AUSTIN, Texas - Ever since he was five years old, Nakia Reynoso knew what he wanted to do. “For me, music is just in my blood. It is what really drives me as a person,” he said.
He's been in Austin for 18 years, living that dream of being a musician. When he suffered a vocal hemorrhage, he received help from an organization called the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians.
“HAAM was able to actually cover all of the expenses that I had, from the various visits to the doctor, prescriptions, the only thing I had to pay was a small copay,” said Reynoso.
He has since gotten even more healthcare through HAAM.
His story is like many Austin musicians who are trying to make a living. Now the pandemic has complicated things even further. “Over 85 percent or so of HAAM's musicians earn less than $28,000 a year,” said Reenie Collins, CEO, HAAM.
This is the fifteenth year that it's been around. It's also an unprecedented year. “In years past, HAAM Day had like 200 shows all day long in different venues, maybe like grocery stores, or bank lobbies, street corners, restaurants, this year because of the pandemic we have taken it virtually,” said Collins.
“We cannot afford to let musicians lose access to healthcare coverage,” said Reynoso. For thousands of musicians in Austin, HAAM provides one less service they need to worry about.
“There are so many musicians in Austin who are really struggling financially just to make ends meet. The last thing we need musicians to worry about is whether they are going to pay their rent or healthcare, or buy groceries or any of those things,” said Reynoso.
The pandemic has not only threatened health coverage and income for musicians, but it's robbed them of their passion. “Not only have they lost their livelihood but a lot of them have also lost their purpose and soul because they live to create music and play music for us,” said Collins.
“Austin's musicians are the reason that so many people come here every year. We created the vibe that is Austin,” said Reynoso.
The organization is trying to raise $600,000 on HAAM Day.