Photo courtesy of Austin Civic Orchestra

Austin Civic Orchestra presents an eclectic evening of music as eight chamber ensembles from the ACO perform an evening of chamber music written by Brahms, Beethoven, and some lesser known but very deserving composers, including Daniel Adams and Roger Waters.

Austin Civic Orchestra presents "Happy Holidays"

The Austin Civic Orchestra will celebrate winter break with “Happy Holidays!,” featuring a program tath includes dances from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite as well as many seasonal favorites. Guest artists will be vocalists Tim O’Brien and Katherine Altobello O’Brien.

Long Center/Facebook

Austin arts organizations announce new COVID-19 safety protocols amid Stage 5


Amid the brutally lingering COVID-19 pandemic and Austin’s continued Stage 5 level of community risk, several local arts organizations are setting new safety protocols for attendees.

On Friday, September 3, the Long Center for the Performing Arts, in partnership with Ballet Austin, Austin Opera, and Austin Symphony Orchestra, released its updated health and wellness protocols under Stage 5.

Effective immediately, these new protocols will be enforced for all indoor events:

  • Event attendees ages 12 and older must provide a printed copy of a negative COVID-19 test result obtained within 72 hours of event entry. In lieu of a negative test, patrons can voluntarily provide printed proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the time of the event.
  • Printed negative test results and vaccination proof must be dated and include the patron’s full name, which must match the patron’s ID.
  • Masks must be worn at all times except when actively eating or drinking.

For socially distanced outdoor events on the H-E-B Terrace at the Long Center, the venue will not require a negative COVID-19 test result, though additional public health and safety measures — including requiring negative COVID-19 test results — may be implemented for larger outdoor events that use the Long Center’s lawn. And even outdoors, the Long Center requires event attendees to wear masks at all times unless actively eating or drinking.

The policy, which is in accordance with local public-health recommendations, will stay in place while Austin is in Stage 5, the highest COVID risk level. And the Long Center notes that ticket holders will be notified of any updates to the policy should the situation change, including in “know before you go” emails from the Long Center, Ballet Austin, the Austin Opera, and the Austin Symphony.

“The Long Center eagerly joins together with Ballet Austin, Austin Opera, and Austin Symphony Orchestra in making the safety of our patrons, artists, staff, and community our highest priority,” says Cory Baker, Long Center president and CEO. “These steps will allow our organizations to continue our mission-driven work and ensure Austin can continue to safely experience the arts when they need it most.”

At seemingly the same time, Austin’s Zach Theatre announced that effective immediately, it will now require all audience members age 12 and older to provide a recent negative COVID-19 test result upon entry to performances. In lieu of a negative test result, patrons may volunteer proof of full COVID-19 vaccination.

Similar to that of the other arts organizations updating their safety protocols, Zach Theatre requires that patrons’ negative COVID-19 tests be obtained within 72 hours of any given show date, and negative tests and proof of vaccination will be matched with each patron’s ID. Both molecular (PCR) and antigen (rapid) test results will be accepted.

In terms of vaccination proof, the theater will accept proof in the form of patrons’ physical vaccination cards (which must show full vaccination at least 14 days prior to the show date), verified apps (Clear Health Pass, My Bindle), or a photo of a physical vaccination card.

The Zach safety policy applies to both indoor and outdoor performances. Children younger than 12 will not be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test upon entry. However, masks are required for all patrons at all times except when actively eating or drinking.

“Our city needs live performances,” says Elizabeth Challener, managing director at Zach Theatre. “If there is a way to bring performing arts back to Austin, keep people safe, and not add additional burden to our healthcare workers, that’s what we’re going to do. And we believe this plan will accomplish that.”

For more information and up-to-date details about the Zach Theatre safety protocols, visit zachtheatre.org/healthandsafety.

For more information about the new protocols for the Long Center and other local arts organizations, visit thelongcenter.org, balletaustin.org, austinopera.org, and austinsymphony.org.

Photo by John Gutierrez

Austin Symphony Orchestra trumpets return of live shows with new season


After navigating a challenging year in which it hosted no live concerts, Austin’s oldest performing arts organization is finally returning to in-person performances for its 2021-2022 season —and with a new CEO running the show.

The Austin Symphony Orchestra welcomes new CEO and executive director David Pratt, a performing arts veteran whose 25-year career as an entertainment-industry manager has taken him to some of the most illustrious arts organizations in the U.S. and Australia.

Most recently working as the executive director of the Savannah Music Festival, Pratt has a wealth of experience, including holding top positions with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, the Santa Barbara Symphony, the startup Savannah Philharmonic, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, among many other roles in the arts.

Pratt replaces former ASO executive director Anthony Corroa, who was with the organization for more than 20 years.

“We are thrilled that David is joining our ASO family,” says Ben Bentzin, president of the ASO board of trustees. “As we return to live performances this fall, the ASO is poised to build its momentum and community impact under David’s leadership. Following a national search with many outstanding candidates, it was David’s experience in the performing arts and visionary leadership that made him the right choice as we seek to deepen the ASO’s connection to communities throughout Central Texas.”

The 110-year-old ASO just announced the lineup for its new season, themed “Re:Ignite, Re:Unite,” and will also celebrate renowned music director Peter Bay’s 25th season with the organization this year.

ASO’s Master Works series for the season will include:

  • ¡Espíritu Latino!, an Anthony J. Corroa concert featuring an all-Latin theme, September 17 and 18.
  • Otherworldly, featuring Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” with visuals from NASA, October 15 and 16.
  • Ode to Joy, Beethoven’s monumental “Symphony No. 9,” November 19 and 20.
  • The Greats, featuring R. Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavilier” and Johann Strauss Jr.’s “Emperor Waltzes,” along with Ifetayo Ali-Landing performing Edward Elgar’s beloved “Cello Concerto in E Minor,” January 14 and 15, 2022.
  • Remarkable Romantics, featuring pieces from Czech composers Josef Suk and Antonín Dvořák, and violin legend Midori performing Sibelius’ “Violin Concerto in D Minor,” February 18 and 19, 2022.
  • Hemispheric Sounds, featuring piano phenom Stewart Goodyear performing Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 5,” March 11 and 12, 2022.
  • The Mighty Russians, with Stravinsky’s “Circus Polka,” April 8 and 9, 2022.
  • American Landscapes an Anthony J. Corroa concert featuring American composers, May 20 and 21, 2022.

ASO’s Butler Pop Series for the season will include:

  • Back to the Future on the big screen with ASO performing Alan Silverstri’s musical score, October 23.
  • The Paul Simon Songbook, December 29 and 30.
  • West Side Story, with ASO performing Bernstein’s score live, February 26, 2022.
  • Swing is the Thing, featuring champion swing dancers and guest vocalists performing 1940s and ’50s hits, June 3 and 4, 2022.

“I’m truly excited and look forward to connecting with Austinites, especially through the power of music,” Pratt says. “This is a great time for me to be here as we launch our Spring Forward campaign for our 2021/22 season — a return to live music. There’s so much to look forward to with the ASO. Some of my all-time favorite orchestral pieces are featured in the new season. … This is music we all know and recognize. It’s the kind of music that not only brings the community together but fills us with joy. I also love it when the symphony performs a live score for big Hollywood blockbusters, like we are doing with Back to the Future in October 2021 at the Long Center. It’s just great to be here in Austin and I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the community.”

Symphony lovers who just can’t wait for the fall season can check out one remaining special ensemble appearance, performed at an area COVID-19 vaccination site. On Saturday, April 26 from 10 am-noon, an ASO string sextet and string quartet will perform at the Ascension Texas administrative offices vaccination site at 1345 Philomena St.

Essential guide to parties, parades, and more during Fiesta San Antonio 2018

Party time, excellent

The year-long Tricentennial celebration may be bringing worldwide attention to Alamo City, but Fiesta San Antonio still feels like the city's best-kept secret. Running April 19-29, Fiesta is once again filled with dozens of official (and unofficial) events ranging from colorful community parades to family-friendly parties to lavish foodie affairs. If you're heading south for the fest, here's where to party during Fiesta 2018.

Fiesta Fiesta — April 19
In the midst of Hemisfair's own 50th anniversary celebration, the former World's Fair site hosts Fiesta Fiesta, the kick off to Fiesta (did we mention this is at Fiesta?) on April 19. Enjoy live music, watch a dazzling fireworks display, and purchase Fiesta pins at Pin Pandemonium during this massive celebration. And for the Selena fans out there, her widower, Chris Perez, will take the stage Thursday afternoon to perform a set filled with the Tejano superstar's hits. Admission is free.

Taste of the Republic: A Texas Culinary Experience — April 19
San Antonio's top chefs including Jason Dady, Geronimo Lopez, Rudy Martinez, Damien Watel, and Lisa Watel take over Marriott Plaza downtown for this one-of-a-kind VIP experience. Attendees will embark on a culinary quest through North Texas, East Texas, South Texas, West Texas, Central Texas, and the Gulf Coast, tasting fare inspired by Texas' six "food regions." Tickets range from $75-100 and can be purchased here.

San Antonio Symphony presents Fiesta Pops— April 20-22
Y'all, thank goodness San Antonio Symphony is back. This year, the city's classical ensemble shines a spotlight on local musicians, dancers, and conductors during Fiesta. Over the weekend, enjoy performances by vocalist Sebastian de la Cruz, 12-piece mariachi band Campanas de America, and dance numbers from the Guadalupe Dance Company. Tickets range from a very reasonable $12.50 to $96 and can be purchased here.

Chaparral Music Festival — April 21
While most of Fiesta's activities and events are centered downtown, the first-ever Chaparral Music Festival brings the party to Northwest San Antonio. Enjoy performances from headliner Kyle Park, as well as George Navarro and Chris Saucedo Band. Picnic blankets are highly encouraged at this family-friendly event which also features food and beverages for purchase, lawn games, and more.

Fiesta's Masked Dance Dance Dance! Party— April 21
"Come as you are not" is the theme of this masquerade dance party hosted at Mission Marquee Plaza. Presented by stalwart San Antonio art collective URBAN-15, Dance Dance Dance! features live music by Los de Esta Noche and El Tallercito de Son, as well as a special costume contest. Admission is free.

Fiesta Art Fair — April 21-22
Southwest School of Art's annual fundraiser is back for its 45th year. Peruse contemporary art from more than 100 local and American artists while snacking on festival favorite fare like gorditas and roasted corn. While adults find the next addition to their art collection, youngsters can take part in the Young Artists Garden, which hosts creative activities and art projects throughout the weekend. Tickets for adults is $12 in advance, $15 at the door, and $5 for children. Proceeds go directly to Texas' only independent art college.

Texas Cavaliers River Parade— April 23
Would it be Fiesta San Antonio without the river parade? Sure, but it wouldn't nearly as fun. Since 1941 this celebration of all things Alamo City has taken over the San Antonio River for a day of fun and festivities. Watch as the brightly colored "floating gardens" drift across the water and listen as mariachi fills the air during this can't-miss affair. The parade begins at 7 pm and runs along this route. Tickets range from $14-26 and entry times are staggered to optimize views.

Fiesta Especial Celebration Day— April 24
Hosted by disABILITYsa at the Alamodome, this Fiesta event is for San Antonians of all ages and abilities. Enjoy accessible rides, take part in a parade, or chow down on delicious fare at this inclusive party. Admission is free.

Battle of the Flowers Parade— April 27
If only all battles were this beautiful. The oldest and largest Fiesta San Antonio parade, the Battle of the Flowers attracts more than 350,000 attendees and, fun fact, is run entirely by women. In honor of the Tricentennial, the theme for the 127th Battle of the Flowers parade is "300 Timeless Treasures." Like the river parade, entry times are staggered. Tickets range from $15-30, and can be purchased here.

Festival De Cascarones — April 29
It's all led up to this. Say adios to Fiesta 2018 with a smashing good time on the Texas A&M University-San Antonio campus. Secondhand Serenade and Blue Water Highway provide the tunes as you celebrate with cascarones, games, and more at this all-ages events. Admission is free.

Photo courtesy of KLRU-TV

Austin composer throws classical music kegger to connect local community

Austin's Piano Man

Editor's note: CultureMap is proud to present the latest installment in our partnership with KLRU's documentary series Arts in Context. This unique series celebrates stories about the arts in Austin and the people who make this such a vibrant and creative city.

Former punk rocker Nathan Felix has found a new love: classical music. His critically acclaimed first composition, The Curse and The Symphony, took about seven years to create and has established him as a world-traveling composer. Now, Felix is back in his hometown of Austin to bring music to his childhood neighborhood. He has collected six free pianos from Craigslist to be played in his house at once, naming the performance Classical Music Kegger. But more than just a concert, Felix’s main goal is to give back to the community by donating the pianos to local schools. The intention: to bring awareness of the importance of classical music and make it accessible to all.

KLRU-TV, Austin PBS is dedicated to telling stories that entertain, inspire, and change our lives. KLRU highlights what makes Austin unique — whether music, arts, or public issues — by creating and distributing award-winning original content. KLRU produces several series including Austin City Limits, Arts in Context, Central Texas Gardener, Civic Summit, and Overheard With Evan Smith. As a nonprofit educational organization, KLRU also prepares children to succeed in school and creates lifelong learning opportunities for all.

After the performance, Felix donated the pianos to schools and music programs.

Nathan Felix donating pianos arts in context
Photo courtesy of KLRU-TV
After the performance, Felix donated the pianos to schools and music programs.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Here are the Hollywood celebrities we spotted in Austin for SXSW, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Here are all the Hollywood celebrities we've spotted in Austin so far for SXSW. From Elizabeth Olsen and Eric Andre, here are some of the celebs we spotted out and about during the fest — and this was just weekend one.

2. Texas coastal town tops Austin's favorite spring break destination. Several cities in Colorado ranked highly, but this report says one Texas beach town is still the No. 1 spring break getaway for Austinites.

3. Austin rent prices increased nearly 10 percent from 2022, report finds. Zumper ranked Austin the No. 25 most expensive rental market in the United States.

4. Escape the crowds at SXSW: 8 Austin-area hangs, parties, and activities. Escaping the crowds during SXSW can be a challenge, but there are plenty of other things to do in Austin in mid-March.

5. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon will make surprise SXSW appearance with closing night film. Affleck's Air will make its surprise SXSW debut tonight at the Paramount Theatre as the closing night film for SXSW.

Austin Top Chef winner debuts new National Geographic series during SXSW

Top Chef

Austin is proud to claim chef Kristen Kish as our own, but the Top Chef winner has always had a global mindset. She first earned her chops in French and Italian cuisine at Boston's acclaimed Menton restaurant, infusing those influences into the menu at Arlo Grey with a pioneering curiosity and adventurous spirit. Now, she's bringing that explorer's mindset to a new National Geographic series, debuting Tuesday, March 21.

Available on Disney+, Restaurants at the End of the World is a docuseries in which Kish travels to off-the-beaten-path pockets of the planet. The four-part series follows Kish as she searches for the secret ingredients – people, places, culture and traditions – within the world’s most remote restaurants in Boquete, Panama; Svalbard, Norway; North Haven Island, Maine; and Paraty, Brazil.

A lucky selection of South by Southwest (SXSW) attendees got a sneak peek of the series at a special dinner on Tuesday, March 14. The event took place inside Arlo Grey at the Line Hotel, where Kish mingled with guests and introduced clips from the upcoming series. A family-style dinner featured dishes inspired by different episodes of the series, from Maine-inspired Parker House rolls to Arctic char and strawberry semifreddo.

"This series is all about shared experiences and trading stories," Kish said, introducing the evening's menu. "So, when putting this menu together, I realized there are a lot of similarities. When I think back to all the places I went and new things I learned, there are so many familiar flavors to every bite that can bring you right back home into your own story."

The menu celebrated each location in the upcoming series, often in the same course: Parker House Rolls (with delicious whipped brown butter) were a nod to her New England episode ("Maine Island Barn Supper,"), paired with a scallop crudo commemoration of her time in Brazil ("Brazil’s Floating Feast,"). Meanwhile, the main course gave guests a glimpse of the great lengths Norwegian fishermen go to when harvesting Arctic char, accompanied by a clip of Kish's adventures with local purveyors in Svalbard, Norway.

The aim of both the dinner and the upcoming series is to showcase the tenacity it takes to run restaurants in such remote places. Each episode follows Kish behind the scenes with local purveyors, farmers, herders, kitchen crew, managers, and head chefs to hear their stories. She invites viewers along with her in the hunt for the best and freshest ingredients, unearthing the culture and heart behind global cuisine and showcasing the balancing act required to bring unique food to the table around the world.

“Food has an unparalleled power to bring us together and teach us about one another and the world around us, and we see that firsthand by going to restaurants in the world’s most remote areas,” says Chef Kish via release. “Filming this series with National Geographic was an adventure of a lifetime that taught me so much about an industry I’ve been steeped in my whole life. I can’t wait for viewers to come along on the journey with us and experience these dishes at restaurants most never even knew existed.”

The first episode of Restaurants around the World will be available on March 21 at 9 pm CST.

Kristen Kish

Courtesy National Geographic

Top Chef winner Kristen Kish has a new National Geographic show debuting on March 21.

Boutique Austin hotel amplifies the vinyl bar scene with a moody new listening room

Moody Blues

There’s no shortage of cool places in Austin to hear curated tunes, but a new effort by Hotel Magdalena amplifies the imagination beyond the laid-back trend. Although many vinyl bars, listening rooms, or jazz lounges provide lovely venues to chat and check out of the active listening — if that’s a guest’s preference — Equipment Room is almost too intimate to invite any kind of distraction.

Bunkhouse Group, the hotel’s parent company (along with other boutique hotels like Hotel San José and Hotel Saint Cecilia) designed and operated the space; executive chairman Amar Lalvani collaborated with Mohawk owner James Moody and Breakaway Records owners Josh LaRue and Gabe Vaughn, who supply the records. Rather than hiring a couple of DJs to set the tone, the team is leaving it to Breakaway Records employees on a rotating schedule.

All it requires is good taste; These spinners will be taking a more curational than transformative approach, playing full albums so visitors can hear each “the way it was intended.” Cocktail waiters will pass out handwritten cards so patrons know what’s playing, and can listen more at home. (On March 1: The Cooker by Lee Morgan, 2006.)

Although Equipment Room is not quite a speakeasy (despite having a perfect name for it), the listening room is certainly covert. The front door, in a different building than the hotel lobby, is barely marked at all save for a little floating “E” sign.

Inside, a public-facing seat or a covetous corner are a guest’s choice. A long bar allows visitors to interface with staff and lean into the cocktail experience; plus, they get to sit closest to the main speakers and the turntables. The main room is further segmented with plush furniture in a variety of configurations. Some tables stand alone in the center of the room as if in a restaurant, serving as a point of connection; others on a raised platform around the edge of the room serve as a thin barrier between the cocktail sippers and the rest of the venue.

Some seating creates conversation circles, while other outward-facing couches are placed in command positions to either social or voyeuristic ends. A side room creates a small den for a bigger party to retreat to, or perhaps a few smaller ones to converge in, like a chill room at a rave — were the entire venue not already deeply chill.

Where a guest sits notably changes the experience. Besides inviting conversation, facilitating people watching, or concealing a romantic date, each part of the room sounds different thanks to different speaker configurations and a curved ceiling to spread out the acoustics.

Of course, besides the obscure and nonchalant implications of the name, the Equipment Room must be outfitted with the best audio tools LaRue and Vaughn could source, with the help of acoustic engineers at Klipsch. A full list of equipment on the venue’s website illuminates speakers, amps, and more, including a vintage cassette deck. Recording capabilities will come in handy on some special nights when the “guest selectors” record that night’s repertoire, and the especially high-fidelity equipment will be broken out for album releases and other more pointed listening events.

Audiophiles or otherwise, all do best with a cocktail and some snacks to settle into the space, and an eclectic menu delivers. Divided into A-sides and B-sides (classic and experimental drinks), it includes everything from a traditional French 75 to the ostentatious “Gold Dust Woman” with Still Austin gin, macadamia nut liqueur, Linie Aquavit, granny smith apple juice, spiced demerara, sparkling wine, and “ice gold leaf.”

Four virgin cocktails and seven sakes also grace the menu, along with snacks like a suspiciously tasty “caramel puffed cheese corn” (“like Pirate’s Booty,” explains a staff member, but with a sweet, glossy coating) and onigiri. The Japanese bites tie into the jazz kissaten, or Japanese vinyl cafes, that inspired this decidedly Western Austin treat.

Whatever’s on the audio menu that night — cowboy ballads, Afrobeat, or something psychedelic — every moment just gets tastier as visitors settle into the sensational space.

Equipment Room is open at 1101 Music Lane from Tuesday to Thursday 5-10 pm; Friday and Saturday, 5 pm to 2 am. More information including recommended albums is available at equipmentroom.com.

Hotel Magdalena's Equipment Room interior

Photo by Nick Simonite

Hotel Magdalena opened a chic listening room with speakeasy vibes, called Equipment Room.