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Musical Boon

Five Sonoma County bands roll in the money

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A WINNING SOUND Petaluma’s Avery Hellman was one of five Hewlett Foundation grant recipients. - PATRICK DEMMONS
  • Patrick Demmons
  • A WINNING SOUND Petaluma‚Äôs Avery Hellman was one of five Hewlett Foundation grant recipients.

Back in April, Creative Sonoma, a division of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, hosted the inaugural Next Level Showcase and Conference in Santa Rosa. The three-day event highlighted dozens of Sonoma County bands in all genres and offered a daylong workshop to learn about entrepreneurial aspects of the music industry from experts.

In addition to that weekend of activity, Creative Sonoma initiated a grants program, made possible with funds from the Hewlett Foundation, to offer five bands or artists the chance to receive $2,500 to go toward their choice of projects. Creative Sonoma last week announced that Avery Hellman (Ismay), the Bootleg Honeys, Black Sheep Brass Band, Shaun Hunter Wagner and the Easy Leaves are the five recipients of the grant program.

Avery Hellman is already having a breakout year. She toured old ghost towns this past spring by horseback and hosted concerts at Sonoma Mountain in her hometown of Petaluma. Next month, Hellman's musical project Ismay performs at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, an event her grandfather founded.

Harmonizing honky-tonk outfit the Bootleg Honeys have quickly won hearts around Sonoma County since forming in 2012. Featuring vocalists Katie Phillips, Alison Harris and Karen Joy Brown, with Mark Tarlton on drums, the band can deftly play venues large and small. Last year, the Bootleg Honeys released

Paint It Red, featuring original Americana tunes that ring out with authentic melodies and boot-stomping fun. This weekend, the band plays at the Bodega Seafood Art & Wine Festival, Aug. 27–28.

We profiled Black Sheep Brass Band in our July 13 issue, chronicling the group's eight-year evolution from buskers to touring band. Their new self-released and self-titled album is available now.

Shaun Hunter Wagner's music experience and passion extends beyond the stage. A musician for over 10 years in punk and indie bands like Starskate and Teenage Sweater, Wagner also runs his own record label, Goth Horse Records, from his home in Santa Rosa. Wagner plans on using the grant money to release new records and continue touring with his three current bands, the Acharis, Undo and Diesel Dudes.

In addition to the Next Level grant, country folk duo the Easy Leaves will also receive a complimentary day in the EMG-TV Studio to shoot up to three live-performance videos. The Easy Leaves are on the road this summer but they'll be back in the area and performing at HopMonk Tavern in Sebastopol on Sept. 16.

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