Tulsa Music Scene Hopes To Bounce Back After Pandemic

Saturday, January 9th 2021, 8:25 am
By: Matt Rahn


The pandemic has impacted every industry in Oklahoma, but it’s been very hard on Tulsa's music scene. One venue owner says they're just scraping by, but hope is on the horizon. 

"Everybody that works here whether they're full-time or part-time this is all a part of our heart and soul, and we miss it, we miss it terribly," said Simon Aleman.

He owns The Vanguard, a long-standing venue tucked away in the Tulsa Arts District. Before the pandemic, they were selling out shows, looking ahead to a promising year. Now, it sits quietly.

"It was our year, we were so excited and then COVID hit and boom we had to cancel 4 shows that were going to sell out," Aleman said.

Like so many others in the music industry, Simon is barely getting by, tapping into savings to make it through. But he says he hasn't had to weather this storm alone.

The Tulsa Office of Film, Music, Arts, and Culture(FMAC) was able to use money from the Tulsa County CARES Act to make sure places like The Vanguard aren't forgotten.

"Play Tulsa Music is a recovery program aimed to help local Tulsa County venues," said FMAC Executive Director Abby Kurin.

Kurin says Play Tulsa Music was able to give away $230,000 to over 20 venues in Tulsa County, allowing them to hire local musicians for live shows.

"These venues spent a lot of time understanding COVID procedures," she said.

For Simon, that meant a few small shows with distanced seating. He even bought a state-of-the-art air scrubber to help kill germs. He said the help from Play Tulsa Music was a lifesaver.

"Play Tulsa Music had allowed us to do some of these limited shows and not take as hard of a hit," Aleman said.

And more help could be on the way. $15 billion was set aside in the recent COVID relief bill to help independent theaters, venues, museums, and more. Simon says it's a glimmer of hope for an industry itching to get back to work.