• Carolyn Schwarz
    Photo by Brenda Ladd Photo

The Live Music Capital—a city home to an estimated 8,000 working musicians—is also home to HAAM (Health Alliance for Austin Musicians), a support system providing low-income artists with access to health services. The nonprofit, founded in 2005 by philanthropists and musicians' rights activist Robin Shivers, seeks to help Austin’s namesake creative class—a not-insignificant number of whom face big financial struggles while they manage their careers

The majority of musicians served by HAAM earn under $16,000 a year, which is well below their qualifying cutoff of 250% below the poverty line. This sounds shocking, until you consider that most musicians don’t get paid for booking, promoting (and even playing) their own shows. But what happens if they get sick, and can’t make it out to a show? Or, worse, can’t afford to get that cough checked out?

HAAM isn't health insurance. Primarily, they provide medical payment assistance, plus custom events and programming to help raise awareness of certain health issues particularly relevant to musicians (hearing health, for example—all those years of turning it up to 11 can take their toll). HAAM is partnered with local healthcare providers—including Seton Family of Hospitals, St. David’s Foundation, Capital Area Dental Foundation, the SIMS Foundation, Estes Audiology and Prevent Blindness Texas—who offer clinics, screenings and evaluations to musicians in addition to primary care and emergency services.

And they’re really making a difference: since their inception six years ago, they’ve been increasing annual enrollment by the hundreds, helping a total of over 2,600 musicians.

Executive Director Carolyn Schwarz has been there from the beginning. HAAM’s first official staff member, she was part of the team that helped organized the first HAAM Benefit Day, now an annual event where scores of local businesses pledge to donate 5% of the day’s proceeds to the nonprofit—all while over 170 local bands play sets all over town.

We talked to Carolyn about HAAM’s early years, the growth of the organization and, of course, what shows you’ll find her at on Tuesday, October 4th—the 2011 HAAM Benefit Day.

How did you end up in Austin, and part of the HAAM family?

I moved out of Wellesley [Massachusetts] when I was 18, to San Francisco. I was there for 14 years and I met my husband while I was out there; he’s a native Austinite, so after we got married we decided to move down here. I’ve been here over nine years, and this is home now.

I have a Master’s in Social Work from UC Berkeley, and I’ve worked a long time in nonprofits and creating social service programs and partnerships. When Robin Shivers was creating HAAM, one of our now-board members, Diana Resnick, knew about me, and another woman named Beth Atherton—who was my boss at the time—recommended me. They knew that one of my personal passions is going to see live music, and my husband is a musician as well, so it was kind of meshing something that’s important to me with my professional skills

How did HAAM benefit day get started?

HAAM Benefit Day started in 2006. HAAM was formed in 2005, and I was the first staff member—then I got pregnant. My daughter was born in May 2006, so I went on 12 weeks of maternity leave, and while I was gone Robin and John Kunz, who’s the owner of Waterloo Records, came up with this idea. John, as the owner of a record store, had participated in different 5% days for different organizations, and our clients, the musicians that we help, are always looking for a way to give back.

While bands play any night of the week, anywhere, and it could potentially be a fundraiser for HAAM, John said, “Wouldn’t it be such a huge impact if, all on one day, we had our musicians give back? And then the business community could participate, too!” All of this happened, unbeknownst to me, while I was on maternity leave. My first day back, they said, “We’ve hatched up this plan, we’re going to do it in the fall, we’ve got Time Warner on board and we’re going to film a commercial. And guess what? You’re going to play a doctor in the commercial.” This was literally my first day back from maternity leave.

I remember looking at Robin and going, “Does this fall under ‘other duties as assigned?’”

How has the event grown over the past six years?

Here was our list of participating businesses in 2006 [Schwarz opens program book with a half-page list of partners]. Last year, this was our list [she opens another book, with over double the number of participants listed].

This year, we have over 170 music performances...What’s so neat about this day is, it’s not just in traditional locations. If you’re a mom with a toddler and you want to get out at lunchtime and see music, you can go to a Thundercloud Subs or to Whole Foods Market to see a band. If you’re more of a nighttime person, you can go out and you’re going to find music in all the bars in town, all the clubs in town—and it’s all going to be in support of HAAM, and the musicians, and helping them get healthcare and stay alive and well.

Is there one common misconception about HAAM that you often encounter?

I think the one thing too that many community members don’t think of is that the life of a working musician is more than just the three hours they’re at the gig. There’s daytime work that goes into it, especially in this day and age of DIY—which, with records labels dwindling as we speak, most people are doing...They’re doing the booking on their own, they’re doing media and interviews, trying to get their name and their face out there...That’s what happens in the hours that people aren’t at the club playing for you and me, and people can really forget that it’s a job. Especially if they’re trying to get above the poverty level, they have to work hard; it really is that one in a million who eventually gets to headline the Erwin Center...It really takes business sense and initiative, and someone who doesn’t have that isn’t going to make it very long in the music industry.

Does the organization get a lot of support from the city?

Musicians are one of the backbones of our economy. The live music scene brings a billion dollars a year to Austin’s economy, so the case Robin made when she built this organization was really a business case: if Austin wants to continue to thrive economically, this place that they went ahead and named 20 years ago the “Live Music Capital of the World,” then there need to be some support services to support this industry—in particularly the working musicians who help bring in that billion dollars. It’s such a dichotomy to think [musicians] are in such a moneymaking industry, but they’re earning $16,000 a year. To me, this seems like something small that we can do, something small but big at the same time, to support this community.

The city has always been a big supporter of ours. We don’t, as an organization, have government funding, so we don’t get grants from them, but they’re always supportive of HAAM.

How are your partners involved with HAAM Benefit Day?

It’s been really interesting this year. We have supporters who have been with us from the beginning—Whole Foods Market, Thundercloud Subs, Whole Earth Provisions—and as the years go on we’ve had great support from Texas Heritage Songwriters and C3 Presents and SXSW, three huge music entities in Austin. They’ve said, “We’re going to support our own, and we’re going to do it through HAAM because we support what HAAM is doing.”

We had a kickoff on Monday night as a way to thank the businesses, and within 24 hours I had 10 new businesses that emailed me asking if it was too late to get involved...And what humbles me about the businesses that have signed on at the last minute is that they’ve missed promotion deadlines; our materials have already gone to print, but they don’t care, they just want to be involved.

Who else helps make such a huge event happen?

We only have three people who work in our office, so this day could not happen without the volunteers who step forward and give of their time and their talent. From the HAAM Benefit Day committee of business leaders who have helped us get all these partners signed on, to the events going on all day, there will be over 200 HAAM-bassadors staffing each one of these music events. They’re also out there collecting with our donation boxes. This year, we have $30,000 in matching grants; C3 put $20,000 forward and Texas Heritage songwriters put $10,000 forward. They will give us that cash if we raise $30,000 from the community, so the money that gets put in our boxes all over town needs to equal $30,000. It’s a stretch goal, and I’m excited to have one this year.

We also had more musicians volunteer to perform than we have spots, even though we have 170 performances, so some of those folks who aren’t playing will serve as volunteers. One year we had Vanessa Lively volunteer, then we had a performance spot open up and she said she’d play. I think she went from staffing a table at Whole Foods Market, down to the Thundercloud Subs on South Lamar to play a show, then went back up to Waterloo Ice House and played a second show. It’s kind of like, who’s not playing HAAM Benefit Day?

What are some notable things happening at this year’s event?

You can start at 7 a.m. and not stop seeing music...I love the unusual ones the best—a couple of the anchors this year are Whole Foods Market, who will have music all day, and Waterloo Records, who are going to have a parking lot show with amazing bands from 4:30-8:30. Opa’s down on South Lamar and Jovita’s, between the two there’s probably 20 performances or more.

[Schwarz scrolls through the event schedule on HAAM’s mobile site] Look at this one—Lone Star BMW and Triumph. All the Bird’s Barbershops. The other one that people wouldn’t know about is Discount Electronics—they have a new store down on Manchaca and they’ve built a stage, apparently the owner has a collection of music memorabilia that decorates the space, and we’ve got Tracy Lynn down there.

We have young acts, even people that can’t benefit from HAAM, because they usually need to be above the age of 19 (otherwise, they’re usually covered by their parents or we recommend them to CHIP) This year we’ve got The Peterson Brothers, they’re teens, they’re amazing blue musicians and they’re playing Antones for HAAM Benefit Day. Here’s unusual for you—St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church has a great listening room, and they’re going to do a jazz show with Rich Harney and Jeff Lofton, an Austin Music Award winner with a new CD coming out.

Where will you be on HAAM Benefit Day?

I spend the majority of my morning at Whole Foods. It’s where we kick off the day and we’ll have KGSR on hand with a live broadcast. We’ve got Nakia and Quiet Company, Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines, so I’ll start the day there. I invite the community to come have a cup of coffee with me, because I’ll be needing it—I will have been up since the crack of dawn.

I start there and then just make my way around to different venues. The West 6th Street area has really stepped forward this year...If I weren’t working, I’d be at Phil’s Ice House because I’m a mom. I’d bring my kiddos, and that’s what I think my husband will do.

Aside from HAAM’s existing services, are there any new programs that proceeds from HAAM benefit day will help fund?

Each year we’ve added on. We started first with three core service providers—medical, dental and mental health—then, in 2009, we added the hearing health. Every year we do a client satisfaction survey to find out how we’re doing, and we always ask if we could do more, what would be the top priority. Hearing health was one of our most in-demand services.

A year later, vision came to the top of that list, so in 2010 we launched our partnership with Prevent Blindness Texas. This year, 2011, we added two new things. Nutrition became a really important topic, so we partnered with Whole Foods Market and one of their specialists developed “healthy eating on a budget” tours, where he takes our musicians around the store...We’ve also partnered with AOMA [Austin’s graduate school of integrative medicine]. We’ve been working on avoiding repetitive stress injuries, because when you practice an instrument for hours at a time, you’re at risk the same way you are with a keyboard in an office.

If you go to any given show in Austin, what are the odds that you’ll be seeing someone who works with HAAM?

It’s pretty likely. I often will open up an Austin Chronicle on a Thursday and look at the show listings and feel really excited about the number of people I recognize in the ads, knowing that they have this safety net, that they don’t have to wait it out or walk it off anymore. I just wish Robin Shivers was here to see it—she passed away in 2009. She would be so proud that you can’t go through show listings without seeing people we serve.


HAAM Benefit Day is Tuesday, October 4th. Check their site for show listings, or to volunteer your time.

Eat, drink and support local music: Join us on HAAM Benefit Day

Tuesday, October 4 marks the sixth annual HAAM Benefit Day, a day where all of us—Austin’s music-loving community—can come together in the name of the Live Music Capital. In its relatively short existence, HAAM has become a household name in Austin, lending support to one of our most iconic communities: Austin’s working musicians. On HAAM Benefit Day, participating businesses in Austin will donate 5% of their proceeds to HAAM, and you can be a part.

Bright and early, 7 a.m. to be exact, the music and fundraising kick off at Whole Foods flagship location with Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines followed by Nakia. The music and giving doesn’t stop there—it continues all day, and well into the night, with over 170 music performances across Austin. There will be music at mainstays like Waterloo Records, Jovita's and Saxon Pub, as well as tunes carrying people through the work day at the Frost Tower and Silicon Labs.

The event culminates in a special VIP party taking place Tuesday afternoon at J. Black's. That’s where we come in. CultureMap Austin is partnering with HAAM to give you the chance to win an exclusive invitation to the party. All it takes on your part is making HAAM Benefit Day part of your Tuesday. We’ll be at five HAAM locations during the day, where you can register to win. Come see us, support our live music scene, and most importantly, the health of the musicians who bring it to you.

Where to find us:

8 a.m. at Whole Foods Flagship with Nakia

12 p.m. at Romeo’s with Troy Campbell

12 p.m. at Jovita's with Lenny Cochrun

1 p.m. at Whole Foods Flagship with Malford Milligan

3 p.m. at Opa’s with Kit Holmes

Meet us at any location and enter to win entry into the VIP party. Come to multiple locations to increase your chances (and give back a little more)!

We’ll announce the winner of the VIP invitation at 4 p.m. on Facebook, Twitter and via email.

  • Dean Cote
    Photo by Jessica Pages
  • Photo by Jessica Pages

Musician Deano Cote explains how HAAM helped him battle chronic illness and keephis career on track

in their own words

Local nonprofit HAAM (Health Alliance for Austin Musicians) provides financial assistance and heath care resources to thousands of working musicians living over 250% below our nation’s poverty line. In a city so dependent on live music to generate revenue and tourism, it’s surprising how many artists (many of whom regularly perform several nights a week) sincerely struggle to make ends meet.

It’s not just fear of being short on rent, or having to decide against dinner in favor of gas money for the band van; what happens when someone with no savings has a sudden, serious health problem?

HAAM’s founders knew that musicians tended to ignore issues, preferring to wait it out to avoid doctor’s bills and delays to practice schedules. They also knew that last-resort emergency room visits are ridiculously costly, and that recovery times especially impact musicians, who need to be getting onstage to make money in the first place.

Drummer Deano Cote knows all to well how complicated it can be to arrange health care with such strained resources. After moving to Austin to pursue music professionally, he was diagnosed with several chronic diseases requiring constant care. Luckily, HAAM helped him through it. Here’s his story, in his own words.

Cote moved to Texas in 2008 with his band, Copper Pocket; with a degree in Musical Education from the University of Rhode Island, over two decades of drumming experience and, luckily, a sister already living in Austin (Sonya Cote, Executive Chef at musical wonderland East Side Showroom), he was ready to get started in the Live Music Capital.

“I thought, wow, this is the best of both worlds: music and family."

After Copper Pocket disbanded, Cote began playing with big local names including Jeremy Nail, Graham Wilkinson, Dustin Welch, Jamie Thomas and Lisa Marshall, eventually scoring a two-year touring gig with Brandon Jenkins.

“You can imagine it was quite the culture shock being a Yankee and playing country music at honky-tonks in small towns all over Texas," he says.

While he was mostly focusing on his career, Cote knew there were some practical things to take care of after he relocated.

"When I moved to Austin, I had very little money and was trying to build up my musical career. I was no longer eligible for my mother's health insurance and had recently lost my college coverage. I could not afford health insurance on my own. Frankly, I didn't feel like I needed it; I was young and healthy and felt I could spend my money on more relevant things."

While he might have been alright just winging it, his parents had other ideas.

"With the advice of my mother (who has proven time and again that she really does know best), I explored my options, just to be safe, and found HAAM. It was advertised around town and stuck in my mind. I finally took the steps to sign up when members of Graham Wilkinson's band told be how great it was."

And that was that. Or so Cote thought:

"A few months after I signed up I began feeling ill, getting weaker and weaker with horrible stomach pains. After months of hospital visits, doctors visits, countless tests and days I couldn’t work, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and ulcertive colitis."

This news would be devastating to any young, active person, especially when they have to navigate bill collectors, ongoing care and costs of medicine.

"HAAM was very instrumental in getting me the proper treatment and the best doctors. They has helped me deal with my health issues in a very affordable way, including free medicine that, without coverage, would cost me at least $500 a month. And, while I was battling Crohn's and colitis, I was also touring so I could continue my music career."

The entire process was eye-opening, for a number of reasons.

"I was never too concerned with the health care issues in this country until I was diagnosed with a chronic disease (typical mindset: out of sight out of mind). I feel it does indicate a failure in the healthcare system. When I was on the phone for weeks on end with every insurance company imaginable, I never felt more like a number than a person."

Of course, it’s harder when you have to explain that you’re an artist; it’s a tough industry to pursue a career in, even more difficult to hold on to during challenging times.

"It is an upwards battle for anyone starting their own business and building something from the ground up. Being a musician is exactly that: it's being in business for yourself. Austin is special, because they have kept live music thriving in a iPod-and-headphones age. It wasn't until recently I realized that nothing I am working for and building up matters without my health."

And that’s exactly the foundation of HAAM’s organization: They know that a musician’s health is crucial to their performance, and they seek to take the anxiety, guesswork and fear out of maintaining that most important instrument.

In the end, Cote’s experience with HAAM has made him an advocate for their services:

"I recommend HAAM to all musicians, and I would love to see more organizations like this for different types of artists and young entrepreneurs who need help getting there start in a healthy state, physically and mentally."

These days, Cote is back to work, playing with the band SORNE. He recently recorded his first solo album, under the name Deano, which you can expect to hear next month. Most importantly? He’s healthy, and working—and HAAM has his back.


To learn more about HAAM, visit them online—or enjoy one of the 170 performances taking place around town next Tuesday, October 4th for the annual HAAM Benefit Day.

  • Photo by Tony Spielberg
  • Photo by Tony Spielberg
  • DJ Spooky
    Photo by Danielle Levitt
  • The Mozart Project

Ballet Austin teams up with DJ Spooky on collaborative creation The MozartProject

not quite classical

Ever the "classical innovator," Ballet Austin looked to Mozart and some unexpected musical luminaries—including one world famous DJ—for its most recent collaboration piece, appropriately titled The Mozart Project. The original creation, opening Friday, mixes classical standards and modern styles for a show that's both visually and audibly innovative.

Artistic Director Stephen Mills says he chose Mozart's work due to the composer's "naturally appealing, happy, joyous, and dynamic" music, which makes it the perfect focal point for Ballet Austin's three-piece performance.

To open the first ballet, WOLFTANZT, Dr. Michelle Shumann and the Austin Chamber Music Center will perform the original Mozart’s "Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major." Critically acclaimed composer Graham Reynolds will then take the helm for the second ballet, Though the Earth Gives Way, which reinterprets the "Concerto No. 12" on electric violen and cello.

Yes, writing a new score using unexpected instruments is a lovely, satisfying update to Mozart's work. However, the real twist comes in with the addition of Paul D. Miller—otherwise known as experimental hip hop artist DJ Spooky out of New York. For the third and final piece, Echo Boom, Miller will sample and mix a live, string ensemble on the spot via his iPad, creating a robust electronic soundscape.

Not your average ballet anymore, is it?

Pushing the boundaries and presenting a modern interpretation of art is the company's intention, drawn directly from Mozart's own philosophies. Shumann explains that The Mozart Project team looked to the composer as inspiration: "Mozart himself had an open mind…He was a trailblazer bringing in a new kind of emotionalism that wasn't really thought of in the Baroque era."

DJ Spooky acknowledges that sampling in and of itself is playing with history—an old record, track or sound transforms into a vibrant reflection of the current moment when reworked.

"There is a lot that can be said about looking at history itself as a part of your palette," he says. "I've done Classical before and worked with composers like Steve Reich and Pierre Boulez. I thought it would be a real pleasure to extend this to the older guys—like Mozart—and see what happens."

Miller notes that throughout history, most influential art has spoken to contemporary desires and issues. Accordingly, each collaborator tapped for The Mozart Project was chosen in an effort to ensure the performances—and Ballet Austin as an organization—would be no different in maintaining a modern point of view.


The Mozart Project debuts at The Long Center with shows at 8 pm on Friday, September 30 and Saturday, October 1; there's also a 3 pm show on Sunday, October 2. You can reserve tickets online.

  • Sarah Jaffe
    Photo by Chris Phelps
  • Sarah Jaffe
    Photo by Chris Phelps
  • Sarah Jaffe
    Photo by Chris Phelps

In the moment: Sarah Jaffe's new sound and vision

breaking artists

This past spring, Sarah Jaffe took to Momo's stage for her SXSW showcase and looked a little shocked to see the West 6th club packed to the rafters, with many reverent eyes on her. Once she started singing, though, the light came through the curtains: She's got one of those voices that grabs your heart like a ripe blood orange and squeezes.

If the 25-year old Dallas-bred singer-songwriter seems poised on the edge of some big new stretch of road, then The Way Sounds Leaves A Room, her new CD/DVD combo released this week, serves as a rest stop between 2010's lauded debut LP, Suburban Nature, and its follow-up, due next year. The eight-song EP features new demos and covers, such as an inspired redo of Drake's “Shut It Down” (she's also been known to cover Robyn and Harry Nilsson) and reworked versions of Suburban songs.

I've never had a strategy. I think momentum and physical movement play a huge role in curing writer's block.

The growing pains that come with being young and talented and trying to find yourself after a well-received debut might naturally inform “A Sucker For Your Marketing,” which is just Jaffe's voice, a drum beat and a bassline, but it also signals a turn away from the spare folk reveries of her debut. The title track finds her opening up to more styles and textures, and letting her voice be its own magical instrument. Jaffe knows it's time to evolve: "Suburban was a great start, but some of those songs were three to seven years old."

The DVD's mini-documentary, directed by fellow North Texan Jon Todd Collins, follows Jaffe from the wood-paneled walls of her suburban Denton home to a February 2011 live performance at Dallas' elegant Wyly Theatre. In color and black-and-white, Collins captures Jaffe's stunning face and voice and, in the process, pinpoints exactly why she could be huge—especially at a time when Texans like Annie Clark and Sarah Jarosz are redefining pop music.

“It was the Wyly show that started it, and my manager thought it'd be a great idea to take advantage, and for Jon to film it,” Jaffe explains. “In the process, I said, 'Why don't we make it this conjoined thing where I take footage from the last year—tour, friends—and make this a collaborative piece?'”

Writer's block over the last year, much of which has been spent on the road, is something Jaffe's candid about, especially in the face of the sophomore album. It's the major chord of The Way Sound Leaves A Room, a collection of experience, failure and curiosity. It's hearing the artist in the moment.

“After touring with Midlake last summer, I was inspired but stuck, and I started to resent it," she explains. "But I've never had a strategy. I think momentum and physical movement play a huge role in curing writer's block. Being on tour definitely got the wheels turning, not being able to sit down and write on an instrument. Having to write in my head, and fidget with lyrics. Driving and movement. Hindsight and perspective.”


Sarah Jaffe and Centro-matic's Will Johnson go solo acoustic at the Cactus Cafe, Friday, 8:30pm

Adios: Sisters Morales play farewell Austin show

Adios a Las Hermanas

Lisa and Roberta Morales who, as Sisters Morales, have forged a seamless and enduring fusion of folk, country, rock and Mexican/Hispanic musical styles, are going their separate musical ways. Their last Austin appearance will be at Artz Rib House on September 29th.

In their own way, Las Hermanas Morales were cutting-edge performers, taking advantage of the indigenous cross-cultural musical currents of South Texas and grafting them together with Mexican rancheras, Afro-Cuban melodies and other Latino influences, wrapping the whole in crystalline vocals.

If that sounds stuffy, well, blame it on we dyspeptic music critics with our dry and desiccated need to categorize everything. At its best, a Sisters Morales show was a swirling, soulful, rambunctious affair, shot through with moments of real tenderness and connection. Ditto for their albums, the fourth and latest of which is Talking to the River. A fifth, live, all-Spanish disc will be released shortly. For this listener's money, the best distillation of Lisa's and Roberta's chemistry is on their 1999 album, Somewhere Far Away From Here, and its all-Spanish follow-up, Para Gloria.

The Morales women are familiar figures to Austin-area listeners. Their performing credits include any number of local venues, as well as appearances at the Kerrville Folk Festival.

As Enrique Lopetegul, writing in the San Antonio Current about one of the Sisters' last hometown performances on Aug. 24, noted, "Sisters Morales have never been innovators, but they excel at straddling two different worlds.... They provide crystal-clear harmonies while singing in unison, edgy, country-flavored attitude on the English numbers pure pop tenderness in the slower tunes and radically different personas while singing in Spanish... it could not have been a better party."

The sisters will continue making music on their own. Lisa Morales released her first solo album, Beautiful Mistake, early this year and, according to the Current, Roberta is penning a children's book and planning her own solo debut. The sisters will continue making music, but the Sisters Morales will be missed.

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Here are the top five things to do in Austin this weekend

Weekend Event Guide

A mix of live entertainment and interactive happenings rank high on our agenda for the next few days. Get inspired at the Austin Spring Home + Garden Show, or enjoy an illuminating and reflective evening with family at the Water Lantern Festival. Check out the top five things to do in Austin this weekend. For a full list of events, visit our calendar.

Thursday, March 23

Austin History Center Association presents Our Austin Sound: Women of Antone’s
Celebrate some of the women who have defined local entertainment at this special event supporting the Austin History Center. Guests can enjoy discussions and intimate performances by Marcia Ball, Lou Ann Barton, Sue Foley, Ruthie Foster, Eve Monsees, and special guest Susan Antone. Zach Ernst will serve as the evening’s moderator. View ticketing options on the event website.

Friday, March 24

Austin Spring Home + Garden Show
All things home and garden return to the Palmer Events Center for another annual installment. This year’s three-day spring show will feature a variety of home-related products and services, displays, informative sessions from industry experts, interactive exhibits, and more. Attendees can also enjoy live discussions with YouTuber and home improvement expert April Wilkerson on Saturday and Sunday. For tickets and more information, click here.

The Austin Symphony presents "Song of the Night"
Enjoy composer Gustav Mahler's exquisite Symphony No. 7 (Song of the Night) live at the Long Center for the Performing Arts. This rare program, conducted by Peter Bay, is part of the Long Center’s ongoing Masterworks Series. Tickets for both nights are still available.

Saturday, March 25

Water Lantern Festival
Photo courtesy of Water Lantern Festival

The Water Lantern Festival takes place this weekend.

Water Lantern Festival
Bring friends and family to Mueller Lake Park for another year of Water Lantern Festival fun. Highlights of the evening include a vendor market, live music, food, activities, and the chance to witness thousands of lanterns reflected upon the water after sunset. For a full schedule of events and to buy tickets, go to the festival website.

Chris D'Elia in concert
Comedian Chris D’Elia comes to ACL Live & 3TEN at ACL Live for two back-to-back shows on one night only. He’s best known for his podcast Congratulations with Chris D'Elia and has three comedy specials on Netflix. Seating for both performances is still available.

6 things to know in Austin food right now: Asian-Southern fusion leader to open new Cedar Park location

News you can eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.


From a food truck to a culinarily adventurous neighborhood restaurant, The Peached Tortilla has become something of a staple in the Austin food scene. A blend of Asian and Southern American comfort foods 13 years in the making, the menu is available at three locations across Austin, with a fourth coming to Cedar Park in late 2023 at 1915 East Whitestone Boulevard. The new location will seat 82 inside and 38 outside on the patio, will look similar to the locations Austinites are already familiar with, and will feature the same menu items before adding more that are specific to the new location.

Michelin starred chef Curtis Stone, who operates the restaurant Georgie in Dallas, is working to democratize the private chefexperience. A platform he co-created, Gathar, launched into Austin’s gig economy during South by Southwest (SXSW) at a secret house party, and plans to expand to Houston and Dallas later, as well as Florida. Instead of organizing around specific chefs, the website offers menus with small customizations like choosing between one appetizer or another. The most visible meals without filters are event-based and charge per person (as low as $35), but there are also options available for at-home meal prep (starting at $610, but coming out to about $25 per serving). Book at gathar.com.

Austinites who love a free group workout are likely familiar with Swift Fit Events, which offers yoga, cardio, and even fireside tarot at easily accessible downtown locations. The group is opening a new "wellness oasis" at 918 Congress Avenue, which includes a nonalcoholic cocktail bar, Sans Bar. One Sans Bar location already exists on East 12th, where it offers cocktails, tours, events, and even classes for aspiring nonalcoholic mixologists. The space will be open to the public on Fridays starting at 5 pm, from March 31 on.

Other news and notes

James Beard Award-winning chefIliana de la Vega is hosting Mexico City chef Billy Maldonado of Fónico at El Naranjo, one of Austin’s most acclaimed Mexican restaurants. On March 23, Chef Maldonado takes charge of five of six courses including a ceviche, a local fish with beans and habañero ash, a pork chop with spicy broccoli puree, and vegetarian alternatives. The 8:30 seating still has space. Reserve ($110) at elnaranjorestaurant.com.

The always-anticipatedButcher’s Ball is back in Round Top on March 24 and 25. All the ingredients have been sourced from within 100 miles of the Central Texas town, so Austinites can enjoy some foods local to them, plus some in farther reaches east at just half the drive. In addition to cocktails and bites by celebrated Houston chefs, there will be live music and a fun barn atmosphere. A few tickets (starting at $175) remain available on Eventbrite.

It's pretty easy to get a beer with dinner, but The Driskill is escalating things to a multi-course affair as it is wont to do. It's rebooting its Beer Dinner Series on March 28 with help kicking it off from (512) Brewing Company, later leading to a four-part summer series in June. This installation will pair four beers (half IPAs) with salmon tartare, burrata and citrus salad, osso buco, and chocolate and peanut butter semifreddo. Tickets ($80) are available on Tock.

Willie Nelson receives prestigious honor and inaugural endowment at UT Austin

Willie forever

Willie Nelson has earned countless awards for his seven-decade music career, but the legend is also well known for his activism — particularly in the areas of farming and food security. In recognition of his longtime advocacy work, the LBJ Foundation will present its most prestigious honor, the LBJ Liberty & Justice for All Award to Nelson this spring.

The award will be presented at a special gala tribute dinner on Friday, May 12, 2023, which in turn will benefit the newly established Willie Nelson Endowment for Uplifting Rural Communities at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, a part of The University of Texas at Austin.

According to a release, the endowment will fund research and student fellowships focused on sustainable agriculture, eliminating hunger, resilient energy, sustainable water, and natural disaster recovery to benefit rural and farm communities.

Along with Neil Young and John Mellencamp, Nelson organized the first Farm Aid concert in 1985 to raise funds for struggling farmers, which has since raised over $70 million for those who own and operate family farms throughout the United States. He has also helped raise millions around disaster relief, for families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks and for veterans, as well as working toward environmental and animal advocacy, and voting rights. His Luck Family Foundation provides financial grant assistance and other resources to artists, organizations, and programs in need, donating proceeds from Luck Reunion events to Farm Aid and other longtime charity partners like the Texas Food & Wine Alliance.

“Willie Nelson is a national treasure who gained fame through his sheer musical talent and won hearts as someone who truly cares about the lives of his fellow Americans," says Larry Temple, Chairman of the LBJ Foundation Board of Trustees, via release. "A product of rural Texas, Willie has never forgotten where he comes from. His longtime efforts to raise money and awareness for family farmers through Farm Aid and numerous other endeavors to help those in need throughout his career make him a true inspiration.”

The dinner will honor Nelson's lifelong support for rural communities, embodying President Lyndon Baines Johnson's commitment to public service, particularly in the areas of farming and food security. With their similar backgrounds as rural Texans, both President Johnson and Nelson shared a keen awareness of the struggles of those who work in the agricultural industry.

“The bounty of the earth is the foundation of our economy," President Johnson shared in a 1965 Special Message to Congress on Agriculture. "Programs in every aspect of our nation’s life depend on the abundant harvests of our farms.”