As professional musicians in Greater Boston, we were pleased to see your Arts on the Edge article about the plight of the musical groups and venues for which we play (”Stuck in the middle: For midsize arts organizations, there’s been a mix of bright spots and uncertainty during the pandemic,” Arts, Jan. 17). We were disappointed, however, that the musicians themselves were not mentioned except as a cost that is convenient to jettison when revenues dry up. Surely the reporter could have asked, “Where are these musicians, and how are they surviving?”
The answer is: Barely.
Before COVID-19, Boston had a thriving music scene, supporting hundreds of full-time professional freelance musicians, many of whom play at the top of their fields. When the stages went silent last March, it was disappointing for everyone, but it was devastating for the performers.
Freelancers are the original gig workers, getting paid only when we play and working without a safety net or access to benefits. Most of us have not made any money performing since March 13, 2020. Many have received little or no government aid, due to the complications of working for dozens of employers in multiple states. Some of our colleagues have had to leave the profession entirely.
To help our fellow musicians weather the pandemic, we launched the New England Musicians Relief Fund in July. In six months, the fund has raised and distributed more than $300,000 to professional musicians, many of whom are struggling to pay for basics such as rent, groceries, and health care.
We are extraordinarily grateful to the community of music lovers who have supported individual musicians through the fund. But with little hope of live performances returning before the fall, the crisis continues for musicians of all genres across New England.
Gabe Langfur Rice
Cofounder and president
Hazel Dean Davis
Cofounder and vice president
New England Musicians Relief Fund
Rice is a trombonist and Davis a hornist.