Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A great way to help area musicians in crisis

After an eight-year run of presenting mainstream jazz concerts in the Venice-Sarasota-Englewood area, the non-profit South County Jazz Club is dissolving this month because of organizational challenges. But its legacy will live on in a tangible way.

The club’s Board of Directors voted to donate its remaining treasury, more than $16,000, to the Jazz Foundation of America to establish and manage a dedicated fund to assist area musicians in need. The board stipulated that this Florida initiative be limited to an area from Tampa to the north, Naples to the south, and Orlando to the east. 

The JFA has a solid track record doing this sort of work. Its Musicians’ Emergency Fund provides housing assistance, pro bono medical care, disaster relief and direct financial support in times of crisis. It has been helping needy musicians for 30 years.  

The New York-based foundation handles an average of 30 individual musician emergency cases a day and approximately 9,000 assists every year. It prevents homelessness with housing assistance, keeps artists healthy with pro bono medical care and provides financial support that keeps the lights on and food on the table. It provided help to affected musicians in New Orleans and Puerto Rico after suffering losses and losing work from Hurricanes Katrina and Maria, as well as others impacted by similar natural disasters.

Morrie Trumble, the South County Jazz Club’s artistic director and founding president, said he considers the club’s funds as “seed money” to attract further donations that can support this initiative. I’ll provide more details as he develops that mechanism.*

JFA Executive Director Joe Petrucelli said this Florida-focused initiative will support musicians in need in Southwest and Central Florida by “providing them with direct assistance and cash grants, medical interventions, and holistic support from our highly qualified social work team.” 

He told the board that its contribution “will provide hope and dignity to hardworking artists in their darkest hours and help to preserve the legacy of the music by offering lifesaving assistance to the people who create it.” 

“Specifically, we can focus on artists who are unable to work due to debilitating health issues. Our licensed clinical social workers will conduct intake interviews to gain an understanding of each individual’s situation, medically and financially, and create a plan for providing assistance during the next year. We can make monthly bill payments on their behalf and offering ongoing case management and counseling. As with all of our clients, we will take on these musicians like family,” Petrucelli said. 

This Florida initiative makes great sense, and a need for it already exists.

“We have an aging population of players, most of whom have no meaningful pension or much Social Security," Trumble says. "There are several musicians in our area with significant medical issues who could benefit now from this program.”

I’ve been writing about – and supporting – the Jazz Foundation of America for more than 25 years. Its success numbers are dramatic. Since 2000, it has handled 80,000 cases internationally, raised more than $50 million to help musicians in crisis, and arranged for another $10 million in pro bono medical and legal assistance.

If you want to support this worthy endeavor, you don’t have to wait for the Florida mechanism to be activated. You can find lots of information at and can earmark any donations you make through its website for Southwest Florida musicians.

*Note: Morrie Trumble continues to produce area concerts independently through his new  initiative, Jazz With Morrie.

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