I WON!!! We're going to change the world... a little bit. Through music. With an Iguana.

Three or four months ago I found myself at the dinner table with Neale Eckstein, the producer of my most recent record ('Of Love and Whiskey'). We were in the process of brainstorming ideas for a project that I could submit to the Iguana Music Fund through Club Passim, my local non-profit that hosts of some of the best music to come through the Boston area. As a primer, the Iguana Music Fund provides a select number of artist to pursue their musical career through grants of $500 to $2000. The alumni of recipients of this award are some of my musical heroes... Really, to get a grant from the Iguana is kind of like getting a financial aid package to continue your college education, except you don't have to take classes. Now, let me admit, I've applied to the Iguana for the last three years... I've applied for tour support (2009 - with Sierra West), something non-memorable even for me (2010), and last year, I requested that the Iguana help me out with making my new record (2011)... As you probably could figure out, I did not get a grant any of those years. This year, I was going to do the same old thing - like apply for support to record an EP of happy songs, or request monetary support to make a music video for one of the songs off the new record... But Neale, being the brilliant producer that he is, gently reminded me to think a little bigger than that... like a little bigger than myself... So we then got into a discussion about who I am as an artist, as an individual in the greater universe, and what I might like to be doing with my music that could serve a greater community - maybe even a community that I belong to already. So, the more we talked, the more we thought that doing some sort of outreach/advocacy in and around the queer community would be pretty awesome... Specifically, we thought I could do something with my song "Beautiful Boy" - a song I wrote after trying to practice in a mirror for days... and eventually I gave in and wrote the song that was welling up inside of me about that 'boy' in the mirror. I wanted to cry as we were talking about this option, so following my tearful gut, I decided that's the idea I needed to flesh out. I then proceeded to procrastinate for a month, month and a half... then on the eve of the deadline to submit to the Iguana I finally sat down. I had a hard time at first, as one of the things I've always worried about was being "pegged" as a queer musician, and therefore not reaching a broader audience because I had somehow alienated some of my fans or potential fans... and there went the snowball of irrational thought, the first hurdle to get over. My household would tell you that I pretty much freaked out that night. I wasn't even sure if I should hit the submit button when I had finished it. I was stressed out, it was 11pm, and I was in a REALLY vulnerable place. I had just spent the last howevermanyhours throwing my ideas, my heart, my life into a grant application entitled "The skin you're in: supporting Boston queer youth and young adults at schools and colleges through music and discussion" followed by the following project description (I've since edited it a little bit): I'd like to visit high school and college LGBTQ (lesbian gay bisexual transgender queer) support groups in/around the Boston area and host a discussion about being genderqueer - that is belonging to the group of folks who don't quite fit into the gender binary of discretely masculine or feminine. LGBTQ youth, especially those who do not fit into the gender binary, often don't have a support system to encourage them that who they are in their bodies is perfectly acceptable and that they should be celebrated for who they are. I'd love to begin these discussions with a few songs, including one that I wrote as a letter to myself during a time that I felt really uncomfortable in my body ("Beautiful Boy"). ...and after I freaked out a little longer, I basically had to tell myself - 'get over yourself, this isn't just for you...' and I clicked the submit button. I then proceeded to freak out about it for another week. Now here we are, ten weeks later, and I get an email in my inbox labeled "Iguana Music Fund Winner" ...not even going to lie, I almost didn't even read it... yes even though it said "WINNER" in the title of the email. Maybe it was the fact that I worked all night pushing boxes around in the USPS warehouse and had just woken up at 7pm to do it all over again and it really didn't click in my clouded brain... but then I noticed, thanks Google Mail, that the first few words of the email were "Congratulations! The Iguana Music Fund is pleased...." If you hadn't noticed, I am pretty skeptical that I would be chosen for something like this, so I figured that the remainder of those lines were "...to announce the winners for 2012..." and then go on to list a bunch of people that weren't me... yes, I know it said "congratulations"... Really, once I got over myself... again... I read the entire email. My response? Something along these lines: "Wow. Uhhh... oh wow. I think the Iguana gave me money to be a good queerly influence." And so that was that. Okay, I may have thought that the Iguana got it wrong... that the Iguana really didn't mean that they were "very impressed with [my] application and project." And so I gave it a couple of days to sink in... and I think I finally believe it. Merry Christmas/Holiday time, Bethel, you're going to be a big deal to some kiddos.

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Bethel Steele

americana song-slinger