Arts and cultural activists Bethany and Johann Bultman are the recipients of this year’s Best Of The Beat Heartbeat Award, presented because of their distinguished contributions to the musicians of Louisiana.
The New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic, founded by Bethany and Johann Bultman, celebrates its fifth birthday in 2003. The clinic, an innovative not-for-profit occupational medicine and wellness partnership, is dedicated to serving the needs of New Orleans’ musicians and is sponsored by the Daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation and the LSU Health Care Network. To date the clinic has treated more than 700 local musicians.
Johann Bultman, whose family was in the funeral business, became aware of the health care issues facing local musicians when, as a member of the board of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, he was often asked to donate caskets for destitute musicians. It seemed obvious to Bultman that treating the living creators of musical culture was an obvious duty to those who loved Louisiana music.
As Bethany Bultman noted, “Jelly Roll Morton…King Oliver…James Booker…a lot of our greatest musicians died of preventable or treatable illnesses, many at fairly young ages. All because they couldn’t afford health care! It’s a shocking testament to how little we care about our cultural legacy.”
The National Academy of Recording Arts and Science awarded the clinic a $20,000 grant in 1999 and a year later, a $10,000 grant enabled the clinic to provide dental care to qualifying musicians. In July 2002, the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic secured funding through the LSU Biomedical Research Fund, Pfizer Inc. and the Pfizer Foundation for $100,000 over two years “to improve health care access and outcomes in the New Orleans music community.”
In 1999, Bethany Bultman and American Sector Recording Studio owner Paul McCord collaborated on the production of the Get You A Healin’ CD, featuring performances by such notable musicians as Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, the funky Meters and Coco Robicheaux. Proceeds from the album went directly to the clinic. Among the highlights of Get You A Healin’ were two remarkable duets: Dr. John and Art Neville joining forces for “Virus Called The Blues,” and Maria Muldaur and Blue Lu Barker crooning “Don’t You Feel My Legs.” As Ms. Muldaur admonished, “Honey, Blue Lu was way ahead of her time. She was one of the first people to advocate safe sex. After all, you gotta be careful in this day when you feel somebody’s leg ’cause, sugar, who knows where it’s been.”
At the clinic’s founding in 1998, Senator John Breaux remarked, “It’s often been said that our musicians soothe our souls and lift our spirits. This clinic will help to keep them healthy. It is only fitting that the birthplace of jazz is also the birthplace of health care for musicians at the state’s largest medical center. Its musical heritage is a large part of what makes New Orleans such a culturally rich place to live. And keeping our musicians healthy will not only improve their quality of life, but all of ours as well.”
Musicians interested in treatment can schedule appointments by calling 412-1111. Each musician who visits the clinic will have an initial health assessment, including a complete medical history and physical examination, identification of medical problems and counseling regarding risk factors for common diseases. The New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic is located in the LSU Health Sciences Center, 2020 Gravier Street, New Orleans.
With financial assistance from the Pierre Fourchard Foundation, Orthodontic of America, Musicares and the Sweet Relief Foundation, the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic now offers dental care.
The Bultmans have also been responsible for a wonderful free series of concerts at Bultman Funeral Home. Presented in the historic Solarium (which, after a 1946 visit by Tennessee Williams, inspired the playwright’s Suddenly Last Summer, originally titled The Garden District), the concerts have featured musicians as diverse as Harold Battiste, Hannibal Lokumbe, the LPO Chamber Players and Astral Project.