Health Alliance for Austin Musicians Raises Money for Local Artists


Debby Garcia

The band Charlie Belle plays during a Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM) event at Noodles & Company.

Julia Brouillette

The Health Alliance for Austin Musicians held its eighth annual city-wide fundraiser on Tuesday, featuring live performances from over 200 artists.

From 6 a.m. Tuesday to 2 a.m. Wednesday, 290 local businesses, such as Whole Foods, Noodles & Company and Whataburger, participated by making a cash donation or by donating 5 percent of their day’s proceeds. The funds help provide access to health care for uninsured musicians.

“With Austin being the live music capital of the world, musicians bring almost $2 billion into the city’s economy, but the musicians themselves live on very low incomes,” said Carolyn Schwarz, executive director of the alliance.

Austin’s culture banks on the eight to nine thousand musicians residing in the city, according to Schwarz. These musicians have little to no health care, she said.

“Of the 3,000 musicians we have helped, the average income is about $16,000 per year,” Schwarz said. “On that income, you are paying your rent and buying your food, but not able to pay for health insurance.”

Founded in 2005, the health alliance partners with Austin area health care agencies to provide medical, dental, mental, hearing, vision and nutrition services to members.

The community can contribute by eating and shopping at participating venues and filling tip jars for performing musicians. Last year, the organization raised $312,000.

“It’s a beautiful city-wide event, where our musicians donate their time and talent, and the community gets to have fun while listening to music,” Schwarz said. “We are relying on this fundraiser for a third of our budget this year, so it’s very important to us.”

Erin Houser, an volunteer ambassador for the organization, said she is personally connected to the cause.

“My husband has been a professional musician for years and was a member,” Houser said. “Here in Austin, because there are so many musicians, it’s hard for a working musician to actually make a living wage.”

Several musicians performed near the UT campus, including alumnus “SaulPaul,” who played outside Texas Hillel.

“To me, the most fun and ostentatious part of this day is the fact that you get to see music in traditional and non-traditional locations,” Schwarz said.

Students dining in Noodles & Company listened to live performances by Charlie Belle. Biology major Karthik Raja said he enjoyed the entertainment and planned to learn more about the program.

The health care alliance set a goal of $350,000 for this year’s fundraiser.

“It’s a uniquely Austin kind of event,” Schwarz said. “And a uniquely Austin organization.”