More often than not, the kindness behind a gesture means more than the actual gesture itself.
One Peterborough musician is keenly aware of that, sharing the revelation with 23 other local musicians who, to date, have received a combined $6,000 from the Peterborough Musicians’ Benevolent Association (PMBA) to help make up for income loss during the COVID-19 shutdown of local pubs and performance venues.
“(PMBA board member) Al Black sent me a message and told me what they are doing,” said the musician, asking to remain anonymous.
“I knew what the PMBA is about and what their work is. It’s a great thing that they do. The money helps. I play at least 10 gigs a month. I do odd jobs but I make my living playing music. But someone saying ‘Hey, you’re a musician’ is really nice. To be considered is way more valuable to me than the money. That kindness came out of nowhere and I was really blown away by it.”
What the PMBA “is about” is helping musicians during a time of need that results in loss income from not being able to perform.
VIDEO: Peterborough Musicians’ Benevolent Association documentary
The late singer and keyboardist Phil “Mr. Deluxe” Marshall was the inspiration and the founding member behind the PMBA. As part of the musical community in Peterborough, he perceived a need to assist local musicians and came up with the idea of “musicians helping musicians”. He began to host an informal blues jam on the third Saturday of every month at his favourite pub, the now-closed Pig’s Ear Tavern in downtown Peterborough.
A donation jar was put out and the funds collected were given to a local musician who needed some financial assistance in tough times due to unforeseen circumstances. Marshall was planning to expand the idea by reaching out to the entire community of musicians when he passed away suddenly from a heart attack while shovelling snow in December 2013.
His partner wanted to keep Marshall’s PMBA dream alive, so she approached now-retired school principal and part-time musician Don McBride, who then brought on board well-known local musician Al Black, John Punter (former owner of the now-closed Pig’s Ear Tavern in downtown Peterborough), and retired banker Norm Kastner to establish a PMBA committee.
Marshall’s dream to expand his idea was realized when the first PMBA Deluxe Blues Jam was held in January 2014 at the Pig’s Ear Tavern.
When the Brock Street pub was sold and subsequently closed in spring 2017, the monthly event moved to its current home of Dr. J’s BBQ and Brews at 282 Aylmer Street North (at King Street).
Over the years, by way of the generous donations of many who have attended the jams, the PMBA has been able to financially assist countless musicians. That lifeline, according to board member Jo Pillon, has remained consistent and has never been more vital than it is now.
“The gravity of the situation right now is dire for those who have had gigs and tours cancelled,” says Pillon, who — together with McBride, Kastner, and Black — organizes the monthly jams, identifies local musicians who require a hand-up, and reaches out to them.
“We’re kind of going week to week, even day to day really, not knowing how much we can help with limited funds. We’re thinking this is kind of the first wave and we’ll continue to help as long as we can.”
The challenge in fulfilling that mandate, notes Pillon, lies in the fact that the Deluxe Blues Jam, the primary source of funding for PMBA’s philanthropic work, is cancelled until further notice due to the government-mandated closure of pubs due to COVID-19. So not only are musicians out of work, but the association that was helping them has lost its main fundraiser.
Those who want to make a donation are asked to do so by mailing a cheque to the PMBA, c/o Norm Kastner, 4509 County Road 29, Douro-Dummer, Ontario K0L 2H0. Donations to the Peterborough Musicians’ Benevolent Association can also be made by e-transfer to email@example.com.
“People have been very generous,” says Pillion. “This is exactly what we (the PMBA) are here for: to help when circumstances unforeseen occur. If this isn’t unforeseen, nothing is. Our mandate is to help musicians in time of need and here we are. We’re so thrilled to be able to help, even it’s a drop in the bucket.”
“Some (musicians) we have reached out to have said ‘There’s people that need it more than I do, so I will step aside for now.’ There are musicians who are thinking of their fellow musicians.”
The PMBA Deluxe Blues Jam, says Pillon, will continue when the COVID-19 emergency is declared over. She adds acts have been booked until November.
“I’m so thrilled to see musicians putting their music out there online,” she says.
“We appreciate the music but sometimes we forget about the people that give us that music. If we can think a little further beyond our enjoyment of one’s music and how it came about, how much blood, sweat and tears goes into it, maybe we will think a little bit further than just listening to a song and reach out and give some money to a musician.”
In a bid to encourage donations, singer and guitarist Dennis O’Toole is delivering a free CD to all who donate. In addition, he has donated two guitars to be auctioned off on the PMBA Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Peterborough-Musicians-Benevolent-Association-PMBA-1793945220918230/.