Kim Phillips: The Key To Denton’s New Music Friendly Community Designation

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 nonprofits in order to foster community development.

Music-related nonprofits are not difficult to find, especially in an artistically rich place like Denton.  Musicians who have studied or teach at the University of North Texas College of Music have created community-based performing groups inspired by common interests.  However, the kind of nonprofit the Texas Music Office requires 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 official nonprofit 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, a nonprofit that has “helped 4,400 musicians access over 56,000 healthcare appointments valued at over $44 million dollars since we began in 2005," according to its website,

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Kim Phillips: The key to Denton’s new music friendly community designation
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