While the power of live music continues to inspire, the future of the live music industry remains uncertain in the face of the ongoing pandemic – especially on the local level.
Today, Matthew McConaughey and Wild Turkey are recognizing individuals who kept their local music scenes alive with a series of $10,000 donations to community-based music initiatives of their choice. Wild Turkey’s Creative Director and the iconic bourbon brand teamed up to honor five “Local Legends” who supported music endeavors that helped their communities thrive during an exceptionally trying time. This is the fifth year that McConaughey and Wild Turkey have come together during the holiday season to recognize and reward everyday heroes.
As a nod to Wild Turkey’s new Trust Your Spirit campaign, the legendary American Whiskey brand selected Local Legends who demonstrated courage, conviction and confidence no matter what. 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. To celebrate these selfless acts, each Local Legend – Jason Eskridge and Justin Branam, both of Nashville, Jess Garland of Dallas, Melissa A. Weber of New Orleans, and Justin Fedor of Charlotte – received a $10,000 donation to the music-centric charity of choice as a way to continue uplifting their local music community.
“Music can heal, inspire, transform and take us on time travelling 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 to them 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,” said Wild Turkey Creative Director Matthew McConaughey.
On Friday, November 5, the Local Legends will be honored at an intimate, outdoor concert hosted by Wild Turkey in Nashville with live performances by local talent, including Devon Gilfillian and Seratones. During the celebration, attendees will raise a 101 Bold Fashioned to the honorees and their conviction to stand up for a community they believe in. The event will adhere to local COVID protocols and CDC guidelines.
The Honorees & Their Selected Charity Beneficiaries
- 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 benefit concert organizer in Charlotte, NC. 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 non-profits. 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.