Elvis Costello and ZZ Top’s Billy F. Gibbons teamed up with Brooklyn Bowl Nashville for a benefit concert to support the Musician Treatment Foundation (MTF), whose core mission is to fund free surgical and nonsurgical care for the shoulder, elbow and hand problems of under- and uninsured professional musicians who live from gig to gig, often on the road, and are just one freakish accident, one fall or muscle tear away from injuries that could end their careers. For them, MTF has been a lifesaver.
Since its launch, the MTF has assisted hundreds of professional musicians and provided more than $2 million worth of medical care through its national network of physicians.
QRO interviewed Founder & Chairman Dr. O. Alton Barron.
QRO: What compelled you to found MTF?
Dr. O. Alton Barron: As an orthopedic shoulder, elbow and hand surgeon I inherited the NY Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera, which then led to Broadway, jazz and rock musicians. I was lucky enough to treat professional musicians like Elvis Costello and Diana Krall, and I said, we’ve got to do something more formal as an official non-profit, and that’s when they agreed to help start it.
I have a lifetime of a loving music and I’m just enough of a crappy musician to really understand how hard it is – the immense amount of talent it takes to be a professional musician. We are the only nonprofit that provides direct orthopedic, upper extremity care that helps really keep these musicians going, keeps them touring, which is the primary way they make their living – the problem is the cost of that care is unbearable for them. A rotator cuff tear cost more than $20,000 if they don’t have insurance.
QRO; How do you generate awareness in the musician community?
AB: At first it was word-of-mouth but we’re getting multiple referrals every week or requests from across the country for help. Musicians also find us by doing a simple search online with SEO. It is only for professional musicians who make their primary living thing through music.
QRO: What’s MTF’s biggest challenge right now?
AB: The challenge for us is to be able to handle the demand. We are very efficient organization and we have a very small but powerful staff but our main cost right now is our anesthesia cost, physical therapy and MRI’s and so forth – there are a lot of hidden costs in health care.
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