The New England Musicians Relief Fund (NEMRF) has launched an initiative to reach $500,000 in donations by March 13, 2021, the one year anniversary of when COVID-19 shut down the entertainment industry in Massachusetts. Founded in 2020 by a host of Boston-area musicians, union leaders, executives, and music supporters, NEMRF is helping New England musicians weather financial difficulties by providing relief checks to qualified musicians.
The global pandemic has created an acute crisis for the more than 2000 freelance musicians who make their living playing live music across New England. Because of the nature of freelance musicians’ work, many do not fit neatly into either the traditional economy or the gig economy. As a result, when venues shut down in March 2020 musicians fell through the cracks and were left without regular income, few benefits, and, for many, little or no qualified unemployment insurance. One year later, without a clear sign of when their industry will return, many of these professional musicians are in desperate need of relief.
“When things shut down last March, we never imagined that one year later, venues would still be closed, musicians would still be out of work and that we’d have no idea when live music might return,” said Gabriel Rice, NEMRF president. “Applications for relief funds are arriving into our inbox at an accelerating pace, making our work even more urgent. We hope that hitting our target of $500,000 by March 13th will allow us to keep up with the applications coming in and get relief checks out to as many musicians as possible, providing a meaningful financial boost to help pay the rent and buy food. We want to help bridge the gap until musicians can get back to work.”
To date, NEMRF has provided grants of $1,000 to more than 300 performers across every genre and region in New England. Any professional musician in New England and New York’s Upper Hudson Valley facing financial difficulties can apply for a grant at NEMRF.org/apply. Supporters wishing to make a tax-deductible donation to the Immediate Relief Fund may do so atNEMRF.org/takeaction.
“As venues shut down due to COVID-19, it devastated my ability to earn a living,” says Lowell, MA percussionist Yahuba Garcia-Torres. “Over the past year, we’ve all tried to find innovative ways to keep playing music and raise funds to support ourselves, but these efforts have done little to make up for the lost tours and weekly gigs that filled my calendar before the pandemic. By the holidays I was really feeling the pinch, and I am so grateful for the NEMRF grant I received. It truly saved Christmas for my family.”
“It’s been a really tough year for musicians and venues across New England. As the vaccine begins to roll out and the government pledges more money to help, there is hope on the horizon, but the road to recovery for freelance musicians is going to be long,” says Hazel Dean Davis, NEMRF Vice President. “Even the most optimistic predictions suggest live music won’t return before Fall of 2021, and it could be years before we return to the vibrant music scenes that existed before COVID. The NEMRF plans to be here throughout the recovery and for years to come, but we will need the continued support of music lovers across New England.”