Drum Roll Please: Music Industry's Unison Benevolent Fund Raises $50K at Holiday Schmooze

By Joshua Ostroff 12/12/18 | www.samaritanmag.com

Unison Board of Directors and Staff, from left: Bernie Breen, Andy Maize, Derrick Ross, Jodie Ferneyhough, Amanda Power, Jesse Kumagai, Erin Benjamin, Ralph James, Jennifer Hardy, Catharine Saxberg, Sheila Hamilton — photo credit: Barry Roden.

Music industry types love a good schmooze, regardless of the season and Dec. 10 brought hundreds of them together at Toronto’s Spice Route Asian Bar + Bistro not just for a year-end party, but to raise money for The Unison Benevolent Fund, which helps...them, if needed.

Drum roll please: the event raised $50,000.

Created this decade, The Unison Benevolent Fund is a non-profit charity providing counselling and emergency relief services to members of the Canadian music community.

“We are here to help professional music makers in times of hardship, illness or economic difficulties,” reads their website. “Unison Benevolent Fund is an assistance program – created and administered for the music community, by the music community – designed to provide discreet relief to music industry professionals in times of crisis through financial assistance and counselling and health solutions.”

Thanks to Schmoozefest, organized by board member Bernie Breen (who managed The Tragically Hip) and executive director Amanda Power, the fund’s stocking was benevolently stuffed with an extra 50 grand to spend helping professional musicians and members of the music industry make it through tough times.

DJed by Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene, The 4th Annual Unison Holiday Schmoozefest not only raised money from ticket sales, but included a silent auction and door prizes such as a commemorative Massey Hall auditorium seat, a day at the Bathouse Recording Studio (owned by The Tragically Hip), a Yamaha guitar signed by members of Our Lady Peace and Matthew Good ,and tickets to Boots & Hearts 2019,

 “We're thrilled with the outcome of the 2018 Holiday Schmoozefest,” said Derrick Ross, chair of the Unison board of directors, in a press release. “The funds raised will ensure that the Canadian music community continues to thrive, and that anyone who needs help can easily access it.

“Demand for Unison's services is rapidly increasing every year, and applicants continue to seek assistance each month,” he added. “The charitable support of our community ensures that Unison can continue to provide valuable resources for every member of the music industry when they fall on hard times. Our sincere thanks also goes out to Unison staff, all of the generous sponsors, and to everyone who donated, volunteered, or simply came to schmooze with their peers."
The event also provided an opportunity for Unison to offer proper thanks to a pair of important supporters.

Dr. Peter Poulous was honoured for offering dental services to Unison's financial applicants. This is a real need for self-employed musicians navigating the gig economy because dental isn’t covered by universal healthcare programs so many simply go without. They also recognized Brian Huston for donating “countless hours” of his time to organize the annual Canadian Entertainment Charity Golf Classic. The tournament has raised $400,000 so far, and gone national with other event in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.

Unison Benevolent Fund donors include Absolut, Bell Media, Entertainment One, Labatt Brewing Company, Liberty Entertainment Group, Live Nation, Lot No. 40 Canadian Rye Whisky, Slaight Music, Sony Music, Spice Route Asian Bistro & Bar, The Arts & Entertainment Plan, Universal Music Canada, Up Cannabis, Universe, and Warner Music Canada. Their efforts were also recognized with the night’s inauguration of the Gold String Member Club, an initiative honouring the fund’s loyal donors through the purchases of one-of-a-kind Gold Guitar String Bracelets.

Unison has been around since 2010, when Jodie Ferneyhough and Catharine Saxberg first decided to bring the music community together to establish a permanent relief program to help their colleagues.

“The idea of Unison started shortly after a tragic accident to a well-known musician. It occurred to me that although benefit concerts and fundraisers, in the short-term, were a great thing and brought the community together, there was no organized support system in the music business for people when they fell on hard times,” Ferneyhough explains on the site. “Musicians, roadies, riggers, sound technicians, managers, indie publishers, labels and a myriad of others, might not have access to money if there was ever an emergency. We felt it was time for the industry to have a way of taking care of itself.”

And thanks to Schmoozefest, they have an extra $50,000 to do just that.

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