Benefit helps Austin musicians without health care


by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist MATT OLSEN

Bio | Email | Follow: @KrisB_KVUE

Posted on September 24, 2013 at 10:20 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 25 at 1:16 PM

AUSTIN -- Playing in the street, on the stage, and at the grocery store, it was hard not to hear live music in Austin Tuesday for the 8th annual HAAM Benefit Day.

There are more than 9,000 musicians in the Live Music Capital of the World and HAAM, or the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, serves nearly half of them.

“We help them get access to affordable health care, which prior to HAAM they called it the ‘walk it off method’ where they delayed seeking care,” said HAAM’s Executive Director Carolyn Schwarz.

Low income, uninsured musicians like Matt Parmenter with the band Quiet Company can now see a doctor without worrying about the cost.

“I needed earplugs because my ears are getting battered on stage every night. They did a full hearing test and fitted me for custom earplugs,” said Parmenter, who saved more than $100 thanks to HAAM’s coverage.

Parmenter moved to Austin from Michigan six years ago and says HAAM played a major role in that decision.

“It sounded like some sort of weird myth, like there's insurance just for musicians, really? I don't believe that," he said.

Lang Freeman with The Rocket Boys tells KVUE “I do a lot of traveling and touring and playing a lot of different cities, meeting a lot of different bands from other places, and this [HAAM] is a very unique thing to Austin."

Saxophone player Greg Williams says HAAM has saved lives.

“There have been some very notable Austin musicians that have fallen very seriously ill the last handful of years, and some have gotten through it and some didn't, but none of them would have had any kind of chance at all if it wasn't for the helpful things that HAAM does for this community."

And thanks to the community that enjoys live music and keeps it alive, musicians can keep getting the help they need.

A total of 290 businesses dedicated five percent of their sales to HAAM on Tuesday.

The organization will know by mid-October if they reached their goal of $350,000 or if they went above and beyond to break a benefit record.


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