The Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF) provides grants to co-sponsor free live music events for the public, while ensuring that professional musicians are compensated fairly. However, the process of applying for an event grant may seem daunting to organizations producing community-based events, as well as to the musicians who perform for them. MPTF staff is ready and available to help make the process easier.
The day-to-day fielding and processing of applications and assisting applicants is in the capable hands of Grant Management Director Vidrey Blackburn and Grant Management Manager Samantha Ramos. Blackburn is celebrating 30 years with the MPTF. She holds a deep commitment to the goals of supporting high quality events, while making the grant application process as user-friendly as possible.
Reflecting on her experiences, Blackburn says she often puts herself in the place of grant petitioners. “It is not always easy for them. It’s important to help them through the process because we have changed our operations model many times over the years,” she says.
Ramos has been with the MPTF for 17 years. She shares in the grant application review process, and was instrumental in the MPTF’s transition to a new online grant application management system. “We are here to help everyone through the application process,” says Ramos. “We have worked hard to make the new system as user-friendly as possible, and we continue to collaborate with the software company to find more ways of improving it.”
One of the responsibilities of the MPTF is to spread grants as equitably as possible across North America, while making sure the co-sponsored events are of the highest quality in each community. This, along with the economic pressures affecting the music industry, has made the grant fielding job of the MPTF all the more difficult.
While Blackburn and Ramos handle the applications and field questions about MPTF grants, Finance Director Al Elvin handles the day-to-day management of royalty receipts, operational costs, and investments—all the financial reporting. MPTF Trustee Dan Beck oversees the grants and operational issues, while he explores possible avenues to sustain the fund and maximize its value and impact at the community level, and as an industry institution.
Blackburn recalls learning patience and care, and how to build trusted relationships, from former MPTF General Manager Nick Cutrone. “I sat by his desk and I enjoyed listening to how he spoke to the musicians and the locals,” she says. Blackburn encourages applicants to seek the grant team’s help. “If you don’t understand, call us at (212)391-3950. We will help. If we can walk you through it, it’s a win for everyone,” she says.