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MAMA

The Montana Area Music Association wants to meet you.

The fledgling volunteer-drive nonprofit is holding its first showcase this Friday at the new Zootown Arts Community Center performance space on West Main Street.

The group, made up of local musicians and affiliated workers, began meeting at the start of the year, eventually coalescing to develop a platform to advocate for and provide resources to local performers. 

"Meetings have been going really well," said Maria Zepeda, a musician and the organization's president. They've recruited 30 "legacy" members at a $100 donation to pay for the performers and promotion for Friday's show. She said they're seeing more new faces at their Tuesday meetings, and fell "really lucky to have the members that have shown up and the team leading it behind the scenes," even though the work thus fair is unpaid.

Their goal is to serve as a resource that connects the music community via advocacy and education; create a healthy and motivated musical environment through partnerships; and to provide equal opportunity while helping to promote fair pay.

At Friday's event, they'll have music from MissAlaneous and the Caravan Band, Junior, Chris "Sandman"  Sand, and The Vintage, along with a few talks. Barbara Neilan, executive director of the Destination Missoula Convention and Visitors Bureau, will talk about the ties between local music and tourism. 

And Zepeda will roll out the group's ambitious plan, both in the short term and very long term.

Some immediate goals include a local database to connect musicians with others for photography, videos, website and graphic design, marketing, promotion and more, that will launch in January. 

They host songwriter showcases at Wave and Circuit, and are planning wellness series for musicians. Longer-term targets include a statewide expansion to help other communities develop their own workshops; having a dedicated space of their own in Missoula; seasonal events and awards, etc.; workshops for starting and established musicians; and a "MAMA Approves" seal for venues that "ensure professional relationships between the artist and the venue, the artist and the audience, the venue and the patrons, and the artist and the artist," she said.

All that will require large investments, and they're looking to create fundraising and planning committees, and a financial officer, all whom they hope to pay eventually.

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Hermina Harold, a member of Junior, one of the bands performing on Friday, has been playing in Missoula's local music scene for around 15 years.

She hasn't attended a meeting yet but plans to join on Friday, citing the aspects about musicians advocating for themselves, and learning tools to promote themselves effectively.

"I'm just excited that this group is going to put more value on local musicians and hopefully, if we are being taken for granted in any way help us deal with that," she said.

Harold said she "sees the whole situation as being closely tied in with the gentrification process that's happening in Missoula, and how our community is becoming more difficult for people of modest means to survive and thrive in, and I think musicians and artists are one of the groups that maybe is being left out of the picture, even though our arts and music scene is being used as a promotional … bragging point," she said.

Another of Friday's performers, Chris "Sandman" Sand, a cowboy poet and singer-songwriter, said he liked the detail- and people-oriented nature of the group, from the contract negotiations to the monthly meeting times (7-8 a.m. or 8-9 p.m.) and the subjects (an upcoming series is on wellness for performers).

He also likes the networking opportunities, and the potential for a statewide database to help him get gigs outside of Missoula.

"It's a neat thing for musicians to have some sort of structure like that," said Sand, who's worked around Missoula and the region for decades and can't recall a similar organization.

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