Something big happened for Denton as 2017 drew to a close.
After two years of work invested by numerous interested Dentonites, our city received the “Music Friendly Community” designation. Denton, along with Austin and Fort Worth, are the only three Texas cities to earn the Governor’s Texas Music Office certification to date, though many communities across the state are bent on doing the same.
In last week’s column, I explained the process involved and the importance of achieving the Music Friendly Community designation. Some of the five infrastructural criteria were easier to meet than others. In Denton, and I’ll bet in most communities, the one where the most time and effort were invested was in number four: Demonstration of partnerships with the community's music-related 501(c)(3) non-profits in order to foster community development.
Music-related non-profits are not difficult to find, especially in an artistically rich place like Denton. UNT’s College of Music alone spawns numerous groups, formal and not, based on musical styles, instruments, career goals and interests. The kind of non-profit the Texas Music Office requires, though, addresses a specific initiative: “fostering community development.” Put simply, it is an organization whose mission is addressing the health and cohesiveness of the community’s music industry
When we first embarked on the journey toward a recognized Music Friendly Denton, such a non-profit did not exist here. But it does now.
The Denton Music and Arts Collaborative (DMAC) was born only a year ago, with a board of directors, bylaws and, as of last June, their 501(c)(3) status. But the group has been together informally for a decade.
“Most of us had worked together as the operations crew for various organizations in the past,” said Nic Bagherpour.
Nic was 35 Denton’s volunteer coordinator. Most of the DMAC leadership knew each other long before 35 Denton, but the experience of helping plan and execute the large, multi-venue music festival made their friendships tighter and gelled them into a cohesive team.
The ideas that evolved into DMAC floated through random conversations for many years, that is until Andy Knapik joined the team. Long talks between Nic and Andy began to give shape to those ideas. The two started sketching program concepts and designing structure for a legitimate, non-profit organization that could raise funds and facilitate the impact they all were about making. When presented to the whole team, enthusiasm and a shared hard-work ethic got things moving quickly.
The driving passion within DMAC is supporting the artists who make Denton a creative mecca.
While the majority of DMAC participants are not artists themselves, their world is full of them. “Most of our friends are musicians or artists or both,” Nic said. “This (DMAC) is a good way for us to collectively pool our efforts and do something where we can help enrich the community.”
DMAC’s pilot program is the bedrock on which future programs will build: assisting artists in obtaining health insurance. “If we want to keep our music community healthy, we need to keep our musicians healthy,” Nic explained.
Here’s how it works. An artist is defined as an individual for whom 51 percent or more of their income is derived from their art. Artists complete the free DMAC application for membership and submit to an interview in which DMAC leadership will assess their financial need and determine the dollar amount needed to subsidize the cost of health insurance from the Affordable Care Act marketplace. Assessments are made on a sliding scale, case-by-case basis.
The program is modeled after the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM), a non-profit that has “helped 4,400 musicians access over 56,000 healthcare appointments valued at over $44 million dollars since we began in 2005.” (myhaam.org)
DMAC is new, but in less than a year already has 15 artist members receiving some assistance. Where HAAM is geared only for Austin musicians, DMAC is open to all kinds of artists plus industry support folks like sound techs and venue managers. Like HAAM, DMAC raises money through fund-raising events and donations to serve Denton’s working artists.
Thank you, DMAC leaders Nic and Andy, but also Matt Mars, Aubrey Mortenson, and Tex Bosley, for the deep dive into DMAC: the missing link and final puzzle piece to Denton’s Music Friendly Community designation.
Join us February 23 from 5-7 p.m. at Dan’s Silver Leaf when Texas Music Office officials present our city certification. Sponsored by the City of Denton, DMAC, the Denton CVB, Dan’s Silver Leaf and Hoochies, the reception is open to everyone. Free admission and cash bar. See our calendar or visit the DMAC Facebook event.