Passim Awards Grants to Local Musicians

PassimMusicians who participated in the Sub Rosa Songwriting Retreat perform their new works. Photo courtesy of Reid Simpson/Hear and There Photography.

Passim doled out $42,000 this winter to musicians with ties to New England as part of its annual effort to help artists advance their careers.

The Harvard Square-based nonprofit’s Iguana Music Fund is designed to enrich local communities by supporting musicians and making it easier to be a full-time artist.

“It’s really to help the whole community,” Assistant Club Manager at Club Passim Abby Altman says. “Art isn’t made in a bubble, and so many artists, especially in the Greater Boston music scene, help each other, play with each other, live with each other. The greatest thing about this fund is that helping one of these artists is going to spread into the community.”

Passim received 190 applications this cycle, and narrowed the field down to 28 winners. The applicants must have a tie to New England—whether that’s living, performing, or having gone to school in the area—and cannot ask for more than $2,000, as Passim prefers to award grants to many artists.

“They’d like to see a project that’s really going to push an artist to the next stage of their career, that’s really going to make a difference in their career. And that’s different for everyone,” Altman says.

The grants will support everything from composition to equipment repair to music education. Recipients with ties to Cambridge and Somerville include Deborah Silverstein, James Rohr, Ben Truboff, Charan Devereaux, Tony Watt, and Newpoli, according to Altman.

Deborah Silverstein will use her grant to help create a musical based on Rosie the Riveter, while Ben Truboff plans to have musicians come into his seventh-grade world music class. Charan Devereaux will create an exhibit of different local faiths’ music that she hopes to house in the Somerville Museum.

This is Passim’s 10th year running the Iguana Music Fund, and the nonprofit has awarded musicians over $350,000 through the grant.

“Throughout our 60 years, Passim has sought to nurture artists in every stage of their careers and to support a vibrant music scene,” Jim Wooster, executive director of Passim, said in a statement. “The Iguana Music Fund grants allow Passim the opportunity to directly help a number of local musicians with career-enhancing projects and impactful community programs.”

The Iguana Music Fund, which is fully funded by a donor, helps advance Passim’s mission of artist development, Altman says. She points to one musician whose grant is to help her secure an artist visa so that she can stay in the country.

“I feel like the fund does a great job of not just, ‘Here’s some money so you can make a project,’ but ‘Here’s some money so you can make a living as an artist, you can make this what you do,'” she says. It’s not just specifically music projects that we help with, but we help with the artists’ lives.”

One of Altman’s favorite projects to come out of the fund is the Sub Rosa Songwriting Retreat, which receives an annual “baby iguana” grant. Each summer, around 25 musicians go to Lake Winnipesaukee for a week to focus on writing. The results are enormous, according to Altman, who says that the musicians typically write 50 to 60 songs. The musicians will perform their songs from last summer’s retreat on Jan. 7 and 8 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 for the public.

Each spring, all of the grant winners put on a showcase highlighting their projects. This year’s show will run on April 9 at 7 p.m. Tickets are free.

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