HOLLYWOOD, HOLLYWOOD: The Hollywood Bowl celebrated its 100th anniversary last summer. (Courtesy Venue)
The Hollywood Bowl will be the site of one of two major fundraisers put on by the The Music Forward Foundation, a nonprofit that’s part of the House of Blues and Live Nation Entertainment family, in early October. The events celebrate the organization’s 30th anniversary, with festivities including a Music Forward Brunch at the Hollywood Bowl and the foundation’s inaugural Celebrity Golf Tournament at the El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, California.
“Live Nation has backed Music Forward since day one, and we congratulate them on 30 years of helping youth discover and build careers in live music,” Michael Rapino, President and CEO of Live Nation Entertainment, said in a statement. “The industry is growing and diversifying faster than ever, which means there are even more opportunities to support the next generation and we look forward to continuing our work together.”
The brunch, taking place on Oct. 1, honors music industry visionaries with a buffet curated by James Beard Award-winning chef Suzanne Goin and restaurateur Caroline Styne. Music Forward alum will perform throughout the brunch.
On Oct. 2, the Celebrity Golf Classic will take place at the El Caballero Country Club, and players can meet youth from the foundation and watch them perform. Following the tournament, attendees will enjoy dinner, cocktails and live performances.
“I really wanted to find awareness-building events that we could galvanize the industry and our community around,” Music Forward Executive Director Nurit Smith said of the upcoming 30th-anniversary celebrations. “We have our brunch, and this is a feel-good event where we not only are recognizing Music Forward’s 30th anniversary, but this year and every year from now on, we are going to be highlighting and recognizing leaders, artists in live entertainment, and music that goes beyond this stage, beyond the music, and impacts our communities in a positive way. Our world, our earth, our industry. We get to make a little bit extra noise because it’s our 30th, but we have got some amazing folks being honored as well.”
Smith, who worked with the Screen Actors Guild Foundation prior to joining Music Forward in 2018, particularly looks forward to the foundation’s upcoming Celebrity Golf Tournament. She first launched a golf tournament with the Screen Actors Guild, and says golf is “an amazing way to fundraise.”
“This is a true fundraiser, but we’re going to have celebrity guests and each foursome golf team will have a fifth player, which will be a celebrity coming in and adding a little flavor to their team and excitement for the day,” Smith says. “We have a shotgun start at 11 o’clock, and cocktails, dinner and awards are at 5 p.m., so that will be a beautiful day on the green out here in Los Angeles.”
House of Blues founder Isaac Tigrett started the Music Forward Foundation in 1993 alongside business partner and “Blues Brother” Dan Aykroyd, when it was then called the International House of Blues Foundation. The foundation aims to support young people pursuing entertainment careers, primarily focusing on those aged 13-24. Smith works alongside Music Forward Foundation Board President Patti-Anne Tarlton for the foundation.
“Music Forward came from such an iconic brand with the House of Blues,” Smith says. “It resonated with me in that space. The mission statement, the intention around repositioning the organization 20 years in and repositioning it into this critical architect of creative workforce development into music and live entertainment was, for me, one of the only organizations out there. And personally really resonated with me, with my arts, entertainment, philanthropy and education background. It all came together in a beautiful amalgamation in 2018 when I joined the team during our 25th anniversary year.”
Over the years, Music Forward has helped launch several illustrious careers, with alumni including Phoebe Bridgers and recent Pollstar cover U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost, whose high school band, The Charter, performed at their local House of Blues.
“You audition, they pick five local artists around different House of Blues around the country,” Frost said. “You do five sessions where you learn how to market your music and then they let you do a show and you each get like 20 to 25 minutes on stage. They give you a bunch of free tickets for your friends and you move tickets. We headlined our show and it was insane we had like a thousand people there.”
Music Forward Foundation partners with companies including BMG, Primary Wave and Concord to provide those in the program with paid internship opportunities, apprenticeships and more. Aspiring musicians and professionals are paired up with mentors and taught how to network and access paid performances.
Music Forward alum LaTisha Stephens discovered Music Forward while in her last two years of college. She joined one of the workshop programs offered by the foundation, where she learned how to build out her resume so that she could land her first internship.
“The workshop was good,” Stephens says. “It was honestly the only thing that was resourceful for what was going on and what I should work on myself and look into. They had public speakers, as well. It was good to hear information from people who were already in the industry, in the field that they wanted to be in. Then, for my internship, it was the first internship I ever had.”
Stephens also believes in paying her experience within the program forward, and she’s joined panels to provide current students with the advice she herself learned through her experience.
Martie Faye, a Filipina singer and another Music Forward alum, discovered the foundation during the pandemic.
“I was looking for some virtual gigs to do while we were on lockdown,” she said. “And I came across their Open Mic Fridays, so I applied. Then, on the same webpage, they also had all the programs that they were running at the time. They had an Apple Play Studios program, so I decided to apply to that as well and I was able to do both… I thought it was really enriching, it was great to meet other musicians in L.A. and I found the environment to be really supportive. Even though we all had our own individual projects, everyone was hyping each other up.”
In addition to celebrating Music Forward’s 30th anniversary, Smith is excited to bring in-person events back to the foundation. This year marked the first time their All Access Festival returned to live spaces, serendipitously lining up with their milestone year. The program serves as a job fair for college students, allowing them to get their foot in the door. The event launched in 2018 to help young folks explore a variety of career paths within the music industry. The career fair also aims to help those attending to find job and internship placements by pairing them up one-on-one with HR representatives.
“As we’re coming back, we’re realizing that our communities shifted slightly,” Smith says. “Not only did our community shift to more beacon cities like New York and Nashville, but we’re still seeing a lot of energy around some of our historic cities like Chicago, New Orleans and across Texas, where we had those House of Blues anchor spaces. The virtual space gave us a breadth of reach we couldn’t have envisioned. The speed with which we were able to globally reach young people allowed our recent virtual All Access Fest a few weeks ago to have young people from over 30 countries show up.”
More than 1 million young people have participated in Music Forward over the past three decades and the organization has helped to provide more than $42 million in scholarships, workforce opportunities, relief funds and more.
“We bring interns into our organization regularly, but we also place interns all over the country,” Smith says. “To see them shine and excel and be curious and succeed, for me, those are the points that continue to fuel me in this mission. We’re in this for the long run. When you see young people succeeding, securing those full-time jobs after meeting them when they were 15 years old and in the foster care system, now touring the world as a crew member. That’s what inspires me.”