The long, hot New Orleans summer usually sends any musician with the means on the road. Summer festivals are usually eager to add an authentic slice of the Crescent City to their roster, and the drop in tourism during the humid midsummer months means gigs in the city are few and poor-paying.
"We're very concerned about what summer is going to mean for local musicians," says Beth Fisher, a spokesman for the NOMC. "Summer was hard enough to begin with, and we don't know what the post-Katrina world will do to their ability to make a living in town."
The Katrina-induced exile found many musicians facing an uncertain housing situation in New Orleans. Coupled with the higher quality of life offered by many other cities, the NOMC worried that the dearth of gig opportunities in New Orleans in the summer might be yet another reason for local musicians to say goodbye for good.
To combat that possibility, they developed the Summer Solace program, an initiative that will fund performances by local musicians at nonprofit organizations — including churches, parks, schools and nursing homes — throughout the summer.
The Summer Solace offers funding at an average of $100 per man per gig, a rate that's more than competitive with most French Quarter clubs. The NOMC also asks that each nonprofit use their grant to obtain matching funds from other organizations to expand the number of performances they can support.
The NOMC is still in the process of compiling a database of organizations and musicians who are involved in the project. Fisher suggests that interested musicians and organizations partner with each other before approaching the NOMC to apply for funding.
"We encourage musicians to be proactive in finding gigs," she says. "The band can go to a church and say, 'I want to play here,' and then the church will do the request."
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