonstop Musical and Social Innovation.

60 Hours of Rehearsal with Leading Professional Artists. 40 Hours of Training with Social Impact Experts. Workshops with Underserved Schools, Hospitals, and Prisons.

Concerts in the US and Mexico.

1 Album.

Who Should Apply

You Are
  • A talented musician with an idea, passion, or track record of using music to better a community

  • Curious, open and collaborative

  • Aware of the community problem you want to solve using music as an agent in the solution

  • Between the ages of 24 and 39

  • Not associated with an organization

Social Impact Acceleration

We guide you from idea to music action project (MAP), drawing from the latest tools and frameworks in social innovation design, leadership, and community development. World-class faculty from Giant Steps, leading social impact experts, and mentors guide and support you through the process.


In addition to joining a unique cohort of many different musical styles around the world, you will apply your learnings in the Music Action Lab on the bandstand through a collaborative composition process to tackle one or more global social issues. You also enjoy mentorship from world-renowned master musicians, perform in community and traditional concert settings, and record a full album.

Music Action Project

Put your knowledge into practice, in the bandroom and the classroom. Apply frameworks of design thinking, leadership development, and community building to your artistic profile as a musician and a community leader. Return home with your MAP for how you will improve your local community.



Eric Harland

Multi-GRAMMY nominated drummer and composer


Jonathan Lewis

Founder, Opportunity Collaboration; Professor, NYU Reynolds Center of Social Entrepreneurship; Author, The Unfinished Social Entrepreneur



To be eligible for the Music Action Lab:

  • Applicant must be an individual, and not a band, ensemble, or organization.
  • Applicant must be between the ages of 24-39 at the start of the program.
  • Applicant must be sufficiently fluent in English, the language of instruction for all components of the Music Action Lab.
  • Applicant must commit full-time to the Music Action Lab US residency and launch phase of the Music Action Project in post-residency phase.

Giant Steps does not support

  • Faith-based projects that promote a specific religious faith
  • Projects that discriminate on the basis of race, class, gender, ethnicity, age, or sexual orientation
Selection Criteria

For candidates who meet the eligibility requirements, characteristics and criteria of successful applicants include

Artistic Excellence: Superlative musical skill in one or more musical traditions, preferably with a demonstrated ability to blur musical genres and excel in cross-cultural environments, and demonstrate innovation as a composer. We are looking for audacious, foreword-looking musicians who embrace experimentation and risk.

Values: Alignment with core human values of empathy, humility, intercultural understanding, and respect; paired with core artistic values of collaboration, curiosity, experimentation, improvisation, and innovation. If you are accustomed to being a bandleader, you will need these values to adjust your expectations to a new experience.

Community/Leadership Experience: Demonstrated background in social engagement through music, whether through teaching, mentoring, volunteering, or other means, such as supporting a cause you care about or NGO. Those lacking such experience have space to articulate their vision and/or passion for this arena in their application.


How much music will I play?

A lot! You will collaborate to create new, original music with the other Music Action Lab Fellows every day during the week (Monday-Friday) during four-hour rehearsal blocks. We also encourage anyone to practice during free time. We also sprinkle in jam sessions, workshops, and concerts throughout the Lab. Participants should expect to be rehearsing, as well as composing, on a nearly-daily basis during the residency.

What kind of musicians are you looking for?
We welcome musicians of any and all genres to the Music Action Lab, and in fact encourage and embrace diversity as a cornerstone of the residency. Diversity to us is not only musical, but also geographic, socio-economic, ethnic, and cultural as well. Whether you excel in a specific genre — folk, rai, Afrobeat, gamelan, highlife, jazz, classic, rock, hip-hop, rap, electronic, blues, or bluegrass — or defy categorization, we encourage you to apply. We are particularly excited about musicians who are skilled in intermusicality – the ability to shift and adapt between musical traditions with ease. There are no formal education or training requirements to be eligible for the Lab.
I’m not that experienced in “social impact.” Should I wait until next year?
We encourage all prospective applicants to apply, regardless of their current level of experience in social engagement or community development. You will have the opportunity to tell us about your vision and/or passion for social change in the application.
Will I get to perform?
Of course! Participants of the Music Action Lab will complete a full album, a suite of compositions collaboratively composed by the participants, and debut your original work in California. At the close of the residency, participants will then make their international debut at the Opportunity Collaboration social impact conference in Cancun, Mexico, in October while learning from and networking with some of the world’s foremost and leading thinkers in the social impact space.
I work closely with a co-collaborator and have a really exciting project we want to build in the Music Action Lab. Can we submit two applications for each of us as individuals?
Unfortunately, no. The Music Action Lab is seeking to create new connections across the globe with as much musical, geographic, socio-cultural, and ethnic diversity as possible. We encourage you to review our broader approach with musicians and to contact us if you are interested in a possible engagement directly.
I have a really accomplished musical background and tour regularly. Is this program for me?
Fantastic! If you are looking to deepen your artistry and career trajectory to create positive change through music and improve your local community, then the Music Action Lab would be a great investment for you.