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Passim sends grants totaling $40,000 to 24 project-minded musicians

Hip-hop artist Nate Nics said the grant “shows us that the community still cares.”
Hip-hop artist Nate Nics said the grant “shows us that the community still cares.”Michael Muyuwa

2020 hit musicians hard in the wallets and hearts — stopping tours in their tracks, and causing a frantic pivot to home recording and live streaming. And so Passim’s 2020 Iguana Music Fund was perhaps never so needed, as both a wallet-booster and morale bump.

The Cambridge-based Passim recently awarded a total of $40,141 to 24 musicians, in amounts from $500 to $2,000 each.

“There were a lot more applicants specifically asking for home-recording equipment, upgrading their streaming cameras, a lot more solo-based projects,” said Passim club manager Abby Altman.

Since 2008, the Iguana Music Fund has awarded $475,000 to some 285 projects, according to the Passim website. Thanks to anonymous donors, the fund annually provides grants to musicians with strong New England connections for career-building projects and for projects that provide community service through music.

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Altman sees the fund as “seed money,” helping the region’s community of artists to grow.

“I would hope that each of these grants have ripples into the community at large. Because even these solo projects — if you’re a musician recording guitar in your room — you’re still probably going to send it to an engineer for mixing, hire a graphic designer to make your album art. We hope this is seed money that gets spread into the larger community.”

Artists also appreciate the spirit of camaraderie.

The grant “shows us that the community still cares,” said Boston hip-hop artist Nate Nics, 23. Nics applied to help fund his full-length concept album, and says he’ll use the grant to pay featured artists and for an engineer.

Passim is “encouraging people to keep making music,” said Boston-based musician Sadie Gustafson-Zook, 26. This “opens doors for people.”

Gustafson-Zook, a 2020 Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk Songwriting Competition finalist, will use her grant for audio recording equipment for her sophomore album.

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Sadie Gustafson-Zook
Sadie Gustafson-ZookGwen Gustafson-Zook

Altman mentioned a couple of other recipients: DJ WhySham, a 2020 Boston Music Awards DJ of the Year nominee, who “has a super cool project” showcasing “women and non-binary artists in the Boston scene.” And Abigale Reisman, who earned her master’s degree at the New England Conservatory and is recording a series of videos honoring the Jewish violin, according to Passim’s site. “She’s both a classical and a klezmer artist, and this is a solo project that she’s very passionate about,” said Altman.

You can find the full list of 2020 recipients on Passim’s site (www.passim.org) and hear a curated playlist of winners’ tracks.

“This is a great direct way to help artists in our community — and it’s been cool to see where some of these projects go,” Altman said.

Iguana alumni include area all-stars like Della Mae, Lake Street Dive, Anaïs Mitchell, Oompa, and David Wax Museum.

“We want to be a small room where people can get their start and hopefully that boosts them up, and they get too big for us and move out. That’s really what we want to happen. Hopefully Iguana is a launching pad.”

Learn more at www.passim.org/mission/iguana-music-fund.

Lauren Daley can be reached at ldaley33@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurendaley1.