Jazz Road Tours


Emerging and mid-career jazz artists, take your music to places it's never been. Jazz Road Tours offer grants of up to $15,000 to develop tours into communities across the country.

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Applications Closed

Applications for this grans are currently closed while we plan for a new phase of Jazz Road. Timing for the next phase is tbd. The guidelines below are for reference only.

Detailed Program Description

Jazz Road logoDesigned for emerging and mid-career artists around the entire country, Jazz Road Tours supports small, three- to six-site tours at an array of venue types, often in rural communities and other areas traditionally underserved by the genre.

This artist-centric grant program—designed to support approximately 50 tours each year—is made possible with funds from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with additional support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Award Amount

Grant amounts generally range from $5,000 to $15,000.

Note: Grant funds are taxable. Grantees must comply with all applicable city, state, and federal laws when reporting grant income.

Important Dates & Deadlines

Jazz Road Tours now accepts applications on a rolling basis.  This means there are no deadlines to apply, so that artists can submit on their own schedule. 

  • Applications must be submitted at least 60 days prior to the project start date. 
  • Applicants will be notified by email within four to six weeks of submission.

Please note: in light of ongoing COVID-19 cancellations, Jazz Road anticipates that many applications cannot realistically be completed at this time.  We urge you to wait to apply until you have secured firm Offer Letters from presenters which include all required information noted in the program Guidelines.  There is no need to rush a submission due to a concern that funds will become unavailable early in this competitive process. If an artist is negotiating with tour presenters able to commit to future dates now and can include a guarantee to reschedule a date for the artist should there be a cancellation, applications are now open.

Applications open: Now
Deadline: Rolling deadline, please submit at least 60 days prior to the proposed project.
Grant period: Now through June 30, 2022. Applications must be submitted no later than April 15, 2022 for tours that complete no later than June 30, 2022.


The following is a top-level list of the main eligibility requirements necessary to be considered for a Jazz Road Tours Grant. Please refer to the full list of eligibility requirements in the program's Guidelines.

Jazz Road advisors and panelists will recognize the complete history and aesthetic range of excellence within jazz music, and will not attempt to define “jazz” in the guidelines.

Only individual artists (as an individual, an artist-led nonprofit organization, or an artist-led corporation) may apply to this program. An eligible artist is:

  • A professional jazz artist, working solo or working with a composer-led or collective jazz ensemble which consists of 2-10 musicians;
  • Age 18 or over and not currently a full-time student;
  • Based in the U.S. or its territories, and is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (non-residents may participate in a tour, but not be paid with Jazz Road Tours funds)

A full list of eligibility criteria and other project requirements is provided in the guidelines below.

Please note that current Jazz Road Tours grantees are only able to apply again for tours that take place at least one year from a current grant's project end date.  A key Jazz Road Tours objective is to award a large and diverse pool of artists across the U.S. for new tour experiences. 

Program Guidelines

While preparing your Jazz Road Tours Grant application, please refer to the following guidelines.

Program Priorities

The program is intended to support artists within a career level spectrum from emerging/mid-career to more established; and, Jazz Road acknowledges that measures of consistent commercial success, visibility, and touring profiles are often based on perceptions, and therefore, are relative. The program also believes that artists deserve to be paid equitably for their work.  How an artist and presenter establish the value of the artist’s fee when negotiating an engagement is also relative, and often results in a difference. This program aims to close that gap as much as possible, and allow artists to pay themselves equitably when venues are unable to do so.

Key components of Jazz Road Tours:

  • An artist may submit an application for a small (three-to-six site) tour comprised of connected (contiguous) dates at an array of venue types anywhere in the U.S and its territories.
  • An Offer Letter for each tour site is required as part of the grant application, which includes what they will pay the artist(s). Ideally, many presenters will pay the equitable fee, or will work with the artist for a fee reduction, with the gap covered by the grant. Some tour presenters, especially those in the most underserved or rural communities or those new to jazz, may not be able to pay as much or in rare cases, at all, and are not required to, as the grant will provide the equitable artist fee.
  • Jazz Road also will prioritize applications that include engagements in rural areas or that reach typically underserved communities, especially those that lack opportunities to present live jazz.
  • Applicants that make a strong case for how the tour is impacting their careers in new ways are more competitive. Jazz Road also believes that through a logical route of tour dates, the artists will experience the continuity and momentum of repeat engagements, solidify developing music, and establish band identity/sound through working with the same personnel over the course of the tour.
Developing Your Tour

Two elements are critical for you to consider before applying.

Tour Readiness: You may have a touring history and want to expand your touring footprint in a new area of the country, or you want to begin touring and feel that now you have the capacity and desire to do so. Either way, you should understand the requirements and rigor of touring before deciding to apply. Jazz Road Tours grants can, in part, help you with the expenses of eligible artist fees, as well as coordination and promotion of your tour (either internally or hiring someone), and the services of a road/sound/tour manager, if applicable.

Tour Development and Presenters: Your Jazz Road Tour development is the foundation on which you’ll build your application. You should have communities and key venues in mind to which you want to tour, which include the types of presenters that fit Jazz Road Tours program objectives (small/rural/isolated communities and alternate presenters along with presenters with a solid jazz history).

Applicants may choose to begin their tour development with an anchor presenter or presenters (see Definitions below). Jazz Road Tours expects that established jazz presenters can readily plan and negotiate with artists informed by their previous programming experience, and will generally pay a larger portion of the tour’s artists’ fees, so that new/rural/smaller venues with less capacity can be included. Established presenters may also be able to work with the artist to identify additional tour sites.

If you’re not familiar with venues in your desired touring locations, you should allocate significant time to discover, plan and negotiate with presenters and communities which fit the program’s criteria. If, after conducting your own research you can’t identify enough or the right mix of presenters, you may contact an initial Jazz Road resource: the Regional Arts Organization (RAO) serving your home state (see Definitions below), early in the tour’s development, to discuss presenters in particular states or regions. Please view the About Jazz Road section to determine which states are served by each RAO. Regardless, your proposed tour should include presenters and communities which fit the program’s criteria.

Application planning will include working with the presenter/venue to create and submit an Offer Letter for each tour engagement. Contracts can also be submitted.

What Artists Can Convey and What Presenters/Programmers/Promoters Should Know: Though Jazz Road Tours will award grants directly to artists for tour support, there is a significant role and benefit for presenters throughout the planning and application process. Programmers can pursue artists they’d like to present, inform them of Jazz Road, work with colleague presenters/venues to build the tour, and assist the artist in developing a tour application. If the application is funded the presenters may receive the benefit of a lower or no artist fee, and will become more visible as a participating Jazz Road Tours presenter.

Grant Support

Jazz Road Tours grants will range from $5,000 – $15,000. Jazz Road Tours will pay grants directly to the artist to cover a portion of the eligible tour expenses including artist fees, travel, housing, meals, backline, road/sound/tour management, and costs related to tour coordination and promotion. The Jazz Road Tours program is designed to help artists earn a living wage while on tour.

Within a tour, it’s expected (but not required) that experienced/traditional jazz presenters will pay the artist a guaranteed fee or door revenues. Jazz Road also anticipates that the tour presenters which are less-experienced, under-resourced, and/or in rural/isolated locations — who are working to build new jazz audiences — may only be able to participate if they don’t have the risk of a fee guarantee. These presenters may agree to be a part of a tour only if they are able to pay less and offer more in-kind contributions, or possibly nothing. Jazz Road allows this. The maximum grant request amount is the difference between the artists’ total eligible tour expenses, and the total amount the presenters will cover, up to $15,000. Presenters must contribute to the applicant’s expenses at an agreed-upon amount, so that when combined with the potential grant amount, artists can design a financially viable tour.

Although holding audience outreach and community engagement activities are not mandatory, applications that include plans for artists and presenters to jointly do so may be considered more competitive if their reach for new audiences/communities is specified.

Applicant Eligibility

Please note that current Jazz Road Tours grantees are only able to apply again for tours that take place at least one year from a current grant's project end date. A key Jazz Road Tours objective is to award a large and diverse pool of artists across the U.S. for new tour experiences. 

Only individual artists (as an individual, an artist-led nonprofit organization, or an artist-led corporation) may apply to this program. An eligible artist is:

  • A professional jazz artist, working solo or working with a composer-led or collective jazz ensemble which consists of 2-10 musicians;
  • Age 18 or over and not currently a full-time student;
  • Based in the U.S. or its territories, and is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (non-residents may participate in a tour, but not be paid with Jazz Road Tours funds)
Tour Eligibility

Jazz Road Tours will provide support for tours beginning at least 60 days and up to 18 months after application submission. Eligible tour routing will span three to six sites on contiguous dates. “Contiguous dates” are sequential dates within a brief timeframe (1-2 weeks) that enable the band to minimize travel expense and maintain the lineup. Funds are for artists to stay on the road and not return home. Funds are not for one-offs. Flexibility is possible around three-day spreads in between dates, or to avoid shows on Monday/Tuesday (slow evenings), as long as the band remains on the road. 

  • The tour must reach three to six sites, and either cover a total distance of at least 250 miles or more, or reach at least one site which is 250 miles from the applicant’s home base. Engagements must be for public performances. Shows can require admissions, suggested door amounts, or be free. Engagements can be for multiple nights so long as at least three separate venues/locations are included in the application.
  • Eligible tour dates must take place in the U.S. or its territories. Tours can be within one state, cross state-lines, and/or travel to multiple regions. The tour request can be for a portion of a larger tour, so long as all dates are located in the U.S. or its territories. It is not likely that grant amounts will be large enough to accommodate expenses for cross-country touring. Rather it is more realistic that funds cover travel expenses for smaller tours.
  • Each venue listed on the tour must demonstrate their commitment to the engagement by providing a signed Offer Letter. The application includes a Tour Budget Summary which requires the financial value of each presenter’s offer and is necessary to determine a grant amount. In the application, you will be asked to upload an Offer Letter for each engagement. Each must be signed by the presenter and include the engagement’s terms, presenter’s offer, and any other essential items.
  • Again, Jazz Road Tours funds help to reduce or in some cases eliminate the artist fee for many of the tour’s presenters, particularly small, isolated, alternative or non-traditional presenters, limiting their financial risk in presenting jazz. However, all presenters are expected to make significant efforts in promotion, and/or create other opportunities to attract new audiences and fill rooms.
Project Expense Eligibility

The following expenses are eligible for grant support:

  • Performance fees: the equitable amount the artist/ensemble will normally charge for a touring engagement fee such as the one planned. Fees for a road/sound/tour manager can be included.
  • Travel (ground and air)
  • Hotel/Lodging
  • Meals
  • Backline equipment for artists which the presenter is not providing. 
  • Support for artist’s time or paid services for tour coordination and promotion up to $2,500.

Note: Applicants will submit a Tour Budget Summary (template provided below) which includes listing total amounts for the above expenses per engagement. Amounts should represent equitable compensation so that the grant request amount can support the difference between what the tour presenters/venues offer versus what payment the artist would hope to receive.

Additionally, in the application’s Tour Narrative, applicants will have the OPTIONAL opportunity to 1) explain how the equitable eligible artist fee total you have listed for each engagement has been determined and 2) why the difference between the amount you would consider to be equitable for each engagement and the amount you will be paid as outlined in your Offer Letters may be significant. In both of these Tour Narrative sections, the response will not be used by the jurors as part of their determination. Rather, the explanations allow the Jazz Road team to better understand the state of the field.

Jazz Road recognizes and supports the need for artists to be paid equitably for their work. We expect most applications to have differences between the requested equitable payments and the Offer Letters; this is one of the main reasons we developed Jazz Road Tours. These grants intend to fill this financial gap.

Tour Presenter/Venue Eligibility

The following types of organizations are eligible to be included in Jazz Road Tours applications:

  • Both nonprofit and commercial established jazz presenters and clubs
  • Performing arts centers, theaters, and concert halls
  • Universities, colleges and institutions of higher education
  • Jazz festivals
  • Local arts agencies/councils
  • Radio station live segments
  • Artist spaces
  • Community centers
  • Churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship
  • Embassies
  • Galleries
  • Museums
  • Listening rooms and libraries
  • House concerts
  • Open-air markets
  • Retail and civic/municipal events
  • Social scene hotspots
  • Anchor presenter: defined for the purposes of this program as an established venue with a consistent presenting history which includes programming jazz, and whose jazz presenting history and commitment will provide greater stability and higher visibility for the touring artist/ensemble. Anchor presenters are (generally) the first to commit to presenting the touring artist. Anchor presenters are expected (generally) to pay the full artist’s fee, and may assist the artist in identifying other, smaller communities and venues for additional touring dates.
  • Isolated: While some communities are isolated by geography (rural), other characteristics may contribute to a community’s sense of being under-resourced, isolated, or otherwise lacking access to arts experiences. Jazz Road will consider these characteristics, including population, when reviewing proposals.
  • Nontraditional presenter: See a list of examples above.
  • Presenter: an entity that presents the performing arts through public performances. For the purposes of this program, a jazz presenter (also known as a programmer, promoter, venue) can be any of the types of organizations or activities listed above.
  • Regional Arts Organizations (RAOs): The six Regional Arts Organizations serve artists, arts organizations, and communities for the entire U.S. and its jurisdictions and territories with a wide variety of programs. Jazz Road is a joint effort led by South Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Mid-America Arts Alliance, New England Foundation for the Arts, and WESTAF/Western Arts Alliance. For additional information about this partnership, please visit About.
  • Rural: Population of 50,000 or below is one standard definition of rural. Jazz Road will use this as a guidepost only.
  • Suburban: A mixed-use or residential area, existing as a part of a city/urban area, or within commuting distance of a city.
  • Tour: defined for the purposes of this program as a small 3-6 site series of performance engagements on contiguous dates, potentially across states or regions.
  • Underserved: defined for the purposes of this program as populations whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, age, economics, or disability.
  • Urban: An area with high population density and infrastructure of the built environment.
Offer Letter Instructions

Each tour venue listed in the application must demonstrate its commitment to the engagement by providing an Offer Letter (signed by the presenter) between the presenter and the artist. This Letter may or may not be considered legally binding and/or contingent upon receiving funding from Jazz Road based on the negotiations between the two parties. The Jazz Road team does not make or require this determination. The letter must include:

  • All engagement details including date, time, location, and promoter’s contact information.
  • All engagement terms related to payment to the artist, i.e., artist fee/hotel/travel (separate or inclusive). Please detail advance amount, values of door percentages, travel buy-outs, in-kind contributions, etc.

It is crucial that the above items are given a financial value in the letter so that a total dollar offer can be applied toward a grant amount calculation. Therefore, when terms include “…x or y, whichever is greater”, an estimated financial value must be established.

Contracts that include the above information can be submitted in lieu of the Offer Letter.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, South Arts encourages artists and venues to follow all local regulations, safety protocols, and directives issued by local and federal governments and agencies. Additionally, Offer Letters that include provisions to reschedule the artist's engagement –should they be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – will be viewed as more competitive during our adjudication process.

Tour Budget Summary

The application includes a Tour Budget Summary which requires the applicant to total all eligible artist fee expenses and presenter offer per engagement. The grant amount request will represent the difference between the two, not to surpass $15,000. If that difference is less than or equal to $12,500, the applicant can also request up to $2,500 for expenses related to artist tour coordination and/or promotion.

You may download the Tour Budget Summary template here.

Application Review Criteria

Applications for Jazz Road Tours will be reviewed by panels comprised of experts in the jazz field from across the U.S. Applications will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • 50% Artistic excellence of the applicant and ensemble, as demonstrated by artist’s biography and work samples;
  • 50% Merit of the proposed tour as demonstrated by:
    • Applicant’s readiness to tour;
    • Impact of tour on artist/ensemble’s professional and/or artistic development at this time;
    • Diversity of organizations/venues involved (type, size, geographic areas served);
    • The tour’s ability to engage new jazz listeners through touring in underserved, rural, and isolated areas or in collaboration with venues newer to jazz programming;
    • Evidence of the tour’s ability to engage new jazz listeners through various efforts stated in the Tour Narrative;
    • Quality and clarity of overall artist-presenter planning as evidenced in the Offer Letter and Tour Narrative.

Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Grant Award and Payment

South Arts contracts with the applicant artist or his/her business entity on behalf of his/her ensemble. The applicant must provide government-required documentation showing his/her U.S. citizenship or Permanent Resident status. Grant funds are taxable income; grantees must comply with all applicable city, state, and federal laws, ordinances, codes, and regulations affecting the project. The grantee is solely responsible for the management of the tour and disbursement and reporting of the grant income. Grant award letters will include the Jazz Road payment process and schedule.

Application Requirements

  1. Application Narrative
  2. Biography
  3. Link to Artist Website and Other Social Media Links
  4. Tour Summary
  5. Signed Offer Letter (per engagement). Contracts may also be submitted.
  6. Tour Budget Summary
  7. Three video and/or audio links that best represent your music

All grant applications must be submitted online using the GoSmart system. We recommend that you visit the site early to create your account, and become familiar with the system. Complete your application in GoSmart including the required materials as detailed above.


Have a question about the guidelines or priorities above? It may be addressed in our Jazz Road FAQ.

Read the FAQ

Application Portal

Applications for this grans are currently closed while we plan for a new phase of Jazz Road. Timing for the next phase is tbd. The guidelines above are for reference only.

Who have we funded?

Get to know the artists who have received Jazz Road funds to tour and explore their work.

Meet the Jazz Road Recipients


For further information about any of the Jazz Road initiatives, contact the Jazz Road team at jazzroad@southarts.org or 404.874.7244 x103.

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