Today is HAAM Benefit Day and music fills the Austin air, from clubs and cafes to parks and stores from pre-dawn till past-dusk.
Waves of music and healing energy surge forth from our city all the time, but today more than any other day of the year.
HAAM is the Healthcare Alliance for Austin Musicians, a non-profit founded in 2005 “to provide access to affordable health care for Austin’s low income, uninsured working musicians, with a focus on prevention and wellness.”
As the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin is home to hordes of musicians. While we play the host quite well in some ways, medical and healthcare expenses have always been a problem for all low-income Austin citizens. Until we as a society decide to improve that situation, musicians and other artists take it in the wallet whenever health needs arise. The toll on each individual can be fatal in postponed care and belated treatment.
For years, the main approach any musician had when faced with the inevitable too-large doctor or hospital bill was to hold a star-studded benefit. Musicians and music appreciators alike come out of the woodwork to attend these benefits, taking advantage of the opportunity of outpouring of talent to see some of the best musicians in the world banded together to help each other. Sadly, those benefits rarely come close to paying the bills, and after one benefit for an individual, public support tends to fade away quickly.
Enter the late and legendary Robin Shivers, founder of HAAM, with a plan to address these issues with a private non-profit dedicated solely to working Austin musicians in need. In the 10 years since she started this effort, a variety of health services have been added even as the number of enrolled musicians climbed.
Ten years down the line, musicians can now avail themselves (if qualified) of medical, dental, vision, audiology and mental health services. By leveraging the good will of the medical community and power of persuasion, HAAM turns each $1 donation to the group into over $8 worth of medical services — a bargain for everyone.
The number one fundraiser every year for HAAM is the annual HAAM Benefit Day, when stores and clubs all across Austin play host to live music and donate portions of the day’s receipts to the group. Additionally, volunteers, called HAAMbassadors, stand by to explain the program and collect additional donations at each site. In past years, I’ve done volunteer shifts at the Saxon Pub, but also at a Thundercloud Subs during lunch hour and at the cable office’s payment office (okay, that one was weird).
Last year, HAAM raised over $350,000 this way — they hope to see that increased to $450,000 today.
So, go out in Austin today and enjoy some live music — pretty much wherever you go. You’ve already missed some players — Scrappy Jud Newcomb kicked off the fete at Whole Foods Market this morning at 6am (disclosure: I missed it too). There’s far too many places and players to list — the Austin Chronicle listing was 4 full print pages! — so check this map for particulars. Or just roll the dice and go somewhere — In Austin today, you’re bound to get lucky!
Can’t make it to any of these shows today? Can’t even make it to Austin?
Well, two things you can do — start planning for next year! And you can always donate money to HAAM — so please do.