Photo: Odetta by Jay Blakesberg

Hardly Strictly Music Relief Fund

COVID-19 relief funds for Bay Area musicians

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Beginning August 24, 2020, ACTA will be administering the Hardly Strictly Music Relief Fund: Bay Area, a $1.5 million philanthropic effort that includes $450,000 to support individual musicians. The Fund is made possible by Hardly Strictly Bluegrass to support the Bay Area roots music community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible applicants can apply for grants up to $2,000.

Program Contact

Lily Kharrazi, Program Manager, musicrelieffund@actaonline.org

Founders Warren and Christine Hellman began Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in 2001, and it remains a free, non-commercial, and beloved annual event in Golden Gate Park. This relief effort is realized in the spirit of the founders and is intended to respond to the ongoing economic crisis and ensuing financial needs of Bay Area roots musicians resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic—a federally recognized “qualified disaster.” Recognizing that the large-scale shutdown needed to stem the spread of the virus has put the entire arts sector on hold, disrupting the ability to earn income, the Fund recognizes the unique contributions of individual musicians as an important backbone to the arts and culture sector.

 With this effort, we seek to recognize, appreciate, and care for the people who lend their creativity, heart, and hard work to the American roots music ecosystem in the Bay Area.”
—Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Eligibility Information
  • Applicants must be current, full-time residents of one of the following Bay Area counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, or Sonoma.
  • Applicants must be 18 years of age or older.
  • Applicants must be practicing roots musicians.
  • Individuals who meet eligibility requirements and with urgent financial need will receive up to $2,000 in unrestricted funds. You may apply only one time.
  • If you are currently receiving CA-state unemployment benefits, you are ineligible. However, applicants receiving CARES benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program are eligible for funding.
  • You cannot have a conflict of interest (family or financial relationships) with the boards, staff, and directors of the Hellman Foundation, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass*, Center for Cultural Innovation, or Alliance for California Traditional Arts. *Past Hardly Strictly Bluegrass performers are eligible to apply.

Funding is limited. Please apply only if you are in dire financial need. If demand exceeds funding available, priority will be given to musicians from populations that have suffered historically from economic disadvantages and, therefore, will be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19: Black, Latinx, Indigenous, immigrant, trans, and disabled communities.


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La Familia Peña-Govea in rehearsal. Photo: S. Narang/ACTA.
What is Roots Music?

Our definition acknowledges that the landscape of American music has evolved from a wide variety of musical genres and peoples. Broadly, roots music is shaped by American social, cultural and environmental landscape. Roots music is characterized by its deep connection to people and the communities that practice them, reflecting a sense of place, history, values, language and aesthetics. This includes genres such as Native/Indigenous music, blues, bluegrass, Cajun, zydeco, gospel, old-time music, spirituals, Tex-Mex, western swing, and hip-hop. Additionally, successive waves of immigrants whose musical traditions have taken root over time enhance the diversity of the U.S. musical landscape and include genres such as mariachi, taiko, bomba y plena, and klezmer music. These widespread practices and evolving traditions are essential to this definition of roots music. What all of these musical forms share are roots in a cultural community of practice.

Application Information

Applications open: August 24, 2020 at 9 a.m. PDT

Application deadline: September 14, 2020 at 5 p.m. PDT

Notification: September 25, 2020 by 5 p.m. PDT


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The Awon Ohun Omnira Choir of Oakland. Photo: S. Narang/ACTA.

The Malawi Mouse Boys. Photo: Jay Blakesberg.

Zaza-Alevi traditional singer Isik Berfin. Photo: S. Narang/ACTA.

Musicians Don Was and Bob Weir. Photo: Ken Friedman.

Indian classical percussionist Rohan Krishnamurthy. Photo: S. Saraswat/ACTA.

Japanese koto master musician Shirley Kazuyo-Muramoto (L) with her apprentice Bo Shannon Chappel. Photo: J. Jameson/ACTA.

Master candomblé musician Jorge Bezerra (L) with his apprentice Robert Lopez. Photo: J. Carrillo/ACTA.

Bluegrass musician Del McCoury and company. Photo: Ken Friedman.

Mexican traditional musicians Vaneza Calderón and César Castro. Photo: T. Saarelma/ACTA.

Master artists of Balkan Romani music Rumen Shopov (R) with his apprentice Jesse Kiril Stremski-Andrews. Photo: S. Saraswat/ACTA.

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This program is made possible by Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.

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