Traditional Arts Program for Students (TAPS) Grants


TAPS provides community organizations (arts councils, schools, community centers) with funding for after-school programs that connect North Carolina students with local traditional artists. Students receive instruction in an art form that has deep cultural roots in their community, taught by experts utilizing traditional instructional techniques. Local county arts councils have often taken the lead in sponsoring TAPS programs.

North Carolina communities have always fostered shared artistic traditions. Indigenous arts such as carving, basket making and storytelling have characterized N.C. Indian communities for thousands of years. Five hundred years of immigration has introduced numerous traditional arts that distinguish communities of European, African and Asian descent. New traditional arts develop as communities interact and adapt to each other. The N.C. Arts Council supports the continued performance, transmission and appreciation of traditional arts throughout the state.

TAPS programs in mountain counties often call themselves JAM (Junior Appalachian Musicians). JAM programs offer weekly instruction in banjo, fiddle, guitar and mandolin taught by regional traditional musicians. Each program serves from 20 to 60 students. JAM students frequently perform at community venues and are often invited to compete at fiddlers’ conventions. JAM programs are affiliates of

Other current TAPS programs include instruction in Seagrove’s famous pottery traditions, the ethnic arts practiced by the Haliwa-Saponi and the Lumbee Indian tribes, and the arts of the urban immigrant Korean population. Eastern N.C.’s Lenoir County hosts a jazz and funk TAPS program that utilizes instructors documented through the N.C. Arts Council’s African American Music Heritage Trails project.

All TAPS programs must meet basic requirements. Each program is expected to set yearly goals in the areas of program development, evaluation, local support, community connections, professional development and public communication.

Successful TAPS programs take place in communities that identify strong local arts traditions.  Community organizations must receive an invitation to submit an application for a TAPS program. Interested organizations should contact Folklife Program Director Zoe van Buren.

Arts Council grant funds support qualified TAPS instructors and can be used for supplies such as musical instruments and art materials. Grant funds may contribute to transportation costs, entrance fees and administration. TAPS grants must be matched dollar for dollar.

Staff contact

Zoe van Buren
Folklife Director
(828) 250-3123

TAPS Program Requirements

All TAPS programs must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Matching funds: TAPS applications must provide a 1:1 cash match. If a county receives a Tier 1 designation by the NC Department of Commerce, matching funds are not required, although applicants are encouraged to list what matching funds they can provide. (See the current tier designations).
  • Artist compensation: Teaching artists should receive payment between $30.00 and $40.00 per hour. Teaching artists should have at least one hour paid preparation time a semester.  Teaching assistants should receive payment between $12.00 and $20.00 per hour.
  • Classes: Programs meet for at least 30 hours a year. The 30 hours may be used for rehearsal and performance time in addition to class time.
  • Enrollment: TAPS programs must account for costs per pupil. TAPS programs should maintain a minimum of 20 students.  Enrollment development is an on-going goal of all TAPS programs.  Programs should create plans to recruit and retain students and maintain a demonstrable growth rate. If a program does not enroll the minimum number at the beginning of the Fall semester, that program is considered to be on probation for the grant year.  If enrollment during the year meets and/or exceeds the minimum enrollment, probation is lifted.  If a program on probation fails to meet the minimum enrollment for the following Fall semester, the program will not be able to remain a TAPS program for that grant year.
  • Age appropriateness: Programs may accommodate students aged 8 to 17.  Programs should limit the age range during their first few years, adding older students as demand grows. Programs wishing to vary this approach should first contact the North Carolina Arts Council.
  • Faculty: TAPS programs hire local traditional artists trained within a vernacular tradition by and with other local artists.  Previous teaching experience is recommended, but not required.  For JAM programs, non-local musicians who have studied the vernacular traditions of the region and have worked within vernacular styles with local musicians may qualify as JAM instructors.
  • Program manager: A program manager should be assigned to the program to take responsibility for administration.  Administrative costs, including the program manager’s fee, that are paid with N.C. Arts Council funds cannot exceed 25%of the grant award. The program manager’s fee can be supplemented from other funding sources.
  • Supervision: Students must be supervised at all times.  An instructor or program manager needs to be on hand until each child has been picked up by a listed caregiver.
  • Parent communication: Program goals, rules of conduct, details of supervision and transportation requirements are communicated to parents. . Behavioral agreements are in place that detail behavioral expectations and consequences for misbehavior. Signed permission forms for photographs and video documentation are on file.  Student participation depends upon signed parental consent.
  • Basic curriculum goals: For counties with string band instrument programs: Master and accomplished musicians from western North Carolina consistently emphasize the importance of playing by ear and learning to play with others in ensembles and jam sessions.  Arts Council staff recommends that TAPS/JAM programs focus on these two skills. Non-string band instrument programs will develop their curriculum goals in consultation with Arts Council staff.
  • Performance and/or display opportunities: Students should be provided with opportunities to demonstrate their acquired skills and knowledge to school, family and community audiences through recitals, school assemblies, public performances, demonstrations and exhibits.
  • Evaluation: Program managers meet regularly with instructors to discuss program management.  Each program develops student learning assessments as well as goals and strategies.  Programs will also track audience attendance at recitals, concerts, exhibits and other performance and display venues. Final reports are submitted to the NC Arts Council by deadline as noted in the contract.

Non-compliance with the basic requirements of the TAPS programs may result in suspension of funding.

Growing TAPS: The commitment program

In order to insure an ongoing effort to grow and maintain programs, each TAPS program is expected to commit to three yearly goals chosen from the following six areas: Program Development, Evaluation, Local Support, Community Connections, Professional Development and Public Communication.  See the link: Fulfilling TAPS Goals for strategies that can be used to meet these goals.  Most of the listed options are drawn from successful strategies implemented by TAPS programs across the state.  Individual programs may suggest their own strategies to be approved by the Arts Council.  Applicants will list their chosen goals and strategies on their application and assess their success in their final report.  Arts Council staff is available to discuss  how to select and achieve appropriate goals.  The Arts Council will evaluate programs based on compliance with basic requirements and the achievement of yearly goals.  Repeated failure to achieve yearly goals may result in suspension of funding.

Goal categories

Program development:  Program development encompasses growing enrollment, engaging students and their families and expanding the TAPS program curriculum.

Evaluation:  Ongoing program assessment is critical to the long-term success of each program.  Tracking student progress insures that programs are accountable.  Assessment requires working closely with instructors to insure success.  Instructor feedback is the backbone of successful TAPS programs.

Local support:  Programs need to raise matching funds and to grow their programs through direct fundraising within their communities.  By cultivating local relationships, TAPS programs both increase their own resources and expand awareness of TAPS throughout the community.  Local support can take the form of volunteers who facilitate the implementation of TAPS programs or of an organization that creates fundraising and partnership possibilities.

Community connections:  Music and performance based TAPS programs provide opportunities for students to perform in groups or as soloists at local venues.  This experience educates students about performance etiquette and provides them with stage experience.  Community performances also encourage local knowledge and interest in TAPS programs and in regional music.  Public programs create opportunities for traditional musicians to interact with TAPS students as well as expose students to a wide variety of vernacular music and musicians.

Visual and other arts based TAPS programs provide opportunities for students to demonstrate and/or display their TAPS activities to the community.  Programs create opportunities for traditional artists to interact with TAPS students and expose TAPS students to a wide variety of vernacular art and artists.

Professional development:  TAPS programs elicit and observe needs and requests from instructors and fulfill them.  Programs provide opportunities for instructors to share their experiences with other TAPS instructors and to acquire skills useful to their teaching experience.

Public communication:  TAPS programs develop on-going methods for sharing information.  A strong TAPS program will maintain communications with parents, local news agencies and social media and keep the public informed of TAPS activities and enrollment opportunities.

Fulfilling TAPS goals

TAPS programs reach their goals by implementing many strategies.  Find options that suit your program from the Fulfilling TAPS Goals link, or create your own strategy.

What three new goals will your TAPS program work towards in the coming year?
Mountain County Arts Council chooses three goals for the 2019-2020 year:

  • Program development
  • Local support
  • Public communication.

How will your TAPS program implement these goals?

  • Mountain County will fulfill its Program Development goal by offering square dancing to students.  Half the students will take dance lessons while the others study their instruments.  Then the groups switch. This strategy both expands the curriculum and allows for smaller class size.
  • Mountain County will fulfill its Local Support goal by working with a few interested parents in putting on a JAM cakewalk during a local street festival.  Next year, Mountain County hopes to build on the success of this event and invite these parents to form a parent support group.
  • Mountain County will fulfill its Public Communications goal by working with a local college intern to create a Mountain County JAMMIES webpage that has been made available for them on the JAM, INC. website.

Grant Application Assistance

North Carolina Arts Council staff are here to assist with grant applications. Visit our application assistance page for resources and grants staff contact information. 


For accessibility questions or accommodation requests, please contact the North Carolina Arts Council's Arts in Education Director & Accessibility Coordinator, Kathleen Collier, at or 919-814-6515.