CFMT Grantee: Helping the music community cope amid disastrous tornadoes, pandemic, job loss

Music Health Alliance (MHA) is music’s resource for healthcare solutions and access. In 2006, Tatum Allsep, MHA’s founder, began documenting the music industry’s need for healthcare support while working with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Kix Brooks, and the Country Music Association to co-found Sound Healthcare as a way to bring health insurance to the music industry.

As this for-profit company grew so did the need for healthcare advocacy, especially for those with pre-existing conditions, mounting medical bills and insufficient health insurance. Health insurance, pharmaceutical and healthcare companies were reporting record profits while the music industry was in a steady financial decline, so Tatum stepped away from the for-profit business world, sold her interest in Sound Healthcare and worked to find a solution to the rapidly growing problem that was negatively impacting the industry that had become her family. Armed with years of research, a personal story and intense passion, Tatum developed a new model of healthcare support that simplified the process of healthcare access while also removing the profit motive.

This new and unique concept allowed the focus of the healthcare solution to be based solely on the client and their specific needs in a safe and trusted environment. Music Health Alliance launched to the public in January of 2013. With a team of advocates and active Board of Directors and Advisory Board, MHA has now served 11,000 music industry professionals and their families, and secured over $50 million in health care cost reductions to Heal the Music.

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee’s Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund has awarded the organization $70,000 to support Nashville/Middle Tennessee 2020 tornado relief efforts to provide mental and physical health services and prescriptions and other basic financial assistance to musicians living in Middle Tennessee.

In the dark early morning hours of March 3, tornadoes tore through Middle Tennessee, leaving in their wake destruction, and death. 

The wind waits for no one.  

A recording artist was asleep in his Nashville-area apartment when its roof was torn off by the high winds. He was knocked unconscious by the debris. 

He awakened to the feeling of a cool blanket, which turned out to be rain that was falling directly onto his body. 

The artist’s entire apartment and all of his belongings were destroyed. Spared his life, he remained paralyzed by fear. 

He went sleepless the next four nights. 

On the fifth day, he reached out for help by calling the Nashville-based nonprofit Music Health Alliance. 

“We immediately connected him with a trusted trauma specialist that we utilized during the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting,” says Tatum Hauck Allsep, the Music Health Alliance’s founder and CEO. 

“After two weeks of counseling (four sessions), this client has temporarily moved in with friends and has finally been able to sleep again,” she continues. “He said that thanks to his trauma recovery work, he was also able to prioritize and manage the stressors, from the little things to the big ones. He said that MHA’s swift response and connection with an experienced trauma specialist enabled him to put one foot in front of the other, with hope.” 

It has been all-too-familiar scenario for Allsep and her staff. 

Musicians, singers, songwriters, sound engineers, nightclub and concert venue personnel, and many others in the entertainment business have suffered mightily through the recent ravages of tornadoes, COVID-19 pandemic and the economic peril in their wake. 

There is precious little live music in Music City at the moment. Recording studios are closed. The silence has been deafening.

Allsep took time recently to respond to a few questions from The Community Foundation 

CFMT: How are you using, or planning to utilize, the tornado emergency response grant?

MHA: Since March 3, MHA has provided $43,500 in grant allocations to meet the needs for 80-plus families so far. In the first week after the tornado, the immediate request that we received was for trauma counseling. We provided 21 clients with immediate trauma counseling access and covered the cost of their sessions. 

In addition to trauma counseling, the second most-requested need has been for food, diapers and formula. Music Health Alliance has supplied 39 families in the zip codes impacted by the tornado with $250 grocery gift cards for March and April. We connected 13 families with other nonprofits who could provide the resources they needed so their grocery gift cards could go farther. We’ve also had four clients who needed assistance with their medication and six who needed help covering the cost of a doctor’s visit.  

The response that we’ve heard the most from the families who requested assistance with food for March, and again in April, has been that this was never something they thought they would need. ‘Having a safe place that listened and helped find a solution to meet our immediate needs while also maintaining our dignity has been a godsend,’ wrote the musician father of a family that MHA recently assisted. 

More times than we can count in the last three weeks, the clients our advocates work with weep at the conclusion of the conversation, because they are emotionally spent and just need to hear that someone cares.

CFMT: In light of changes in how we all live and work due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, how is your organization managing to work in supporting tornado relief and recovery efforts? What challenges have you all overcome or are overcoming? 

MHA: MHA invested in a technology partner two years ago, so we were able assimilate into remote working locations with ease and security. Our work phones have been rerouted to our cell phones, and Zoom has become our norm. Fortunately, our clients have adapted, because we are all in the same boat. 

For the music industry, word of mouth continues to be our best tool for outreach within communities who have been impacted by a traumatic event. Most of the clients we’ve seen who were directly impacted by the tornado have come from the same Eastside neighborhood, churches, or from a music-connected friend. 

One of the challenges we faced was the inability to be in the field to assess additional needs, so we utilized the information gathered by others. From this info and virtual community outreach, we were able to curate a database of resources for music professionals to supplement their additional needs. This resource tool has been shared and downloaded thousands of times. This database also proved to be a very useful tool in the last week for our clients in Mississippi, Alabama and Chattanooga who were impacted by tornadoes in their communities.

CFMT: In terms of tornado relief and recovery, what needs remain in your community or communities for tornado relief and recovery?

MHA: Right now the compounding of loss continues to be the biggest issue that we are seeing. Our goal is to help keep these clients afloat for one month at a time, with one step at a time, so that the magnitude of impact is more manageable. We also continue to circulate readily available mental health resources, navigational info regarding unemployment, healthcare access, etc.  

We are constantly looking for additional community partners and resources. One of these incredible resources has been provided by The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. @CovidHelpNashville has been a lifesaver for many of our clients who have experienced this compounding of devastation. This resource is a real and tangible solution for some of our most vulnerable clients.

CFMT: Define the word “hope” for you and your organization. 

MHA: HOPE. Oh, how we love this word at Music Health Alliance! Right now, HOPE is the very best medicine! Hope is the horizon that we strive to keep our clients focused on, because the anticipation of a better tomorrow makes today bearable.”


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