Within our bluegrass community, the first topic to come up in conversation amongst ourselves – after inquiring about everyone’s health – is how much work has been lost since the coronavirus shutdown.
With all venues down to the neighborhood bar closed to the public, any artist dependent on live performance for income has been suddenly slapped with an out-of-work status. That affects every bluegrass act from the top touring shows right down to the amateur band who plays every Wednesday at the local pub. Even people who don’t primarily work as musicians still count on that income, and the loss is felt down through to folks who do tour support work. Publicists, photographers, writers, and event producers, plus agents and management folks are suffering just as badly as everyone else whose jobs have been cancelled as non-essential.
But fortunately our industry established a trust fund for this purpose when the International Bluegrass Music Association was formed in 1985, specifically to assist people who work in bluegrass when times are tough. It’s not likely that the founders imagined a scenario like this, when all public performance might be cancelled, but the keepers of the IBMA Trust Fund have maintained and fostered this resource for the past 35 years, built both by individual and corporate donations, and regular contributions from the monies raised during the annual World of Bluegrass and Wide Open Bluegrass events.
To deal with the many dire cases in the lives of bluegrass artists and industry support persons affected by the COVID-19 restrictions, the Trust Fund has set aside $150,000 of current assets into a COVID-19 Relief account. Anyone interested in assisting this effort is urged to make a donation for this purpose, which will be sequestered from other Trust Fund resources, and used only for this purpose.
The Donate form online has a line where you can choose whether any gift, regardless of size, should be designated for COID-19 Relief, or simply go into the general assistance account. This is a perfect way to give back to bluegrass for those who have been able to work from home without any reduction in hours or income, to use their CARES stimulus checks if you don’t really need them. Many people receiving the checks need them desperately to help ends meet during this shutdown, but some may feel a bit guilty receiving them when they have suffered no interruption of income.
I am personally aware of at least one highly visible bluegrass entertainer who has made a substantial donation to this fund, and while all gifts are anonymous, it’s nice to know that the big stars are willing to give from their abundance to help those in need.
Of course the IBMA Trust Fund encourages those within our community who could use the help to apply for COID-19 assistance. To ensure privacy, there is no online application form, but anyone interested can contact the IBMA office, or print and complete the application form available online, and mail it in to:
IBMA Trust Fund
4206 Gallatin Pike
Nashville, TN 37216 USA
615-256-3222 or 888-438-4262 (toll-free)
While the Trust Fund acknowledges that they aren’t in a position to replace all lost income that professionals are missing, immediate grants of $500 are available for anyone who qualifies. That may not sound like much for people who have lost gigs totaling in the thousands of dollars, every little bit helps.
As a motto for this effort, IBMA has chosen, “If you have a little, give; If you need a little, ask.”
Full details on donating can be found on the COVID-19 Relief Fund web site.