While the industry’s odds are stacked against musicians like songwriter, guitarist, and singer Audrey Robinson, a new local non-profit called The Collective is working to turn the tide in her favor.
The Collective has the goal of making entry and success in the music scene easier for women, performers of color, and non-binary/queer musicians. Robinson will be the featured performer at The Collective’s Jan. 24 Concert for a Cause, a house concert series that donates proceeds to local youth music programs.
Robinson is looking forward to her Concert for a Cause. It will be the first not held in Collective executive director Tara Freimund’s own living room. Robinson’s show will be held at the home of Dawn and Steve Finnie, owners of Little Thistle Brewery, another sponsor of the Concerts for a Cause series (see box for details). Robinson works at Little Thistle, and among her roles there, she books music for the brewery.
The concert will feature Robinson as a solo performer though she also leads the band Peas and Carrot.
“The intimacy of house concerts is nice,” Robinson says. “A little more exposed for the artist, I think, but that's where the honesty comes in!”
The fact that her house concert will support young local musicians is something that Robinson embraces.
“Kids are the future!” she says.”I started playing in the school band in 5th grade, on through high school. Coming from a single-parent home we didn't have a bunch of money, so I always used a school instrument. There are so many kids and parents that think these activities are out of reach, and they just don’t have to be. Money shouldn't stop a kid from learning something rad.”
Just like the Scissor Sisters sing on their famous track, Rochesterites “wanna have a kiki.”
The Collective, a nonprofit dedicated to lowering barriers for non-straight/white/cisgender/male performers, began in 2018. Founder Freimund saw bias and discrimination against musicians while she worked as a social justice advocate and political strategist. While female artists may be exhausted performing in male-dominated spaces and performers of color may feel their viewpoints aren’t valued, LGBTQ+ musicians often have safety concerns to boot.
“Women, people of color, and those who are gender nonconforming are underrepresented everywhere and representation matters a lot,” Freimund says. “We need to see people we identify with in the places we endeavor to be.”
The Concerts for a Cause started out in Freimund’s own living room, where she and The Collective’s music director Becca Combs-Cawley (who, full disclosure, plays in Loud Mouth Brass with this article’s writer) curated a series of performances in 2019, including local favorites My Grandma’s Cardigan and Fires of Denmark. The series, which requests a $10 donation to support the performer, has additionally raised $550 to contribute to local school music programs. In 2020, The Collective hopes to expand their support to other non-profits. So far, concerts have also been sponsored by local businesses like Old Abe Coffee Co. and Cameo Restaurant at the Castle.
In 2020, The Collective is also fundraising to expand offerings including a hip-hop, spoken word, and jazz improv series. Freimund says she hopes to collaborate with Twin Cities artists to help curate the series.
The public is welcome to attend the concert, but the hosts reserve the right to ask anyone to leave their home. “We want our hosts to feel comfortable and well supported when they open their homes to the public, “ says Freimund, adding that no one has yet been asked to leave a concert.
Robinson is glad that The Collective is working to create equality in the local music scene. “Giving everyone their fair shot is important,” she says. “It's awesome that The Collective provides this opportunity for the musicians of Rochester.”