Matthew McConaughey and Wild Turkey Gift $10,000 to 5 Southern Musicians

These “Local Legends” kept their local music scenes alive “during an exceptionally trying time.”

Actor Matthew McConaughey and Wild Turkey have teamed up for the fifth year in a row to honor everyday heroes who have demonstrated courage, conviction, and confidence in the face of adversity.

This holiday season, McConaughey and the Kentucky-based whiskey brand have come together to recognize and reward five "Local Legends" who kept their local music scenes alive "during an exceptionally trying time" with $10,000 donations to community-based music initiatives of their choice.

Matthew McConaughey Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey

"These bold, selfless individuals showed up for the music scene in extraordinary ways— whether raising funds for furloughed or unemployed musicians, offering virtual music lessons or organizing benefit concerts," a news release explains.

To celebrate their contributions, each "Local Legend"—Jason Eskridge and Justin Branam, both of Nashville; Jess Garland of Dallas; Melissa A. Weber of New Orleans; and Justin Fedor of Charlotte—received a $10,000 donation to continue uplifting their local music community.

"Music can heal, inspire, transform and take us on time traveling trips to where we've already been and where we want to go. With a rhythm, a rhyme, a hook and a beat, music is a soundtrack to our lives individually, as groups, and as a people," McConaughey, who also serves as Wild Turkey's Creative Director, said in a statement. "Musicians are outlaws, poets, performers, and prognosticators—and we need to them keep taking the stage. With that said, it's vital that we invest in these local music scenes—to keep the lights on at our favorite venues and nurture the next generation of great live performers."

Keep scrolling to learn more about the honorees and their selected charities:

Jason Eskridge is a former NASA mechanical engineer who is now a prominent figure in the R&B and urban Nashville scene, Eskridge began Sunday Night Soul, a bi-monthly, performance event spotlighting soul artists in Nashville. During the pandemic, Eskridge stood by his mission and pivoted the event to be streamed virtually. His $10,000 will be donated to the Nashville Arts and Business Council to benefit Your Song, a songwriting program that connects performing arts centers, musicians, and artists with vulnerable communities.

Jess Garland is a filmmaker and musician in Dallas who formed the non-profit Swan Strings, which provides free music lessons to Dallas residents. She is also the Executive Director of Girls Rock Dallas. For her $10,000 donation, Garland has selected Deep Ellum 100, an organization that gives financial grants to musicians affected by the pandemic.

Justin Branam is the Program Director for Musicians Corner, a nonprofit organization in Nashville that aims to preserve, enhance, and share the Parthenon and Centennial Park. During COVID, Branam and his team worked diligently to provide virtual experiences, keeping the safety of audiences top of mind while still finding ways to provide entertainment and spotlight local musicians. Branam has selected Musicians Corner to receive his $10,000 donation.

Justin Fedor is a singer, guitarist, and benefit concert organizer in Charlotte, North Carolina. Fedor has organized the biannual concert series, Tribute to Benefit, for nearly a decade, raising tens of thousands for local charitable causes. During the pandemic, Fedor enlisted his community to create a virtual John Prine Tribute and another Tribute to Black Artists. Fedor has selected DrumsForCures to receive his $10,000 donation.

Melissa A. Weber, also known as DJ Soul Sister, is a longtime New Orleans resident and renowned dance party host. She's credited as the first to implement a vaccine mandate at her dance parties, where she spins classic funk. Weber has chosen to split her $10,000 donation evenly between the New Orleans Musicians Clinic and Assistance Foundation, which provides medical care and social services to local artists, and Backstreet Cultural Museum, which preserves and documents Black New Orleans cultural traditions.

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