Gifts to Our Community: Musicians Emergency Resource Foundation
As we embark on the season of gift giving and receiving, let’s take a moment to appreciate some of the community-wide gifts that benefit residents of Louisville and Southern Indiana. If you haven’t appreciated these gifts as much as you could have, now is the time.
Musicians Emergency Resource Foundation (MERF) has been around for a long time, but it has been a bit underground, which seems apropos to the music scene. Shaun Wallace, the current president of MERF and a member of the band Soul Circus, says the organization began in the early 1980s when Marvin Maxwell, a drummer and the founder of Mom’s Music, was in a car accident. A giant benefit concert was held and donations went to Marvin. Fortunately, he wasn’t in dire need, so he created MERF, passing the money along to other musicians who were in greater financial straits than he was.
MERF has an all-volunteer board and no overhead, which means “99.9 percent of every dollar we raise goes back to musicians in need,” Wallace says. While some musicians in need may be experiencing health problems or recovering from an accident, Wallace says MERF also helps musicians who are simply experiencing the hard financial times that often come with being a musician.
“We want to help people become musicians if they want it to be more than a hobby,” says Wallace, but he notes that being an original musician is hard and often an unstable career path. He says cover musicians can make pretty good money, but it is nearly impossible to be an original musician and that be your only job.
While MERF does not give out cash to musicians, it has helped pay medical bills, mortgage payments, or replace damaged instruments. “We have fed and housed people,” he says.