Musicians turn to HAAM when they end up in a jam
It’s a common tale. Someone comes up with a brilliant idea for a project to help a segment of the community, but can it be executed? The idea gets circulated, talked about, heralded. Local VIPs and city leaders get behind the idea, and things start happening slowly but surely. But can it work? And will it?
In this case, the someone was passionate Austin businesswoman, philanthropist and live music lover Robin R. Shivers, and the brilliant idea was Health Alliance for Austin Musicians — a groundbreaking organization to help the people who daily exemplify what makes Austin the awesome place it is (the Live Music Capital of the World): lowincome, uninsured professional musicians who often work multiple jobs and struggle to pay for health care for themselves and their families after rent, food, utilities and other basic expenses.
And the idea has worked. After five years, more than 2,000 member-musicians have been served, gaining access to affordable health care, with a focus on wellness and prevention. They no longer have to “walk it off”; they no longer fear that a trip to the doctor will cost them their life savings.
It is working because local health care providers recognized HAAM’s importance and got onboard (and continue to do so): the SIMS Foundation, providing mental health and addiction-recovery services; St. David’s Foundation, basic dental care; the Seton Family of Hospitals, primary medical care; and Estes Audiology, hearing health services.
It is working because a board of directors, made up of a diverse group of people from the business and music worlds, has carefully tended the foundation built by the visionary and tireless work of Shivers, who died suddenly in 2009. She laid down a path, and it will be followed long into the future.
It is working because members of the community — benefactors, corporations, individual music lovers — have generously given nearly $1.7 million to support HAAM. One way they’ve done it is by shopping and eating out on the annual HAAM Benefit Day (on Sept. 21 this year, a Tuesday), when businesses pledge 5 percent of proceeds, area residents donate, foundations make matching grants, and live music fills restaurants, offices, green spaces, the airport and Austin City Hall.
What will happen in the immediate future? Will current health care reform legislation affect operations? HAAM is in a perfect position to help member-musicians navigate the new systems and identify and fill gaps that might exist in them.
HAAM is an important and trusted part of the Austin safety net, providing peace of mind along with services. But the need for health care is ongoing, and with continued support, HAAM can maintain and expand services to support musicians who are such an important part of Austin’s economy and culture.
Five years is an important milestone for HAAM, and we want to give our thanks to the service providers, donors, supporters, musicians, the HAAMbassadors, area residents and all who have helped the organization thrive. Together, we are keeping music in Austin alive and well.