The 2017 Iguana Grant from Club Passim and What’s Coming in 2018…

Every year Club Passim and The Iguana Music Grant fund help artists and organizations to inject the Northeast with new projects, programs and more to reinvigorate the vibrancy of the arts in the region. New records, compilations and community focused programs and projects always line the list of 28-30 grantees and year after year the results are always wonderful.

We at Red Line Roots have been the proud recipients twice in the past for our Locals Covering Locals projects. (for those of you who are just hearing that name for the first time, we invited a bunch of our favorite New England artists into the studio at Riverview Sound to record cover versions of their favorite New England based artists. The idea was to spread the songs we love from the songwriters we value the most, our friends. The project is and always will be free to download at this link and the funding allowed us to cover studio costs and print a limited run of Volume 1 to share with fans and friends).

Again, this year, we were lucky enough to secure a smaller grant for another passion project that we have been working on for about a year and a half now: The Old Spruce Sessions. The idea isn’t necessarily new, filming songwriters performing their songs in unconventional places. But our primary vision is to provide artists with high quality content to share with their audiences: at no cost to them. Lately we have also been trying to film at least 2 songs, one for use on the Old Spruce Sessions where we take on the efforts to promote the artists we work with and another for the artist to use for their own purposes. Video work can be expensive and we aim to help artists by avoiding those costs.

To date backdrops have included horse carriage barns, local artists studios, fern blanketed clearings in the woods and even in a canoe on a pond. Its been a trip and the Iguana Fund grant we received this year has helped us invest in a really nice Ear Trumpet Labs microphone to enhance our audio quality. We’ve already put it to good use in a handful of videos with artists (as seen below with our friend and Passim alum, Sam Moss)


We caught up with some of the other grant recipients from 2017 and asked them 2 questions: 1. what are you using this grant for and how will it impact you as an artist or community member? and 2. what does it mean to you to receive the grant and also be a part of this community?

Check it out below to learn more about a handful of the projects coming from the Iguana Grant and Club Passim and be sure to reserve your spot at Club Passim on April 9th to hear more from a handful of the recipients and take in some great performances.

Eliza Edens

I’ll be using the Iguana Grant to help offset recording and production costs for a full-length record called “Garden of Sound,” which focuses on themes of healing, nature, place, and home. The help from Club Passim to complete this project means a lot to me as an emerging artist — recognition and support from such a well-known and reputable organization is very humbling and encouraging, especially when undertaking a debut album. There’s also the connection to the community of other grantees and the wider audience that surrounds Club Passim. Once I received the grant, I was so excited to look through the list of other grantees and see the vastly different projects that artists were using the grants for. It’s very inspiring.

After receiving the grant, I felt like a lot of trust was given to me by Club Passim, the Iguana Fund Committee, and the greater New England music community. I’m grateful for that, and it makes me want to work even harder on the record because there will be an audience of peers listening. Kind of the idea that we are all stronger together when we support each other’s artistic endeavors as a community of both creators and consumers of art. Being a part of the greater Passim and New England music community is both exciting and intimidating — there are so many talented folks in New England! It has such a rugged beauty to it, so much ecological diversity, and is rich in all sorts of history, musical and otherwise. It kind of feels like anything is possible in New England, because it’s already so lived in. I’m really glad I grew up there.

Gretchen and the Pickpockets

Our grant is funding the mastering of our forthcoming full-length album, “Falling Rising,” due this spring. Because of the support we’ve received, we are able to work with our top choice of mastering engineers, Emily Lazar. It’s a fantastic feeling to know the same woman who has worked with Foo Fighters, Weezer, and Coldplay among many others is a part of this album we’ve worked so hard towards.

We really feel that Emily understands our aesthetic and vision for our record; the recordings are now sounding better than we ever could have imagined. We’re confident that the quality of these recordings will help us gain the exposure we’re looking for, give our fans the highest quality possible, and will fulfill our artistic vision.

As recipients of this grant, we feel honored to know that others believe in our vision and want us to succeed. As independent artists who invest so much back into the band, opportunities like this make all the difference in our careers. The funds we’re saving can help fund future tours, merchandise purchases, or any costs we may face along the way.

Being part of the Passim community is as grand of an opportunity as the grant itself. We’ve had people come up to us at shows saying they discovered us through Campfire and Mayfair; the fact that Passim has brought us to their wide audience is huge for us. We’ve also made some great friends with fellow performers in the community and have played together even outside Boston. Moreover, Passim breeds a culture where performers and audiences alike get a chance to connect with one another and we’re thankful we’re able to be a part of it.

Greg Klyma

My grant will be used for tour support. I have a new collaboration with members of Honey Talk. The rhythm section will join me for a 2-week tour out to central Illinois and back. It is because of the Iguana Music Fund that I can afford to take the band on the road.

In late 2017, I received an offer to play the final set of Saturday night on the main stage at the 5th Annual Moccasin Creek Festival, June 23-25, 2018. I have played this festival in Effingham, IL previously as a solo act, but the presenter was looking for something different. 

“Can you bring a band?” 

Seeing as how I drive a Honda Fit, I wasn’t exactly sure how I’d pull this off, but I accepted the offer. As a solo act, I know how to eek out a living on the road. Paying for a band? Man, I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to close out the fest, but I wasn’t looking forward to going broke to make it happen. I applied for a grant with a very hopeful heart. 

Thanks to the Iguana Music Fund, I can rent a van to transport us and all our gear out to the festival. It’s a great opportunity! And I know 2 weeks on the road is gonna make us a tighter unit. We’ll be bringing a rock solid show back home to Boston. 

It’s a huge honor! When I first started touring out of Buffalo, NY in the late 1990s, I would come to Boston to play open mics. I can remember being at Passim on the same nights as Josh Ritter, Regina Spector, and so many others. In the early 2000s, I played my first Cutting Edge of the Campfire festival. Passim has always been a part of my experience as a musician in Boston. It means the world to me to have been selected. 

Mary Bichner

Last year, I was honored to have been selected as composer-in-residence at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico for their September-December 2018 session. I am so grateful to the Iguana Music Foundation and Passim for selecting me for their wonderful IMF grant, the funds of which will cover my travel expenses to and from New Mexico, making this incredible opportunity possible! While in residence, I will be continuing work on two full-orchestra works — a one-act ballet and a three-act opera — that have been dream projects of mine for many years. In addition to the process of composing and orchestrating, this three-month residency will grant me the time and space to focus thoroughly on musical research, lyric writing, script writing, and the creation of stage directions and story structure — things that would typically not be possible for me to delve into deeply, given my hectic daily schedule as a full-time freelance composer-for-hire. As a result, when complete, the finished works will be able to be presented to potential collaborators (such as opera and ballet companies) in fully-orchestrated form, so that they can be considered for future live productions. 

I am so grateful to the amazing Iguana Music Fund and Passim for selecting me for this incredible grant! Since their inception, both the Iguana Music Fund and Passim have done so many wonderful things to support the musicians of New England and beyond, and I am eternally thankful to them for all of their amazing works and contributions, including the creation of this wonderful grant program for musical artists of all genres. I feel very lucky and grateful to be a part of the Passim and New England musical communities!

Christine Hedden

I’ll be recording my first solo album of original tunes and songs entitled, “When the Aster Blooms.” As a composer, sharing the tunes and songs that I write is a really meaningful experience – that’s one of the places where I find connection on a deeper, human level. At the same time, the opportunity to share new compositions in traditional music can be rare – there, we connect by playing tunes from a traditional repertoire that we hold in common. “When the Aster Blooms” is a chance to share and connect in another way.

Receiving the grant was a dream come true, to use the cliché through and through! It feels strangely full circle to be supported by an organization that champions folk music in New England – I grew up playing fiddle in a New England slow jam with my Dad and that’s where I found my love of traditional music

The Wolff Sisters

The grant funds will be going towards The Wolff Sisters and The Last Cavalry’s upcoming full-length album at Dirt Floor Studios which includes studio costs, and both CD and Vinyl production. 

Getting this grant makes us feel like this project means something and will have an impact on others. It means that we are carrying on the tradition of roots music in our own way, with the support of those communities. Being born and raised in New England, this grant authenticates our work as storytellers within this community. 

Jonathan Cannon

We will record a klezmer album that turns a fresh eye on Jewish vocal music. Our tracks will draw on the traditions of Yiddish theater, Yiddish poetry, niggun (wordless Jewish song), and Jewish wedding ritual text, as well as the instrumental wedding dance music that makes up the core of our current repertoire, and our backgrounds in modern songwriting and composition. Our lyrics will highlight the interplay between celebration and mourning in a fully-lived life, and the roles of tradition in both.

This album and the repertoire we develop for it will help us broaden our fan base to the large contingent of music-listeners that connect better with song than instrumental music. It will also give us access to larger concert gigs that favor bands with vocalists. The album will complement our two instrumental studio albums, and offer our existing fans a new way to connect with and enjoy our music.

By giving us the grant, Passim is showing us that the organization and the people that comprise it value our music and our contribution to the New England and Passim music communities. Passim has given us so much — in particular, a venue for many of our performances, an earlier grant, and a six-session weekly klezmer class — so it means a great deal to us that they continue to consider us part of their musical circle. And the greater New England music community has offered us a comfortable home in the form of great audiences, other groups for our individual players to gig with, and other wonderful bands to scheme and play shows with. Without the communities that support us, we couldn’t continue doing what we love


DBSA-Boston is a non-profit peer-managed support organization that has been serving the mental health community in the Greater Boston Area for 32 years. We offer a number of peer-led support groups five days a week at no cost. To learn more about DBSA-Boston, visit our website:

In 2016, we launched the “Mill St. Open Mic Session” – a recurring event that celebrates the creative and musical talents of our community. Since implementing our quarterly open mic sessions, we have seen an increased interest in using music as a coping mechanism for mental illness. Because people with mental illness can feel isolated and alienated, we want to show and remind our members that they are not alone and that they have a safe and positive environment in which to seek support. To that end, the combined mission of DBSA-Boston and Project Harmony, the music project we are establishing with the help of the Iguana Fund, is to tap into the inherent comforts and unifying power of music to promote music as an effective coping mechanism.

Our main goal with the Club Passim Iguana Fund is to build on our open mic series and introduce musical instruments and education to the DBSA-Boston community as a form of coping with mental illness. Project Harmony involves purchasing instruments and creating a community program that promotes healing by supporting each participant’s musical interests and endeavors. We also hope to introduce music to members who might not have the same musical experience as current participating members but who still might like to try music as a way of coping. Specifically, we would like our community to try new instruments, share songs with their peers, collaborate with others, and expand their skill and knowledge through regular practice. The Iguana Music Fund is providing us with the invaluable support that we need to complete the integration of music into our community. Being a recipient of the Club Passim Iguana Fund grant means the world to the DBSA-Boston community. The support we are receiving from the Iguana Fund is a real confidence- and morale-booster because we are getting the opportunity to make available to our members an invaluable resource with which to augment in a creative and effective way the support we have been offering for 32 years. What’s more, the program we are able to establish with this grant will also allow us to provide more volunteer opportunities for our members, creating a positive ripple effect as our members develop feelings of greater self-value as they become more involved.

Perhaps most significantly, being a recipient of the grant shows us that Club Passim and the Iguana Fund and, by extension, the larger New England music community believe in our mission to provide support through music to those with mental illness. DBSA-Boston has seen firsthand the value of music as a coping mechanism, and the support of Club Passim, the Iguana Fund, and the New England music community helps us to further fight the stigma that surrounds mental health.

It’s an honor to be included in Club Passim and the New England music community – not to mention to receive the same grant as Lake Street Drive and Molly Pinto Madigan! – because, although we are not a music organization by definition, we certainly feel a part of the New England music community. This is deeply meaningful to our members as native New Englanders, many of whom are musicians themselves and all of whom are fans of New England artists. 

Allison de Groot & Tatiana Hargreaves

We’ll be recording a full length album in the spring. Clawhammer banjo & fiddle have such a special relationship in old-time music, and we’re really excited to record our take on that.  We’ve been playing together for several years at social events and festival backstages, and excited to start touring our project Allison de Groot & Tatiana Hargreaves more regularly. An album is essential for us to move forward with the project, and we are grateful to the Iguana Fund for contributing to it!  

Since I moved to Boston in 2012, Passim has felt like a second home. Whether being on stage, teaching at Passim School of Music or attending a concert, I love the community and how supportive it is. It has always felt like a safe musical space to try new things. I think the grant helps a lot of artists get a boost at an important moment in the development of an idea -a new album, a new collaboration, an event- whatever the proposed project. It helps foster creativity in New England, and that contributes back. 

Emily Mure

I will mostly be using the grant to update my performing gear.  I will be buying a new microphone, pedals, and essentials including a new guitar strap, cables, etc.   I applied for the grant needing and wanting to take my performance to the next level and that requires my instrument and gear to be in shape and of good quality.

I am so grateful for receiving this grant, it’s means more than I can say.  It’s hard to ask for and accept money, but the reality is (as most people know) being a professional musician isn’t typically the most lucrative of fields.  Having help making some basic and important updates is huge.  I’ve seen projects and camps who have been the recipients of the Iguana Fund over the years and it’s incredible what has come out of it.  As much as I am personally thankful for this, I’m mostly grateful that it exists at all and helps so many artists with their beautiful work.  Artists need grants.  They need support and community… to survive and to continue to make music.   In my opinion, the Passim is one of the leading artist support systems in the folk and independent music community in the US.  I feel proud to be a part of that family. 

Dinty Child (Sub Rosa Retreat)

Since the second year of the Iguana Fund (this will be the 9th year I think) a group of songwriters, based on the loose collective that puts on the occasional Sub Rosa shows at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, has spent a week in June on a rustic island in Lake Winnipesaukee.  The money from the fund helps with our rent for using the island. The regular group is Dinty Child, Kris Delmhorst, Dietrich Strause, Mark Erelli, Rose Polenzani, Kristin Andreassen, Rose Cousins, Dave Godowsky, Annie Lynch, Laura Cortese, Zachariah Hickman, Charlie Rose, Caitlin Canty, Jocie Adams, Sean Staples, Miss Tess, and David Champagne. What started as a ‘hey, this would be fun’ idea the first year has turned into an artistic and emotional anchor for all of us. Tours stop or get routed to be there, albums are based on the songs written there (probably four or five hundred at this point), live and recorded collaborations have resulted, and friendships have deepened.

After a number of years of taking turns applying, the committee created something called the Mini Iguana Grant for us. It means we get funded for three years at a time, and this show of faith in what we are doing, and the recognition of how much impact the grant was having, was huge. If you look at the list of participants it’s easy to recognize that Passim is a second home for all of us.  The songs that come out of our retreat feed the fires there year after year and it’s hard to imagine any of us not having Passim in our artistic lives.

Every year, soon after New Years, we put on a couple of shows at Passim showcasing our new songs from the June before.  Here is a video of Erelli at one of those shows:


Molly Pinto Madigan

I wrote a concept album based on the Scottish ballad “Tam Lin,” but it’s been on the back burner because I was busy recording my third album, and also this project seemed daunting — kind of a Hadestown (Anais Mitchell) meets The Hazards of Love (The Decemberists) meets Fairport Convention and Offa Rex, with different voices singing different characters, and varied instrumentation and styles.  I received an Iguana Music Fund grant a few years ago for my second solo album (Wildwood Bride), so on a whim I drafted a proposal for this Tam Lin recording project, never really thinking I’d receive the grant a second time.  Lo and behold. . . I’m thrilled.  Beyond thrilled.  It still feels daunting and I’m terrified and also thrilled, because I have no choice now but to follow through on this crazy out-of-my-comfort-zone concept album.  And I’m grateful for the fear, because I know it means growth and that I’m moving in a new direction, musically.   

I look at this list of grant recipients — this list of such talented creatives and all-around-beautiful human beings — and I can’t believe how fortunate I am to be a part of the vibrant music community here in New England.  What Club Passim and the people who work there are doing to support local musicians and foster a sense of community here. . . they’re superheroes.  They really are.  I’m humbled, and I’m so very thankful.  


So our grant went to help us go to Kansas City to showcase at Folk Alliance International 2018. We got awarded an official showcase and two private ones for this year. However, our band is quite large and it is just very expensive for an independent artist to go and perform at conferences like FAI, SXSW and APAP. We have this project in the group that we’ve been working on since 2003 and it’s really reaching the point were we imagined it would go. A sound that mixes a tradition that we’ve been researching for a long time with a contemporary approach. I’ll copy in our little write-up here since I don’t think I can say it better again. We are tremendously happy that Passim gave us the chance to go to FAI and showcase!


Deborah Silverstein

A few words about ‘Rivited:” I’m a singer-songwriter.  A few years back, I wrote a song called “Rivited” about the experience of the WW II generation of women who were forced out of work after the war to make room for the retuning GI’s. These women were bombarded by the 1950’s wave of cultural propaganda extolling the feminine virtues of subordination to household duties and unmitigated devotion to motherhood.The song references the impact of this culture on the psychology of these women and their relationships with their daughters, the next generation, who birthed the second wave of the Women’s Movement.

Once I wrote the song, I began to think of it as the backbone for a theatrical drama, and being a musician and songwriter, specifically, a musical. Thus emerged my idea for a multi- generational musical. “Rivited.” “Rivited” revolves around three women: Rosie, who came of age during WWll; her daughter, Betty, who grew up during the Viet Nam Era; and Rosie’s granddaughter, Emma, a present-day young married professional and mother.

Currently I’ve developed a three-act story line, have completed three songs, and am in the process of turning my attention toward developing the book and additional songs. The lguana Fund Grant will help me cover a portion of the expenses that I’ll incur in the course of writing the complete musical such as, musical transcription costs, research expenses (including some travel), technical support, etc.

I am incredibly honored to have received a Club Passim lguana Fund Grant on behalf of the creation of my musical drama, “Rivited.” Personally, I’m very excited by my idea for “Rivited.” There’s nothing sweeter for an artist than catching hold of the inspiration for a new idea. I’ve already shared my idea with a number of fellow artists and friends who also express enthusiasm for the project. But to receive the endorsement of an institution who is not part of my inner circle, offers support and affirmation of a different magnitude.

As for my connection to Passim and the greater New England music community, my life would simply not have been the same without it. I’ve been performing and writing music in the area since the early 1970’s when / was that young woman coming of age in the post-war Women’s Movement. My first band, “New Harmony Sisterhood,” performed at Passim back then.

Subsequently, I developed a solo singer-songwriter career and debuted my first solo album, “Around the Next Bend,” at Passim when it was still under the domain of the Donlan’s. My a capella quartet, “Taproot,” performed several times at Club Passim in the 90’s and 2000’s and last year I debuted my newest solo album, “Precious Time,” backed up by my Band Of Erics at Passim.

So, as you can see, Passim and the New England folk/acoustic music community has played a central role for me throughout my adult life. And I am very grateful to have Passim supporting me as I make my foray into these new, uncharted creative waters.

Ellis Paul (New England Songwriters Retreat)

I run the New England Songwriters Retreat and I am proud to say we are using the Iguana scholarship ($1500) to fund three $500 scholarships to people who may not be able to afford to attend the retreat. The retreat focuses on songwriting and the business of being a musician. Most of the people attending would like to see their music be able to earn some kind of income for them. I feel the scholarship helps them financially which in turn helps them attend our retreat where they can improve and learn better writing skills, business know how, and internet proficiency for their art.

Receiving the grant means that we are recognized as part of a wider community of folk music in New England. In many ways, we feed into and are fed by a river of artists and clubs and radio stations. It helps to have the retreat plugged into the wonderful things Club Passim is doing, it’s history and it’s continued support of emerging artists in vital to development of the music scene in New England. We are happy to be a part of that as well.


The grant we received from Passim’s Iguana Fund will be used toward editing our feature-length documentary, ORCHESTRATING CHANGE about Me2/Orchestra, the only orchestra in the world for people living with mental illness and those who support them.

Me2/Orchestra, based in Boston, has two orchestras: one in Boston and the other in Burlington, Vermont. The orchestras’ mission is to erase stigma while creating beautiful music. As Me2/’s Executive Director, Caroline Whiddon says, “I never knew an orchestra could be such a vehicle for change.”

The Me2/Orchestra (me, too!) was founded by Ronald Braunstein, a once world-renowned conductor. He was the first American to win the most prestigious conducting competition in the world and went on to conduct major symphonies including the Berlin Philharmonic. His music career was destroyed when his diagnosis of bipolar disorder was discovered.  Nearly destitute, Braunstein’s dream was to create a non-auditioned orchestra for people, as he says, “like me.” This amazing orchestra has enabled people living with mental health diagnoses to come out of the shadows and be heard.  Now, Me2/’s exhilarating public performances are challenging societal stereotypes about mental illness and transforming the lives of its musicians.  They reconnect with the community, foster friendships and most important, gain confidence and self-esteem. Many of the Me2/ musicians struggle daily to cope with daunting symptoms. Several profiled in the film have endured periods of hospitalization but they know they can always find much needed support from Braunstein and their fellow musicians. 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in 17 Americans — about 13.6 million people — are living with serious mental illness. We all know a family member, friend or colleague. ORCHESTRATING CHANGE features captivating characters, beautiful music and will leave audiences with a much deeper understanding of what it means to live with mental illness. It will also inspire parents to enroll a child living with mental illness in a music program or even encourage an adult musician to pick up an instrument they may have abandoned. ORCHESTRATING CHANGE shows the power of music to truly change lives.

Musicians in the Boston and Burlington areas are welcome to reach out to Me2/Orchestra to join. The Boston orchestra rehearses every Monday and the Burlington orchestra, on Thursdays. About half of the orchestras are comprised of people living with a mental illness and half have no diagnosis but support those who do. The orchestras perform at public venues, mental health events, prisons and juvenile detention facilities.

ORCHESTRATING CHANGE is a passion project that can’t be completed without the financial support of the community. For the past two years, the musicians have so generously shared their stories with us. It’s a privilege as filmmakers to be entrusted with those stories and share them with the public. We finished filming in 2017 and are now in the post-production phase. This grant will go towards that editing. We are extremely honored and grateful to be the recipient of an Iguana Fund grant. We’re dedicated to sharing the important message of Me2/Orchestra not only to the New England Music Community but to viewers across the country. Me2/’s long-term goal is to create orchestras in other communities and we hope that ORCHESTRATING CHANGE will contribute to that effort.