Small Business Member Spotlight: Big Heavy World

Photo: Big Heavy World volunteers, high school students Mollie Allen and Cadence Gentley, interviewed author Shawna Potter on 105.9FM The Radiator in 2020. Shawna Potter is a Baltimore-based musician who gives workshops that offer a better understanding of gender, LGBTQ, and identity-related harassment in public spaces and how to prevent and address it when it happens. She wrote the anti-harassment handbook, ‘Making Spaces Safer.

The volunteers of Big Heavy World work to make sure Vermont’s music community is ‘at the table’ in the state’s daily economy, during decision-making by civic leaders, and in the narrative of history so future generations see how music captures the spirit of people and their times. As an art form, music reveals how diverse Vermonters are, and how connected they are to a source of profound creativity. By valuing inclusion, bringing all musicians together, Big Heavy World helps present the big picture.

The infrastructure created over 25 years — including a radio station, community space, museum, music archive, and special projects of many kinds — is a shared resource for amplifying the voice and passions of our community, including BIPOC, LGBTQIA, and New Americans. Projects like Make Music Day inspire Vermonters to make live music all over the state, joining global celebrations each year in June. ‘Rocket Shop,’ our local music radio hour and podcast, has brought hundreds of bands (and thousands of musicians) to new audiences. The radio station, 105.9FM The Radiator, has been a platform for hundreds of diverse local voices to share their passions with Vermont’s largest population center, and also messages of encouragement and optimism during the pandemic.

Big Heavy World is committed to ensuring music is recognized equally among Vermont’s other art forms when inequities are found in the systems or resources managed by cities or the state. Fairness and transparency — universal values that should apply to every category of human experience — aren’t ensured for Vermont’s creative people and organizations, so this advocacy has a role in helping Vermont meet its potential for integrity and inclusion. 

Most of the volunteers who make the mission real are young adults, having early career experiences that will make them stronger people and candidates for success in the economy and life in general. The organization is a technical, professional and soft-skills educational environment as much as an outlet for Vermonters to serve their community. Economic development is served not just by uplifting the music sector but by the workforce development that is embedded in all the organization’s activities. Big Heavy World is Vermont’s de facto, independent, volunteer-run music office and a champion of values that make Vermont a better place for music to be created, valued, and experienced. This is a unique model of connecting young adults with the compelling world of music, fostering engagement and empowering them while serving a community & economic development and cultural preservation mission. Vermont’s independent, innovating, uplifting ‘can-do’ spirit shines through, and earned recognition for the state in 2020 when an international jury presented Big Heavy World with the Music Cities ‘Best Global Music Office’ award.