Tejano music community concerns and 2 other things to know from Austin Music Commission meeting July 10

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Concerns about the Austin Convention Center expansion, the announcement of new commission and department members, and the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians were all items of discussion at the Austin Music Commission’s meeting July 10.

Here’s three key takeaways from Monday night’s meeting.

1. The economic development department has a new music and entertainment manager

Kevin Johns, director of the Austin Economic Development Department, introduced the department’s new music and entertainment manager, Erica Shamaly. She previously created the Austin School of Film and ran the Austin Psych Fest. She now serves as the marketing director of ACL Live and Austin 3Ten.

“I feel like every job I’ve had has been leading me to this moment,” she said.

Shamaly said she wants to focus on finding more direct pathways for musicians to make money, such as providing opportunities for creatives to work for video games or films.

“I want these musicians to send their kids to college and not have to worry about it,” Shamaly said.

2. Austin Tejano music is still overlooked by the city, musician says

Local musician Leonard Davila spoke to the AMC about the Austin Latin music community. He said the city doesn’t recognize Tejano music enough or provide support to Mexican-American musicians.

He said the lack of Tejano music on the radio in Austin provides just one example of how the community gets overlooked.

“People say Tejano music is dead; well, it was just turned off for a bit,” he said.  “We have to tour because Austin doesn’t support our industry.”

AMC Chairman Gavin Garcia said he hopes future conversations within the commission and City Council will create positive steps toward improving support for Tejano music.

3. Health Alliance for Austin Musicians is almost at capacity

HAAM, an organization that provides health care for Austin’s low-income, uninsured working musicians, serves 2,200 Austin musicians, according to Executive Director Reenie Collins. She said the organization has seen a 25 percent growth in the past year and has almost doubled in the past four years.

Although the organization can identify at least 2,000 other musicians who could qualify for HAAM benefits, Collins said the organization is wary to spread the word because it is almost at capacity.

Collins said the organization wants to both increase its ethnic diversity—72 percent of the organization’s clients are white—and serve more aging musicians but does not see how it is possible with its limited budget.

“It’s a little bit scary because I don’t know how we would do that when we’re so close to capacity,” she said.

For more information about the AMC, visit www.austintexas.gov/musiccomm.

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