New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund Holiday Memories

Since August, 2005, the grass roots nonprofit New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund has donated everything from grants to cars to grand pianos to gigs for musicians in need, and even in a tough economy help is still coming in.

Community Coffee has become a partner with NOMRF not only in offering free family-friendly concerts for the past three years, but by donating all proceeds from their Java Jacket for $2.95. The Java Jacket saves waste from discarded cardboard sleeves, and makes an excellent sustainable stocking stuffer to help save the culture and the planet.

With paying gigs becoming harder to find, the charity has hosted music at locations everywhere from conventions to CC's Community Coffeehouse to clubs including MidCity Lanes Rock 'n Bowl, Carrolton Station and the Howlin Wolf. New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund-produced videos of live performances help promote the wealth of talent in New Orleans, and promoting New Orleans music nationally is also crucial. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members R.E.M. and soon to be Dr. John have been invaluable in that respect, along with The Subdudes, Wilco, Spoon, Ian Hunter, James Andrews, Susan Cowsill and many other musicians offering their time and talent.

In a poignant 2005 holiday memory, NOMRF brought the Great Southwest Holiday Toy Sleigh Ride to musicians’ children. The airline offered the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund space to bring 200 pounds of toys from Chicago to New Orleans post-Katrina, the nonprofit bought more locally from stores that had reopened, threw a gala and invited musicians to choose toys for their families.

Since so few musicians were back, NOMRF also mailed toys to displaced musicians’ children. So many toys came in, former WWOZ DJ and New Orleans music legend Bob French announced that families could pull up in front of the studio and choose from everything from skateboards to drum kits. Bob is now living in the Musicians Village with his NOMRF-donated couch and drum, and providing entertainment with his 100-year old family band, the Original Tuxedo Brass Band.

Grateful that the Musicians Village has offered housing post-Katrina, NOMRF has worked to fund concerts and provide emergency grants after the levees failed. "More instruments than grants come in these days, and we're happy to get them to promising musicians in the community," said NOMRF founder Jeff Beninato. This fall, a 100-year old Czech bass was donated to a young New Orleans musician; and a violin, electric guitar and clarinet have just come in. Donated instruments are repaired, if needed, and given to musicians at every level based on the quality of the instrument.

Details are available at http://www.nomrf.org.

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