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These 5 Rochester musicians are getting monthly stipends from grassroots donors 

click to enlarge Musicians Briana Horton, Josh Cirilo, Hakeem Dodley, Marissa Williams, and James Kegler 9not pictured) are the first participants in The Local Sound Collaborative's Artist Grants Program. - PHOTO BY WHITNEY YOUNG
  • PHOTO BY WHITNEY YOUNG
  • Musicians Briana Horton, Josh Cirilo, Hakeem Dodley, Marissa Williams, and James Kegler 9not pictured) are the first participants in The Local Sound Collaborative's Artist Grants Program.
The Local Sound Collaborative planted its flag in the Rochester music scene in April with the goal of bolstering musicians with tangible support to help sustain careers and keep the community vibrant.

Director and founder Ray Mahar — also the frontman for the Americana band A Girl Named Genny — teamed up with fellow musicians, venue owners, and other local music professionals to come up with a plan.

Now, the initial wave of support has arrived.

In November, the organization named the five recipients of its inaugural Artist Grants Program. Each musician is set to receive a $200 monthly stipend for 12 months, beginning in December. There are no stipulations regarding how the funds are to be used.

The organization raised $12,000 from individual contributions as part of a grassroots fundraising campaign. “It wasn’t funded from one large grant,” Mahar said. “It was funded by people, for people. I’m really proud of that.”

So who are the five musicians receiving these grants?

We chatted with Josh Cirilo, Hakeem Dodley, Briana Horton, James Kegler, and Marissa Williams to learn more about what makes them tick and how they might use the money to realize their goals.

Josh Cirilo

click to enlarge Josh Cirilo, aka Terruhwrist. - PHOTO BY WHITNEY YOUNG
  • PHOTO BY WHITNEY YOUNG
  • Josh Cirilo, aka Terruhwrist.
Josh Cirilo works for a data security company by day, and is the rapper and producer Terruhwrist by night. He latched onto the conspicuous moniker as a nod to his skills as a writer wielding a pen — a “terror with the wrist.”

The 31-year-old hip-hop artist makes socially conscious raps backed by catchy yet ominous beats, addressing issues of injustice head-on. His 2022 album releases “Animal Farm II” and “MidSommar” are no exceptions.

Cirilo said the grant program will help him make more music videos, buy performance equipment, and perform at pay-to-play shows, which is par for the course at local rap gigs. instagram.com/terruhwrist.

Hakeem Dodley

Guitarist Hakeem Dodley has worked as a live sound engineer in Rochester and throughout the Finger Lakes region for several years. Currently the head of production at Lincoln Hill Farms for live concerts, he recently ran the board for Danielle Ponder’s sold-out show at Water Street Music Hall, and is a member of the band Fakaui.

While Dodley works full-time as an audio engineer and producer, it’s not always enough to pay the bills. But he says The Local Sound Collective is an empathetic partner.

click to enlarge Hakeem Dodley. - PHOTO BY WHITNEY YOUNG
  • PHOTO BY WHITNEY YOUNG
  • Hakeem Dodley.
“A lot of my faith in the program, it’s just seeing who Ray has been all these years,” Dodley said of Mahar. “I’ve worked with his band, and he’s just really been someone who takes the time to listen and understand the hardships of doing these things as a business, because it’s not always fair. A lot of us don’t have health insurance, and you know, just a steady gig.”

For Dodley, a father of two, the monthly grant will go toward groceries in anticipation of fewer gigs in the winter. He says the program provides a safety net that allows musicians more time to focus on the creative process and lessens the time spent stressing about bills.

“Because everyone seems to want entertainment as a way to boost business, or just distract themselves, but no one thinks of the time and sacrifice it takes to actually pursue this business,” Dodley said. fakaui.bandcamp.com.

Briana Horton

Singer-guitarist Briana Horton moved to Rochester in early February from her hometown of Geneva, looking to extend her musical reach. The smooth vocalist is a polished cover performer, with the ideal tone for pop hits and the technical chops needed for busy rock and soul tunes.

Horton, 23, says she has been singing since she was a toddler.

“Music has been the one constant, the one thing that’s kept me grounded,” she said.

click to enlarge Briana Horton. - PHOTO BY WHITNEY YOUNG
  • PHOTO BY WHITNEY YOUNG
  • Briana Horton.
Horton plans to earn a degree in music therapy while still performing. Recently, vocal nodules have prevented her singing frequently. The $200 from The Local Sound Collaborative can cover the expense of losing one gig per month, she said.

“It’s really not a sustainable career path for a lot of reasons, but it’s one that people rely on so heavily for their mental health and their enjoyment, and their connection with other people,” Horton said. instagram.com/brianahortonmusic.

James Kegler

James Kegler is better known to the local indie hip-hop scene as the rapper MF SKUM — an acronym for “motherfuckin’ sacred knowledge uniting the masses.” For the 26-year-old Kegler, making music is like being a philosopher.

“What I look to do when I make music is express experiences, thoughts, and sensations that aren’t normally expressed,” Kegler said, adding that he wants to grapple with spiritual death, accountability, and reflection in his songs.

Kegler works full-time as a program coordinator for the Center for Teen Empowerment, and says the grant money will go toward constructing music equipment, scheduling studio time, and paying bills in advance. soundcloud.com/mf-skum.

Marissa Williams

click to enlarge Marissa Williams, aka Rissa. - PHOTO BY WHITNEY YOUNG
  • PHOTO BY WHITNEY YOUNG
  • Marissa Williams, aka Rissa.
A versatile artist, 19-year-old Marissa Williams is a songwriter, rapper, and multi-instrumentalist who performs as Rissa, and is as likely to write poetry as she is to sing. Thematically, her lyrics draw from Black history and comment on Black life in America. But she doesn’t always fall back on her own experiences, instead choosing to voice someone else’s perspective.

Williams, who works full-time at Burger King, is no stranger to the studio, where she said she is often recording new music. But releasing new music depends on having consistent resources, she said.

“Some people don’t know how difficult it is for independent artists like myself to be able to take care of our studio time,” Williams said. “If we need cover art, we need visuals, we need to buy beats.”

She said the grant program will help to subsidize those creative needs, which had taken a backseat to other bills. soundcloud.com/rissawil.

Daniel J. Kushner is CITY's arts editor. He can be reached at dkushner@rochester-citynews.com.
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