Tatum Hauck Allsep
Founder & CEO
Music Health Alliance
Tatum Allsep has long been interested in both music and medicine. Today she's found a way to blend her two passions in perfect harmony.
Growing up, Allsep divided time between her mother's home in Mississippi and Nashville, where father Christie Hauck lived. Both parents and two grandparents were Vanderbilt alumni, so the choice was an easy one for Allsep when it came time for college. "We bleed black and gold pretty deep," she said with a laugh.
An honors student, she majored in human development with a plan to bridge into the nursing program. Her junior year included a required internship. Deciding to take advantage of being in Music City, she said, "I got an internship at MCA Records. It was like I had found my tribe." After graduation, Allsep went to work for MCA and later ran her own artist management company.
Seventeen years ago, one of the happiest experiences of her life also became one of the most eye-opening. "I found myself facing a six-figure medical bill after giving birth to twin boys, despite having what I thought was a good health insurance plan," recalled Allsep. "I had done everything I was supposed to do, and I was still almost bankrupted by medical bills. I quickly learned I was not alone. Over 76 percent of the music industry is self-employed or part of a small business."
Allsep added many musicians work part-time jobs to make ends meet. "Even the most successful artists and musicians are paid as contractors, so health insurance is an enormous problem for those at both ends of the spectrum," she noted. While her personal experience set her on a mission to find a solution, Allsep also knew she needed to learn the business side of health insurance.
With her young sons at home, Allsep didn't want to be on the road anymore and was considering options when the perfect opportunity arose. "I went to Vanderbilt to build the Office of Music Industry Relations," she said. In her quest to find solutions for musicians, Allsep said she "learned to navigate the hospital system, trained in healthcare navigation and advocacy at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, studied the Affordable Care Act inside and out, and cashed in my 401K ... with my husband's support and blessing ... to launch Music Health Alliance. I began to realize that my whole life had been leading me in this direction."
Although the MHA was one woman's vision, Allsep is quick to say it has taken a large village to turn her dream into reality. She pointed to many legendary women of the Nashville music industry as inspiration to go after her own dream. "But my greatest music industry mentor is someone that I'm fortunate enough to work with every single day, Sheila Shipley Biddy," she said of the first female head of a record label in Nashville who now oversees operations for MHA. In the late 90's, Allsep was her intern. "She should have fired me several times during my stint at Decca Records, but she did not," laughed Allsep. "Instead she used each of my offenses as teaching opportunities to learn life lessons." She continued, "In the healthcare world, there is no doubt that Dr. C. Wright Pinson has been an extraordinary mentor to me."
In the years since MHA was founded in 2012, there have been many exciting milestones. The only non-profit named to Billboard's Country Power Players list, MHA has provided free healthcare advocacy and support to more than 11,000 members of the music industry and generated more than $50 million in healthcare savings for musicians nationwide. "While the outcomes and results of Music Health Alliance's programs and services are important, what means the most to me are the incredible stories we hear each day from our clients," said Allsep. Although there have been many successes, Allsep noted finding stabile access to affordable, quality care for clients remains a challenge. Yet, she said grassroots efforts and the "system hacks" she and her team have deployed show the possibilities for improved access to care.
Busy days spent building MHA meant time away from home, but Allsep said she has now found a better balance to spend more time with the family she loves fiercely. Rex and David, the twins who began the journey to MHA, will be seniors this fall, and nine-year-old Molly will be a fourth-grader. Husband Michael, who Allsep describes as a 'recovering attorney,' is now an American history professor working on a book. "I am working on never taking a minute with them for granted," she said. "Our boys will be heading to college in a year and just thinking about it creates a lump in my throat."
While workdays can still be hectic, particularly as COVID-19 shut down the entire industry's income source, Allsep remembers to keep her eye on the mission. "My granddaddy's framed Hippocratic Oath hangs beside my desk as a daily reminder of the journey that led me here and the duty of care I owe our clients," she concluded.