Some days, trombonist Mark McGrain was so far down he couldn't crawl out of bed, let alone make his gigs. Then he injured his ankle and was afraid it might be broken.
It had been several years since he left the faculty of Boston's Berklee College of Music, and with his departure, he lost his health insurance. He couldn't pay a doctor.
"You're very lucky if you can even eke out a hand-to-mouth existence in music these days," he said.
Then he heard a radio broadcast about Louisiana State University's new medical clinic for musicians, where the doctors charge what the musician can afford-a minimum of $10, more depending on the patient's income.
A physical, an X-ray, a pair of crutches (it was a sprain, not a break), and a prescription for an antidepressant got McGrain up and about again.
McGrain is among about three dozen singers and instrumentalists treated at the LSU Medical Center Musicians Clinic since it opened in March.
The clinic is a thank-you note to a business that is vital to the state and New Orleans, with its thriving traditions of jazz, rock and other musical styles. Music sustains an estimated 50,000 jobs in Louisiana and pumps $2.2 billion a year into the economy.
The clinic, which for now is open only Wednesday afternoons, is not an emergency room. Rather, it's a place where musicians can get a physical, some basic treatment and referrals to specialists.
That is what makes it different from other medical centers for performing artists, said Ellis Johann Bultman, one of the creators of the clinic. The others treat medical conditions that are caused by or affect their performance-repetitive stress injury, for example, or hearing problems.
The clinic is open to New Orleans-area musicians, from rock to classical. A musician union card is all that's needed. For those who don't have a union card, a committee of musicians decides whether the would-be patient is a professional, based on the person's work experience.
The doctors and nurse practitioners who staff the clinic donate their time.
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, which sponsors the annual Jazz Fest each spring, is a partner with the Daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans and the LSU Healthcare Network.