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HAAM Benefit Day Keeping Music Alive In Austin

Updated: Monday, October 8 2012, 06:40 AM CDT

The Live Music Capital of the World is proving how it got that title. On Tuesday, more than 200 acts are playing at just as many businesses across Austin. It's all part of HAAM Benefit Day, an all-day city-wide event where Austin shows its love for local musicians.

The Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM) depends on this one day to help provide basic affordable health care to singers, songwriters and musicians. HAAM is why some artists say they're still performing and still able to call an expensive city like Austin, home.

The lobby of a downtown bank is the last place you'd expect to hear the seductive sounds of Erin Ivey. The urban folk songstress more typically plays at nine at night instead of nine in the morning, but there's nothing usual about this day or this performance.
"It was so moving to me that Austin supports its musicians to such an extent," said Ivey.

A year ago, Ivey enrolled in HAAM. It was the first time in five years she was able to see a doctor or dentist.

"I was moved to tears at just being able to get my teeth cleaned," said Ivey.

Now on HAAM Benefit Day she's giving back, sharing what she has to offer. Cash is what others can contribute.

At Whole Foods it's surprising to some that celebrity isn't synonymous with wealthy.

"Our musicians really struggle to make ends meet," said Carolyn Schwarz, executive director of HAAM.

Schwarz says the average musician in Austin earns $16,000 a year.

"It's disconcerting to think the person whom you buy their CD, or you go see their concert and wait to get their autograph afterwards, really is living on quite a low income," said Schwarz.

Oliver Steck sounds like a million bucks, but a few years back he was living on dramatically less.

"I was making $8,000 to $12,000 a year," said Steck.

It was too little to be able to afford healthcare.
"My gums were receding in front and I'm a trumpet player," said Steck.

The Austin musician says he was told, "We can do this procedure right now which will save your gums and allow you to keep on playing."

"Because of HAAM I'm able to play horn and will be able to play horn for a long time," said Steck.
And that news is sweet music to this song and dance man and his fans.  

There are about 9,000 musicians in Austin and 2,700 of them are members of HAAM. Through HAAM they get medical and dental care, mental health counseling, and hearing and vision checks.       

The 2012 benefit day is Tuesday, October 2nd. It runs from 7 a.m. to well after midnight. Last year, $235,000 was raised on HAAM Benefit Day.


By Bettie CrossHAAM Benefit Day Keeping Music Alive In Austin

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