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Iguana Music Fund supports local musicians

Grants help New England-area artists pursue goals and advance careers

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Iguana Music Fund supports local musicians
Singer-songwriter Gabriella Simpkins is one of the Iguana Fund grant recipients. COURTESY PHOTO

Passim, the Cambridge music organization and performance venue, has awarded more than $40,000 to 24 musicians through its 2020 Iguana Music Fund. The annual fund awards local artists with resources to work on career-building projects and activities with a community service spin. This year, the grants are especially crucial.

“With musicians unable to perform in traditional settings, the Iguana Fund is needed now more than ever,” says Abby Altman, club manager at Passim. “Artists are looking to make the best of these times by focusing on home recording, new solo albums and providing high-quality online content.”

One such artist is indie/folk singer and songwriter Gabriella Simpkins. She’s putting the funds toward better recording equipment for her at-home studio, which will allow her to better participate in online concerts and to begin recording music for public release. Other notable grant recipients include DJ WhySham, who will use the funds to host Finally LIVE, a two-day concert raising awareness for women and non-binary artists, and Nate Nics, a rapper channeling his musical energies into a hip-hop musical.

Simpkins has been adjusting to the new pandemic-era world of musical performance, one in which she plays for a silent screen rather than an excited and engaged in-person audience. She misses the audience interactions but has grown to appreciate the medium. Her most recent performance was during Passim’s “Folk Unlocked” online festival on Tuesday. The live show was recorded and can be watched at any time on the Passim YouTube page.

Though the COVID-19 shutdowns have caused Simpkins to radically shift her practice, she has found more time to dedicate to her music. “It’s been really cathartic, especially with watching the news and all the craziness going on, to be able to write my feelings and communicate them creatively,” Simpkins says.

Over the past 10 years, Passim has awarded over $475,000 in grants, funding more than 285 projects. The grants range from $500 to $2,000. The 2020 applicant pool proved challenging. Due to COVID-19, Passim saw a radical increase in applications and need in the local music community. Most of the requests centered on equipment for livestreams and at-home recording, the pandemic replacement for playing live shows. With 139 musicians applying for aid this year, it was an immense challenge to pare the list down to 24 recipients.

The hope is that the projects and musicians chosen will have a ripple effect of goodwill in the industry. Altman says, “We are confident these grants will not only help the individual recipients, but impact communities across New England as a whole.”