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HAAM Day organizers, Austin musicians hope for success as showcase moves online due to COVID-19

Last year, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians raised more than $600,000.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin's HAAM Day 2020 will look a lot different compared to 2019. This year, the showcase has gone all virtual due to COVID-19 concerns. 

"When the pandemic hit, events evaporated really because it wasn’t safe to be out," said Rachel Blair, the chief operating officer for the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM). "We made the tough decision to try something new that we’ve never tried before and make HAAM Day virtual."

HAAM is a program that helps provide low-income working musicians with access to affordable health care services. HAAM Day is an all-day showcase bands and musicians from Austin, performing to raise money for the organization. 

This year, about 200 artists are set to perform, according to Reenie Collins, HAAM CEO.

RELATED: Making music in the time of COVID-19: Austin's symphony orchestra goes virtual

Last year, the goal was to raise $610,000, which HAAM barely surpassed, raising just under $611,000. This year, they have a goal of raising $600,000.

"The success of HAAM Day will mean whether or not Austin musicians are able to maintain their health coverage and access to affordable health care and, now more than ever, our musicians need access to health care coverage," Blair said. "We don’t want them to have to worry about whether or not they can go to the emergency room if they need it."

Credit: Luis de Leon
Zeke Jarmon, with the band Batty Jr., plays his guitar at the front of his South Austin home.

Like many musicians in Austin, Zeke Jarmon from the band Batty Jr. said not being able to perform during the pandemic has been hard and he misses the community feeling. But he's optimistic about Tuesday's showcase. 

"I know how much they’ve helped me, and I want others to be able to get that help too," Jarmon said. "We don’t get paid very much for what we do, usually – despite the fact that we’re hard workers and we bring in a lot of revenue for the city."

Bri Bagwell is going into her fourth year with HAAM. She said artists are giving it their all to make sure these performances are just as memorable over a computer screen. 

"You can't hear any applause or any laughter so you feel kind of strange talking to yourself," Bagwell said. "I think its been a different side of us that we don't get to share and people don't get to see." 

RELATED: At Broken Spoke, Congressman Roger Williams stresses importance of providing relief to music venues

He also said it's organizations like HAAM that have helped, so he's hoping people turn out online to donate. 

"It’s just something we all need," Jarmon said. “Please tune in, enjoy some music and please donate."

Bagwell will perform virtually Tuesday at 5 p.m. and Batty Jr. will perform virtually at 7:30 p.m. To view the full HAAM Day schedule, click here. If you'd like to donate to HAAM, click here

Last month, the City of Austin’s Economic Development Department reopened its $1.5 million Austin Music Disaster Relief fund, which provided $1,000 grants to musicians to cover emergency needs as COVID-19 caused performances to be canceled around town.

WATCH: Congressman Roger Williams talks relief for music venues 


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