Rainwater Innovation Grants

student performs on piano as others listen as part of the Jazz Girls TX project
2019-20 Award Winners

In January 2017, the Butler School announced the Rainwater Fund for American Music, a newly established $5 million endowment created by the late UT alumnus Richard E. Rainwater (B.A., Mathematics, 1966), a Fort Worth investor and fund adviser.  The ambition of Mr. Rainwater’s fund is to advance the study of music produced by Americans — from roots to jazz to film music to the concert hall — at The University of Texas at Austin. The gift significantly enhances the Butler School of Music’s capacity to be a fulcrum of research, study and practice of American music past, present and future. 

As predicted, the newly created Rainwater Innovation Grants have had the most immediate impact on students. Successful proposals for this grant aim to challenge the usual way of doing things and reach unexpected audiences, thus advancing the field of music in a provocative and productive way. 

The following are updates on 2019 - 2020 undergraduate and graduate student recipients of the Rainwater Innovation Grants and their exciting endeavors. 

David Fong (BA) | $3500 grant

Mothership: The Musical 

The grant will fund a workshop that will foster connections between UT Austin students across a wide range of fine arts disciplines including the Butler School of Music, Theater and Dance, Arts and Entertainment Technologies. The overarching themes of the musical resonate with cultural anxiety about the future of our society, the addiction epidemic and the sustainability of our planet, all humorously tucked into a satirical space drama. 

Performance aspects of this project are currently being revised under COVID-19 guidelines. 

Matthew Kundler (DMA) & José Flores (BM) | $5000 grant  

The Diversity Initiative’s Call For Scores and Concert Series 

Funds from the Rainwater Grant will help create a concert series promoting the music of composers from underrepresented communities. In addition to these performances, a portion of the grant will be used to fund the first call for scores focusing on brass compositions by minority composers. 

As of July 2020, the Diversity Initiative has received over 85 works from composers from 27 countries; they will be holding streamable concerts in the fall and have already begun producing a series of interviews with the prizewinning composers. 

More information available at diversitycallforscores.com 

Sarah Milligan (BM) & Renuka Jayasinghe (BM) | $2500 grant 

Jazz Girls TX 

Rainwater Grant funds were used to bring nationally recognized musicians to a July 2020 online summit, exposing young musicians to outstanding womxn pursuing a career in Jazz; the project thus provides role models to womxn of all ages in the music industry and educates everyone involved about past and present female-identifying jazz musicians who are often not discussed in the "standard" jazz history curriculum.  

More information available at jazzgirlstx.com  

Cristina Saltos (MM) | $5000 grant   

Reflective Rhythms: A Multi-Community Educational Collaboration 

Reflective Rhythms is multimedia music history and human rights pedagogy initiative that will break down existing barriers between the academy and the community. This project will engage UT performance students, musicologists, and Austin musicians in making three twenty-minute podcasts that provide engaging and accessible curricula for young children and families based on the interests of communities of color.  An accompanying website will also be created. 

Saltos completed her initial work on the project in June 2020, and has sent the platform to partner organizations to be tested.  

The project can be viewed at reflectiverhythms.com

Ellie Yamanaka (MM) | $4000 grant  


This collaboration between the Butler School of Music and the Department of Dance will realize a public performance of Carlos Salzedo’s rarely performed work for harp ensemble and dancers. 

Performance aspects of this project are currently being revised under COVID-19 guidelines. 

Michael Zapruder (DMA) | $5000 grant 

The Changelings: An Immersive Climate Change Musical 

The grant will fund the next stage of development of The Changelings, which will allow artist travel and support a public workshop, performance and talkback session. Using unexpected musical and theatrical approaches and modalities, The Changelings will contribute new, innovative and surprising perspectives on the critically important issue of climate change.  

Performance aspects of this project are currently being revised under COVID-19 guidelines. 

Joanna Zatteiro (PhD) | $5000 grant 

Sight/Sound and the American West: Interactive Digital Mapping Through Song 

The project aims to create an interactive digital sonic atlas of the American West in the late nineteenth century through the examination of cowboy, pioneer, mining, and other related folk songs popular between approximately 1850 and 1900. 

This project is still in progress.