Matthew McConaughey and Wild Turkey have teamed up this holiday season for the fifth year in a row to honor everyday heroes who have demonstrated confidence, conviction, and courage in the face of adversity. This Thanksgiving, the actor and the Kentucky-based whiskey brand came together to reward and recognize "Local Legends" that kept their local music scenes alive during the COVID-19 pandemic with a whopping $10,000 donation to community-based music initiatives of their own choice.
According to a press release, "These bold, selfless individuals showed up for the music scene in extraordinary ways-- whether raising funds for furloughed or unemployed musicians, offering virtual music lessons or organizing benefit concerts."
The company is celebrating "Local Legends" Jason Eskridge and Justin Branam from Nashville, Melissa A. Weber of New Orleans, Jess Garland of Dallas, and Justin Fedor of Charlotte with $10,000 donation in order to continue uplifting their own local music community.
Through a news release, Wild Turkey Creative Director Matthew McConaughey, stated, "Music can heal, inspire, transform and take us on time traveling trips to where we've already been and where we want to go. With a rhythm, a rhyme, a hook and a beat, music is a soundtrack to our lives individually, as groups, and as a people. Musicians are outlaws, poets, performers, and prognosticators--and we need them to keep taking the stage. With that said, it's vital that we invest in these local music scenes--to keep the lights on at our favorite venues and nurture the next generation of great live performers."
Honorees & Their Selected Charity Beneficiaries Below:
- Jason Eskridge is a former NASA mechanical engineer who left to pursue his true passion in music. Now a prominent figure in the R&B and urban Nashville scene, Eskridge created a community of diversity when he began Sunday Night Soul, a bi-monthly, performance event spotlighting soul artists in Nashville. Eskridge stood by his mission and retooled the event to be streamed virtually during the pandemic. His $10,000 will be donated to the Nashville Arts and Business Council to benefit Your Song, a collaborative songwriting program that connects performing arts centers, musicians and artists with vulnerable communities to promote healing and community connectedness.
- Jess Garland is a filmmaker and local musician in Dallas who turned her personal history into incredible storytelling songs. Understanding the emotional, therapeutic power of music, she formed the non-profit Swan Strings, which brings free music lessons to Dallas residents. She is also the Executive Director of another music-centric non-profit, Girls Rock Dallas. For her $10,000 donation, she has selected Deep Ellum 100, an organization that provides financial grants to musicians affected by the pandemic.
- Justin Branam is the Program Director for Musicians Corner, a program of Centennial Park Conservancy, a nonprofit organization in Nashville that aims to preserve, enhance, and share the Parthenon and Centennial Park. During COVID, Justin and his team at Musicians Corner worked diligently to provide virtual experiences, keeping the safety of audiences top of mind while still finding ways to provide entertainment to their community and spotlight musicians and local small businesses. Justin has selected Musicians Corner to receive his $10,000 donation.
- Justin Fedor is a singer, guitarist, and concert organizer in Charlotte, North Carolina. Since 2013, Justin has organized the biannual concert series, Tribute to Benefit, which raises tens of thousands for local charitable causes. During the pandemic, Fedor enlisted his community to create a virtual John Prine Tribute and another Tribute to Black Artists. Fedor has selected DrumsForCures to receive his $10,000 donation. Several times over the years, DrumsForCures has matched funds with Tribute to Benefit to double the donations to local nonprofits. DrumsForCures produces DRUMSTRONG events raising awareness and funds in support of cancer survivorship, education and research through facilitated interactive rhythm experiences globally.
- Melissa A. Weber--aka DJ Soul Sister--is a longtime New Orleans resident and locally renowned dance party host. She's credited as the first to implement a vaccine mandate at her New Orleans dance parties, where she spins classic funk. She has chosen to split her $10,000 donation evenly between the New Orleans Musicians Clinic and Assistance Foundation, which provides medical care and social services to local artists, and Backstreet Cultural Museum, which preserves and documents local music-oriented cultures of Mardi Gras Indians, social aid and pleasure clubs, jazz funerals, and other Black New Orleans cultural traditions.
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