Cleveland, Ohio-based instrument manufacturer Z Mandolins has donated $24,000—$1,000 from each of its limited run of 24 handcrafted, carbon-fiber mandolins—to support the funding of two scholarship programs. The IBMA Bluegrass College Scholarship will benefit one student each year who is enrolled in a bluegrass degree program or who has been invited to perform in a college-level bluegrass ensemble. The Lee & Ageleke Zapis Songwriting Scholarship is for students attending Belmont University in Nashville, TN.

In addition to these generous donations, the 25th Z Mandolin has been given to the IBMA Foundation for its “Strings for Dreams” fundraising raffle, to be announced in the spring of 2021. The final Z Mandolin, in a signature Calton Case, will be the grand prize, along with some exciting secondary prizes.

Z Mandolins were featured in an article in the August edition of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. The Z Mandolin is a modern take on the classic F-style mandolin, a fully custom design, utilizing traditional instruments as inspiration and advanced carbon-fiber materials, producing an instrument that is lightweight, durable, and less susceptible to dents, cracks or scratches than wooden-stringed instruments.

“I’ve always admired the power of great songs and the songwriters who write them,” said Lee Zapis, Z Mandolins founder. “My key motivation behind Z Mandolins is to touch lives and encourage creativity. My hope is that by funding these scholarships, we are making the path a little easier for young, talented musicians to fulfill their dreams of becoming professional artists and musicians. Partnering with the IBMA Foundation allows us to efficiently and effectively channel our donations to where they will do the most good.”

“Lee’s history of philanthropy and the fact that the Z Mandolin is an exquisitely designed and beautiful sounding instrument made teaming with Z Mandolins a mutually beneficial charitable arrangement for the Foundation,” said IBMA Foundation executive director, Nancy Cardwell. “The first 24 Z mandolins have been sold, so the winner of #25 will have a collector’s item.”

“Collaborating with Lee and Z Mandolins is an ideal match for us,” Cardwell added. “Our mission is to keep bluegrass music growing, and we’re thrilled to be able to do that by supporting a scholarship for young musicians studying bluegrass at the college level. Our goal was to raise a minimum of $10,000 to permanently endow the IBMA Bluegrass College Scholarship, and the $12,000 Z Mandolin donation puts us over that line. The first IBMA Bluegrass College Scholarship will be awarded in the fall of 2021. Application information will be available at Stay tuned to this publication for more details on the college application in January and more about the “Strings for Dreams Bluegrass Raffle” in 2021.

Return to the November 2020 issue of The Cornerstone.