It’s easy to give thanks for the talented music scene Boston has to offer when there are so many concerts to attend and records to buy. When it comes to supporting the musicians of tomorrow, though, things get a little tricky. Finding out how to volunteer in your city, however, isn’t the easiest thing to do. Falling down a Google black hole only leads to SEO-recommended charities and Yelp-favorited nonprofits. There’s a plethora of suggested organizations in the city to support, but there’s also a large swath of organizations that are too focused on helping others to figure out how to appear in Google search results. Internet, I thought you were supposed to be helpful?
So this holiday, we handpicked some of our favorite music-focused nonprofits, organizations, and charities that need your help. Whether you have $20 to spare or a few hours of your time to donate, the following groups are helping support your scene beyond the DIY circuit. From all-ages venues to Latinx dances to hands-on opportunities for those routinely denied the chance to do such, scan through the following outlets to see how the way you burn time could be connected to a local group. It’s Thanksgiving time, after all, so lend a helping hand to the neighbors you haven’t already met.
IF YOU LOVE TO: reminisce about playing violin in middle school
THEN DONATE TO: Revolution of Hope
Each year, 50 students get to join the Roxbury Youth Orchestra and take part in a five-day-a-week program of intense music studies thanks to this Roxbury organization. Revolution of Hope works with five teachers and over a dozen volunteer instructors to give the local youth a chance to engage in detailed music programs ranging from chamber orchestra music to gospel choirs. And, as studios show, the professionalism and passion the youth shows in music classes often turns into motivation and determination in their academic lives, too.
IF YOU LOVE TO: drag your friends to peaceful protests and community meetings
THEN DONATE TO: Teen Empowerment
Getting involved with your community does more good than harm, and Teen Empowerment is proof. Created back in 1992, this organization opened a Somerville branch in 2004 that connects low-income youth with their communities to help address the pressing issues in their lives. Its youth conferences combine music, activism, and theater, and act as a springboard of motivation and confidence. Did we mention its studio program helps youth members release albums that they produced themselves too?
IF YOU LOVE TO: see local DIY bands eventually headline Great Scott
THEN DONATE TO: The Democracy Center
Cambridge’s modern meetinghouse has been hosting national, local, and nonprofit organizations ever since it was founded back in 2001. While the space is often used for activists and political groups to organize their people, it’s also used by musicians in Boston’s local music scene as a concert venue. Arguably the biggest selling point of the Democracy Center is its commitment to representing everyone, which means it’s one of the only all-ages venues in the city. Every tiny basement band and hardcore group you love has gotten its start here, and the next generation of these bands should get the chance to do the same.
IF YOU LOVE TO: jam with friends after work to destress
THEN DONATE TO: ZUMIX
It’s no secret we love the East Boston-based nonprofit, and you certainly will too. While it’s well known that ZUMIX offers city youth the chance to learn how to play, record, write, and broadcast music on their own, it’s also working to uplift the voices of East Boston at large through radio and storytelling. On top of all of this, its creative community hosts Q&As with touring musicians, offers safe spaces for youth to hang out after school, and even organized Play It Forward, which offers $60/hour adult music lessons that subsidize the cost for free or low-cost youth lessons. ZUMIX is a musical playground for Boston youth with an unlimited supply of imagination, inspiration, and creativity.
IF YOU LOVE TO: blast Camila Cabello, J Balvin, and Kali Uchis—even in the winter
THEN DONATE TO: Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion
The oldest nonprofit organization on this list, IBA started in 1968 when protesters organized to stop displacement in the South End and control their community. The multifaceted organization has created sections like the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts—the largest Latinx arts center in New England—which hosts music events, proper dances, and visual arts events celebrating the diversity of Latinx culture. In a city that continues to segregate via neighborhood borders, IBA’s focus on upholding Latinx traditions and educating the community about Latinx culture is vital for Boston’s diversifying music scene.
IF YOU LOVE TO: goof around on instruments you’ve never played before
THEN DONATE TO: Girls Rock Campaign Boston
Given the organization’s name, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Girls Rock is the all-female and nonbinary, primarily volunteer-run, and totally uplifting outlet that empowers girls and women through music. Over the course of a camp-style string of days, attendees will learn how to play instruments of their choosing and form a band. The whole thing ends with a music festival for the public showcasing the bands and, in the process, how music education is a stepping stone to build self-esteem.
IF YOU LOVE TO: imagine what a music video for your life would look like
THEN DONATE TO: RAW Art Works
Age limits don’t matter, especially at RAW. This Lynn-based organization lets kids under the age of 17 discover how to bring their ideas to life through art. This includes conceiving, designing, directing, building, and filming music videos for artists, like the video they created for “If You Met Her” by Palehound last year.
IF YOU LOVE TO: feel moved by street performers on your morning commute
THEN DONATE TO: Shelter Music Boston
This sustainable nonprofit brings classical music to homeless shelters around the city, and they just happen to make it look easy as hell. Since forming in 2009, the Arlington-based organization has dedicated itself to providing homeless citizens with the self-reflection, intellectual stimulation, community, and hope of music by letting professional classical musicians perform concerts in its space. But it’s not possible without their hardworking staff and donations from people like you.