We found the letter below touching. In it, Wendy Oxenhorn, Executive Director of the Jazz Foundation of America, tells stories of the hardships being endured by New York musicians in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and the Jazz Foundation's efforts to help them. If you'd like to help (or if you're trying to locate a New York musician in the post-storm chaos), Wendy provides the links below.
Hello Wonderful People:
Who would have thought after Katrina that it’s been 7 years and we're still getting the musicians of New Orleans back on their feet, and that now our musicians here in NYC would be needing help because of a hurricane.
It’s so much worse than one might have imagined. Aside from the most obvious need of water, warmth, food and money, hundreds of musicians have lost gigs because of Sandy. Clubs are closed, and musicians haven't been able to travel out of town for work either.
Lost gigs means no money for the rent. No money for the rent means the Jazz Foundation will be providing emergency assistance.
Donate here to help in their time of crisis: www.jazzfoundation.org/donate
Since we could no longer reach so many by phone, we spent the past days driving around with supplies, taking our database list and going from address to address; finding our way into buildings without lights by waiting around till a neighbor would let us in (since buzzers don't work) and there is no phone service and cell phone towers are down so we couldn't even separate and call each other. And what we found was almost always the same...
Most had no money because gigs have been canceled, ATM's are not in service and stores are closed, therefore, no food. Elevators are out of service and elder musicians have to walk up and down flights of stairs in the dark and traverse miles of the city just to get to an open grocery store or for the warmth of a hot meal. Three of the musicians we found had just gotten out of hospitals within the last few weeks and were home alone under these conditions.
Their spirits were Typical Musician: "It is what it is."
One musician we made our way to, who is in his 70's - all he had at home was some bread and a few cans of Pepsi. He told us he walked for miles from the lower east side to the 40s to find a warm piece of chicken but no luck. All he had at home was some bread and a few cans of Pepsi. He had just paid the rent and had no money and was waiting for a gig that was canceled the very same day. When we found our way into his building (we knew which apt he was in because we could hear him playing his horn) the tears in his eyes when he opened the door and saw that someone came looking for him was overwhelming. When he saw the four of us there with water and food he said, "Who are you? And, I love you." We told him we were from the Jazz Foundation and he invited us into his freezing one room apartment. When we pulled out thermal underwear and gloves, he got choked up and almost cried. I didn't hold back. I cried. I cried because I saw how he was living before the hurricane- just by looking around. I asked him how he gets by each month and if he was up-to-date with the rent. He said, "Rent I'm always good with, I'm never late." So I asked, “Are you like every musician I know and living-low-on-the-food?” With a mischievous grin he responded, pointing out how he has been maintaining his girlish figure, that he has, “gotten accustomed to soup."
Now, we will be getting him a food card each month and some new clothes, as both were very much needed. He was so positive and had such a beautiful sense of humor. I knew from that moment on that we would be making sure he ate better every month.
I can't begin to tell you how beautiful it was when we just showed up and were able to give bags of groceries, fresh roasted chickens, thermal underwear and gloves to keep them warm since there is no heat and all of their homes were freezing and damp- to the bone. I've never seen such graciousness or gracefulness in such challenging circumstances. We laughed, we cried, we even got a few little mini-concerts. We didn't leave before getting the names of one or two other musicians in the neighborhood who we didn't know about, and then we'd find our way to them next. We got the chance to see the way many we had not known before are living. We met musicians with medical issues that we can now send to our amazing partners at Englewood Hospital who give our musicians nearly half a million dollars worth of free medical care and operations. It made us realize that there are so many who could have used assistance even before the hurricane. Everyone has become so used to being self-sufficient and living "without" for so many years that it doesn't even occur to them that there is help.
It was an avalanche of love and mutual communion that I will cherish for a lifetime. These are among the most wonderful people I have ever served in my 25 years as a non-profit warrior. From the famous bee bop giants to the avant garde pioneers, we covered so many genres and so many generations of musicians and all were brought to deep emotion when they opened the door and saw someone cared.
There are so many individual emergency needs, and our amazing staff of social workers and advocates are qualified to assess and address the less obvious needs of those we visit. Today we are going back downtown with more of everything.
We need the Jazz and blues-loving community to pull together on this one. Here's the part where you can help:
It is clear that the Jazz Foundation needs donations now more than ever. Please get the word out and pass this on to your music loving friends. We've already gotten donations from Germany and London.
They've always been there for us - lifting us up, getting us through the roller coaster ride of being human - and now in their moments of darkness, we can give something back.
Bless you for being part of this beautiful family and for going to the website and donating to keep our musicians alive and well.
You are loved.