AUSTIN - Starting bright and early and going long into the night Tuesday, musicians in Austin are playing their hearts out in hopes that music lovers will contribute to the organization that helps keep them "alive and well."
At venues across town all day long, music lovers can watch Austin bands play, grab a bite to eat at food trucks, drink and -- more importantly -- donate to Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM) Benefit Day.
"In Austin, musicians are a big part of the community,” said Shelley King.
King has been singing and playing the guitar for more than 25 years, and said the Health Alliance for Austin musicians is an important part of the community.
"I was one of the ones who would never go to the doctor and now if there's something wrong I think, 'hey, I can actually go to the doctor,'” said King.
She said the organization helps musicians navigate the healthcare system and get primary medical, dental, hearing and vision care.
"They've been able to be healthier, and work more making music for people,” said King.
Reenie Collins is the Executive Director of HAAM.
"Today is my favorite day of the year, HAAM Benefit Day,” said Collins at one of the shows at the Whole Foods on Sixth Street. "It's really become such a big deal to everybody because it brings all of the Austin community together."
According to Collins, they're hoping to raise more than $500,000, which is a quarter of their operating budget.
"We’re continuing to grow, the need is great,” said Collins.
Collins said they've seen a steady increase of members in the past 4 years, up 25 percent since this time last year.
Just 2 months ago, the organization worried it would have to cap its enrollment. At that time, Collins said their growth was outpacing their fundraising.
"Austin has over 8,000 working musicians, and of those, really 80 percent of those musicians earn less than $18,000 a year,” said Collins.
And that's why she said they're working hard to keep enrollment open.
"We have had a lot of people step up in the community and our board really wanted to make sure we are not slowing down open enrollment, so we are not doing that right now," said Collins.
Jane Ellen Bryant is a New HAAM member
"We live month to month most full-time musicians, so it's just, it is beyond helpful,” said Bryant. "You just never know what's going to happen, and most musicians are not able to make their health a priority.”
It's help that Collins said they can't provide without donations from the community.
"I think that if everyone comes together and does that, we will continue to have the thriving music community that we need,” said Collins. "Austin is the live music capital of the world, we love, it's our cultural identity, it drives our economic engine, live music does, and so we just want people to help take care of our musicians.”
"This helps keep the musicians healthy, it keeps our economy healthy, it keeps people coming to our city, it's something unique and wonderful about Austin, and it's just another way to show Austin takes care of its own," said King. "HAAM is an amazing organization that is unique to Austin, that helps musicians have access to primary healthcare."
Go here to donate.
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