YARMOUTHPORT – Monica Rizzio, a professional touring musician, has started Cape Cod Gig Relief to help raise money for musicians on Cape Cod “who make their living making music,” she said.
Rizzio, who lives in Yarmouthport, said she knows first hand that losing gigs can be devastating to those who make their living playing live music. She has already had to cancel a tour to Texas and a tour down the Eastern Seaboard, she said.
“And I’m not the only one,” she said. “I was really excited. I was going to be doing some dates with Tom Rush and even that got cancelled and that’s at the end of May. That was going to be pretty cool. Those were going to be some big shows.”
While she makes the majority of her money through touring, she said, “I am not surviving through gigging.” Rizzio has released well-received albums and is also the co-owner of West Bend Music Academy in Dennisport, and so she still has some income, she said.
Other musicians are not so lucky she said. “All of my musician friends all over the country are losing shows,” she said. With that as the backdrop, Rizzio said, “I decided to look in my own backyard for how I could help.”
Rizzio, who often plays on the Cape when she is not touring, said she has friends on Cape who are struggling to get by without the income of playing local gigs. “It’s scary to hear,” she said.
So Rizzio, through Vinegrass, the non-profit music production company she started in 2013, has started Cape Cod Gig Relief, a fund to raise money through online concerts and donations, she said.
The first thing Vinegrass did, said Rizzio, was donate $5,000 it had previously received in donations, as well as from concert and festival proceeds, to the fund. That money had been planned to be used for other projects, but Vinegrass deemed the nonprofit fund an emergency and re-allocated that money, at least for now.
In addition, last Thursday Rizzio put on the first of what the fund plans to be weekly one-hour Facebook Live concerts by a different musician each week. For the first concert by Rizzio, she said, about 500 people watched and 32 donated a total of $1,650.
That money was combined with the original $5,000, she said. The fund has already begun writing checks to working musicians on Cape Cod who have lost gigs, said Rizzio.
Fifteen checks for a total of $3,000 have already been sent out, she said. About 20 people have applied so far. Rizzio said she is spreading the word about the program through social media and through the Vinegrass newsletter.
“I know a lot of musicians,” she said. “We’re just trying to help musicians that have lost their income.” Rizzio said the idea is to help musicians get back some of their lost gig wages each month.
And so every Thursday for one hour, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Vinegrass will stage a Facebook Live concert by one Cape Cod musicians, and audience members are asked to donate to help these working musicians.
How much will be raised, said Rizzio, is “going to change depending on who we have. If we have somebody who has a pretty large audience, we could have thousands and thousands of viewers.” Others may not get that many, she said. “The more cross-promotion we do, the better audience we’ll get,” she said.
Rizzio played the first show, last Thursday. She is in the process of figuring who is next.
While Rizzio raised a significant amount of money in one hour, she said, “For me, playing the show on Thursday was so weird to hear nobody applaud except for my son and my husband,” she said.
“I get all my energy from my audience,” said Rizzio. “But I feel like it helped me to see people typing comments while I was singing. I could see the chat window and that really helped me a lot.”
To stream the show live each Thursday starting at 7:30 p.m. during this period of social distancing, go to the Vinegrass Facebook page.
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