While SXSW is often a scattered chaos, there are small pockets of organized chaos. One of these pockets was the VH1 Cafe at Moonshine Bar and Grill. I was luckily enough to be served a fabulous lunch there, as well as enjoy my meal with the astoundingly personable Carolyn Schwarz, the executive director of the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM).
HAAM is one of those organizations that you hear about via the internet, through their promotion of events, or through those who work and volunteer with the group. For me, I knew of HAAM but didn't know the depth and impact of the group. I knew it helped out local musicians and helped to provide affordable health care.
Carolyn really opened my eyes to the partnerships HAAM has formed with major players in the community, such as Seton Healthcare Family. HAAM currently has nearly 3,000 active members in the community. To be a member, you must be able to prove that you are a working musician, and be making below a certain income each fiscal year. Once a member, you have access to free and reduced medical care from several organizations, as well as vision check ups, dental care, and more recently, access to customized hearing protection, which is rather important for a working musician.
My question for Carolyn was HOW!? How can a non-profit provide affordable/free health care for so many people across the community? The answer is through donations, and extremely generous health care professionals and organizations. For every $1 HAAM raises, they get approximately a $7 return in healthcare services because of the partnerships they have created.
Without donations and support, HAAM would have a very hard time staying afloat. For a city who prides itself in its live music, it makes sense that we support the musicians who help to keep that image alive. Going to shows and buying music and merch is not enough to keep these musicians safe and healthy. More than 80% of HAAM members make less than $16,000 a year. HAAM hosts several events every year and also have a a group of supporters called Good Eggs and HAAM. This group meets around the city and helps to educate the community on what HAAM does and why it is so important.
If you would like to help out via time or money, visit the HAAM website for more information. The next HAAM event will be the Corporate Battle of the Bands on April 26th featuring local businesses and followed by a CD release by local kick-ass artists, Soul Track Mind. More information can be found here.