National Association of Counties
Washington, D.C.

 Music festival helps fund children services

By Christopher Johnson


With counties looking to cut costs, alternative ways to find revenue are always encouraged. In Allegheny County, Pa. the alternative comes in the form of a concert.

Since 2000, the Allegheny County Music Festival Fund (ACMFF) has raised more than $559,000, of which nearly $392,000 has been used to date to enhance and improve the lives of more than 2,300 children. It has provided youths receiving services through the county’s Department of Human Services and the juvenile court with life-enriching opportunities otherwise unavailable through traditional government funding.

The fund has supported such experiences including:

a week of “live-in” summer camp for at-risk youths to allow them to engage in healthy activities outside their neighborhood

Bullet Click here for more information on the Music Festival Fund

Some other counties with Music Festivals funding programs and services:


Rabun County, Ga. Music Festival (funds student scholarships)


Whatcom County, Wash. Bellingham Festival (funds county music programs)

lessons in dance, karate and music, and other positive outlets for self-expression for a child who is living in a homeless shelter with his or her mother to escape domestic violence

the opportunity for a child receiving mental health services to spend quality time with his or her family at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, one of the four Carnegie Museums or the National Aviary, and

the opportunity for a young man or woman, transitioning into adulthood, to attend a college tour.

The festival has included a variety of musical acts from David Crosby and Don McLean to Los Lobos and Rusted Root, composed of Allegheny County natives. 

ACMFF was founded by Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Max Baer and Department of Human Services Director Marc Cherna.

“This is a great program worthy of being shared and adopted by others throughout the country,” Baer said. “This program helps fund services where government funding can come up short.”

Funding primarily comes from the proceeds of two annual events, the Allegheny County Music Festival at Hartwood Acres Park (suggested donation of $20 per car) and Candidates’ Comedy Night at the Pittsburgh Improv (tables of 8 range from $500–$750). The fund is also supplemented through philanthropic contributions and other benefit projects.

The distribution of ACMFF funds is overseen by an independent Advisory Committee chaired by Cherna. The committee consists of professionals from the public and private sectors in child welfare, juvenile justice, human services and the courts. Each member is knowledgeable and passionate about children’s issues.

Requests are submitted by a social services professional working with a child. This professional may work for DHS, a DHS-contracted provider of services for children and families, or the juvenile justice system. Each request is reviewed individually on its merits by the advisory committee and is granted in full, in part or denied. Factors, such as family composition, income and the number of children living in the household are considered.

“Without this fund, many children would lose out on opportunities,” Cherna said. “Seeing the results it has had on 2,300 children is its success.”