New Non-Profit Gives Austin Musicians a Helping Hand
Black Fret Launches Their Organization in Style
Perhaps more than any other major city, Austin has provided its musicians with groups that advocate for their welfare, from HAAM (Health Alliance for Austin Musicians) to Austin Music People (the advocacy group for the Austin music community). From healthcare and mental health assistance to mentoring programs, musicians have a wealth of resources at their fingertips to help them further their careers and enrich their lives. Now, a new organization has emerged to help musicians with the financial support they need to hone their craft.
Black Fret, which is known as a group of “Patrons of Local Music,” is dedicated to funding and mentoring new musical talent in Austin. The brainchild of former Austin Music Foundation Board Members Colin Kendrick and Matt Ott, Black Fret is striving to give more than one million dollars a year in grants to local artists. For a $1,500 annual fee, members will participate in the selection of artists who receive the grants, have access to private events and house parties featuring some of Austin's finest artists, attend artist socials, and gain access to their annual gala called " The Black Ball," which features local artists who play along with special guests. Kendrick and Ott have also capped the membership at 1,333 members, making access to this organization even more coveted.
Judging from their recent kick-off VIP Party at the Gibson Guitar Showroom, the organization is already well on its way to raising money and support for Austin’s finest musicians. In a matter of weeks, the party turned into the hottest ticket in Austin that weekend. Among the attendees were representatives from some of the most prominent organizations in the Austin music scene such Kellie Goldstein from the Austin Music Foundation, Roggie Baer of Rajiworld, Barbara Rappaport of The Outlaw Road Show, Jennifer Houlihan of Austin Music People, and musicians Dave Madden, Elizabeth McQueen, and Nakia from The Voice.
Musical performances from Emily Bell and Austin-based phenomenon Ben Kweller were the highlights of the evening. Graham Wilkinson started off the music with a lovely set, including his classic song “Let Me Do My Drinking.” The bluesy, gusty Emily Bell belted out inspired versions of her song “Dust Bowl,” and the more subtle, sentimental tune, “Grandma’s Chair,” a lyrical track about always carrying a piece of family close, especially when being far from home.
Ben Kweller was the star of the night, dedicating the first song of his set, “Commerce, TX” to Graham Wilkinson. With a new blue-tinged hairstyle, Kweller was a magnetic presence on stage as he launched into his classics “Jealous Girl,” and “Mean to Me.” Austin singer and Voice winner Nakia appeared as a special guest, sitting in on piano before Kweller’s set, making Black Fret’s entrance into the Austin music world a memorable one.
Photos: Amy Price
At the end of the launch, Black Fret was on the verge of their goal for 2014, which will allow them to give 100,000 dollars in new grants to Austin musicians. As Ott stated at the event that night, “local music is art, just like the ballet and the theater.” Black Fret will give music fans and local musicians the chance to enrich the arts scene in our city for years to come. Artists and patrons interested in becoming members can learn more about the opportunities Black Fret has to offer by visiting www.blackfret.org to learn more.