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When Coronavirus Cancels Gigs, MI Jazz Fans Pass The Hat

trumpet and paper
The Jazz Alliance of Mid-Michigan (JAMM) is encouraging donations to fund grants for unemployed Lansing-area jazz musicians who've been forced to cancel gigs because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The coronavirus outbreak is affecting many parts of Michigan’s economy, including music.  Countless musicians who had planned performances have been forced to cancel those gigs and look for other ways to make ends meet.  But one local organization has refused to sing the blues. 


Lois Mummaw:

If you’re a professional mid- Michigan jazz musician and you’ve been impacted financially and are struggling because of gigs in the area being cancelled, we are willing to help you with a $200 grant.

Kevin Lavery:

That’s a wonderful token of appreciation and of help.  But realistically, what can $200 really do for somebody?


Well, we're hoping that these will be kind of a stopgap measure for musicians, especially those who don't have another job or another source of income. And maybe they're not even going to be eligible for any unemployment benefits. So we're hoping that this will help buy groceries, or maybe take the place of some money that musicians may have made in tips from gigs so that they can have a little something extra. So they could buy CDs or maybe pay someone to help them put a concert online so that they can make some money in the meantime.


If you rewind 100 years to the 1920’s, “rent parties” were popular in places like Harlem.  I think that's what you're doing right now.


You know what? You're right. That's exactly what we're doing. I love that image. We are looking for more donations.  We’ve sent out two $200 checks. So we have at this point seven grants still available. We're asking for referrals from our musicians who know musicians; that’s how these first two grants were sent out. So the capital campaign will be ongoing.

The jazz fans in this area are so generous, we are confident that we are going to just keep getting donations so that we can keep those -- I’m going to call it “rent party grant money” – alive.


Lois, jazz and the blues are in a lot of ways about celebration through adversity. I wonder if you can think of a song that describes the mood; the moment that we're all living in right now.


The first song that came to my mind, I'm not really sure why is “Sunny Side Of The Street.”

I think we're just trying to keep people's spirits up, because we know that at the end of this things are going to be okay. So, I say “grab your coat and get your hat,” because we just have to help these musicians who make us so happy.  We just need to help keep them afloat until times get better.








Kevin Lavery served as a general assignment reporter and occasional local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered before retiring in 2023.
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