There’s a vulnerability to being a full-time musician. It’s not only what happens onstage when one puts him or herself out there night after night to entertain, and it’s not just the paycheck that varies from month to month. Musicians work like freelancers, and those who don’t rely on a day job for regular income or, more importantly, health insurance are especially vulnerable. Jeremy Wilson, former frontman of Portland’s Dharma Bums and Pilot, learned this firsthand when he received a diagnosis of a serious congenital heart condition in 2006. Wilson weathered a very trying medical ordeal, but he also experienced the tremendous kindness of fellow local musicians who helped him. The result is The Jeremy Wilson Foundation, formed with the vision to build a safety net to provide emergency financial assistance to musicians and their families during a medical crisis. Venues and record companies don’t offer traditional benefits—unless you count bar food, cheap beer and a split of the cover charge—but that’s an understood part of the landscape. The self-employed creative class has a higher risk for financial insecurity and its need for adequate healthcare is especially great. A JWF survey found that musicians are twice as likely as the general public to be uninsured. Operating as a health and services nonprofit for musicians (in partnership with other nonprofits like The Snowman Foundation), JWF fills a gap through an endowment fund called JWF Musicians’ Emergency Healthcare Fund, as well as fundraising and live events geared towards individual musicians in need of immediate financial help and the generosity of friends, family and fans. In 2013, JWF gave out more than $93,000 in assistance grants, saved homes from going into foreclosure, and even helped one artist receive an eye transplant—all because musicians are an important part of our culture and “vital creative members of the local economy and community,” encouraging everyone to support “those who make the soundtracks of our lives.” Andrea Janda, Nov. 2014
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Hear the recent Oregon Music Hall of Famer's "No Regrets" now and then celebrate the label's anniversary with three days of concerts at the Star Theater and Dante's, including a set from Fernando...
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The Jeremy Wilson Foundation: Founder’s Story