Pandemic relief fund for New England musicians invites new applicants

  • This note was pinned to a poster outside The Parlor Room in Northampton in March 2020 when COVID-19 arrived. Some local venues have canceled New Year’s Eve shows because of the recent spread of omicron variant of COVID. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Monday, January 10, 2022

NORTHAMPTON — Last week, citing concerns about the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19, Northampton health officials canceled the vast majority of live events — much of it music — for First Night Northampton 2022, the city’s annual New Year’s Eve festival (some events will be livestreamed between noon and 11 p.m.)

A day later, Gateway City Arts in Holyoke announced it was canceling its New Year’s Eve and Day events, including two concerts by alt-rockers Deer Tick and a separate dance party; the center’s main eatery, Judd’s, also will be closed until mid January, pending any new developments.

With music venues in the Valley and elsewhere also facing possible closures with the spread of omicron, a relief fund for musicians who have struggled financially for the past two years is again offering help.

The Boston-based New England Musicians Relief Fund (NEMRF), started in 2020, is inviting new applications from musicians in need. Leaders of the group say they’ve already given out nearly $500,000 to musicians since forming.

In a statement, Gabriel Langfur Rice, a trombonist and the president of NEMRF, said too many musicians have been “left feeling like once again the rug has been pulled from under them.”

“Ticket sales have stalled … shows are being canceled,” added Rice. “Medical bills, rent, child care, studio time, and the bills that were put off during the pandemic are adding up to a financial crisis for too many of our colleagues.”

Funding from NEMRF is available to musicians who live in New England or are “professionally active primarily” in any of those six states. In addition, applicants must have earned at least half their income as a musician or music teacher in three calendar years since 2017.

Applicants also need to make the case that they have been experiencing “extraordinary financial hardship due to recent circumstances,” though NEMRF invites musicians to apply even if they’re not certain they meet that qualification.

“The road to recovery for live music and professional musicians will be long,” Rice says. “NEMRF is committed to helping musicians facing hardship for years to come, acting as a safety net for musicians facing extraordinary expenses or catastrophic income loss.”

To apply for assistance, go to nemrf.org.