NOVEMBER 26, 2001
New Orleans Musicians' Clinic
By Ian McNulty Staff Writer
THE NEW ORLEANS Musicians' Clinic takes a novel approach to scouting out potential new supporters. Organizers don't start by thinking of who they can hit up for funding, but rather who they shouldn't.
The organization works through the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center to provide affordable health services for local musicians, who in many cases have no health insurance. The group offers preventive care on a sliding-scale fee schedule and recruits musicians to be public health advocates in their communities.
But clinic co-founder Bethany Bultman, a New Orleans writer, says the city already has plenty of needy organizations soliciting funds for both music and health-related causes. When Bultman and her partners started the clinic in 1998, she says, they wanted to make sure their efforts would not divert support already going to musicians.
"The pie in New Orleans is very small and in many ways shrinking. So if we take money away from Nocca, if we take money away from the symphony, then we're hurting musicians," she says, referring to the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. The same goes for organizations that are devoted to low-cost health care, she says.
Major local sponsors of the Musicians Clinic include the LSU Healthcare Network, the Daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, which hosts the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival each year. But through a mixture of luck and creativity, the organization has managed to win some of its support from sources well outside the usual rounds of New Orleans philanthropy and corporate giving.
"We try to hit up people who wouldn't be giving money here otherwise," Bultman says.
Rick Roth is one of those people. Roth lives just outside Providence, R.I., where he owns a T-shirt screenprinting company called Mirror Image Inc. He loves the culture and music of New Orleans, which he calls the "funnest place on Earth," and visits friends here several times a year. He was in town for Jazz Fest in 2000 when he heard about the Musicians' Clinic. He did some snooping around, learned more about its mission and decided he wanted to help out.
A few months later Roth was back in New Orleans, this time for a printing industry convention. He was demonstrating his company's techniques for highly-detailed T-shirt printing, the type of job a museum might want for fine art merchandise. For samples, he printed out a batch of 10,000 T-shirts promoting the Musicians' Clinic, using donated artwork and volunteer design talent. He also approached his industry suppliers for everything from the shirts to the ink. "I called in some personal favors," he says.
Then, he called on the management of the local Tower Records store in the French Quarter and asked them to sell the T-shirts for $5 each, with all proceeds to go to the clinic. They agreed and combined with sales at the convention raised $30,000 for the clinic.
"If people can give by doing what they do normally, it's easy for them," Roth says of his pitch to contributors. "We turned shirts and ink into a donation for the Musicians' Clinic," he says.
He recently printed up a new batch of the shirts at his company in Rhode Island and shipped them to Tower Records to sell.
The Musicians' Clinic is also working on plans to tap into memorial funds set up by the families of fans of deceased musicians or receiving portions of their song royalties as donations.
The Musicians' Clinic has served roughly 700 people since 1997 and offers everthing from health assessments to referrals to specialists.