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Handy $20,000 grant helps an old stager tune in to today

by Patrick Donovan - from The Age (Melbourne), 6 November 2003

Before he hit paydirt with his band the Sports, Stephen Cummings sang in a cult band from Carlton called the Pelaco Brothers with Joe Camilleri, Johnny Topper and pedal steel guitar supremo Ed Bates.

Cummings could have done with a leg up 30 years ago, before songs such as Shape I'm In (not a Sports song - ed) and Gymnasium propelled him into the charts. "The Pelaco Brothers never received any help from the government, no," he said.

But he welcomed the $20,000 he received from the Australia Council yesterday "for significant projects which will benefit their artistic development", to help with his next solo CD Time Trip. Cummings said he would use the money to add strings and horns to his sound.

In the '70s, rock music was not considered a high art form. These days, rock and hip hop as well as traditional jazz and classical music forms all receive annual federal funding from the Australia Council for the Arts.

The council's music board announced grants worth $1.9 million yesterday. Cummings was one of 86 individuals and groups that received between $1500 and $80,000.

Victorian jazz pianist Joseph Chindamo was one of two recipients of the $80,000 fellowships, which he will use over two years studying, composing, recording and performing in Italy. Other recipients include the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz, which received $25,000; Melbourne-based former Frank Zappa keyboardist Allan Zavod, who received $8000 to compose a jazz concerto; and North Fitzroy world music cafe The Boite, which received $22,000 towards shows and festivals.

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