David Messier and Andrea Villarreal at the Black Fret Ball.

MUSIC: May we say that the Black Fret Ball has arrived? In only its second year, the large benefit for the group that provides incubator services for Austin musicians hit its stride. More than 1,000 variously clad guests of Black Fret first mixed in the Paramount Theatre‘s lobbies, then paraded into the auditorium for — what else? — music and awards. I talked to record producer David Messier about his own upcoming album, “Waiting for Eldridge,” coming out soon on the Fable label.

Tamir Kalifa and Brandon DeMaris at Black Fret Ball

Also to Tamir Kalifa from Mother Falcon, signed to Apple Records, and a repeat Black Fret beneficiary. “Mother Falcon is kind of Black Fret’s poster child,” said Brandon DeMaris, who orchestrates events for the nonprofit group. Among the nominees for this year’s program are some of my very favorite musicians: Casey McPherson, Nakia, Shakey Graves, Ruby Jane and Tameca Jones. A list of winners to come.

‘The Wild Party’ at the University of Texas.

ARTS: Multiple college theater programs tackling tough material. First, Texas State University staged Andrew Lippa‘s “The Wild Party,” based on Joseph Moncure March‘s 1928 narrative poem. Then, the University of Texas took on the even tougher, harsher version of the story by Michael LaChiusa, which coincidently opened during the same season (1999-2000) in New  York. I’ve admired both scores for years, but without these two excellent theater programs, I wouldn’t be able to “see” the shows in my head. Each school can boast certain strengths, but it’s undeniable that the acting and singing in both productions was superb. Thank you TSU and UT.

Marc and Carolyn Seriff. Holly Jackson photo.

CITY: From start-ups to AOL, then the staff of the Long Center. From my story in the American-Statesman: “How often does this happen: A major charitable donor and longtime board member signs on, instead, as a member of a nonprofit group’s staff? Not as the chief, or even as a development officer, but rather as a floating observer and helper. That’s the recent update in the amazing life of Austin native Marc Seriff, best known to the tech community as co-founder of AOL Inc., better known in certain local circles, along with his wife, Carolyn Seriff, as a fun-loving backer of the arts and other charities.”

View of Austin from the Texas School for the Deaf in the 1890s.

HISTORY: Finding historical value in the Texas School for the Deaf. From my story in the American-Statesman: “Was Texas Revolutionary War hero Deaf Smith really deaf? Inquiring minds from around the country have been asking that of Steve Baldwin, former president of the Texas Association of the Deaf, for years. That’s because the Austinite is a widely respected interpreter of deaf history. “He probably had progressive hearing loss,” Baldwin says about Smith. “He was born by breech birth in 1787 and developed a childhood disease. Early on, he had functional speech and hearing. Witnesses during his lifetime — he died in 1837 — testified to his ‘mild’ hearing loss and high-pitched voice. He was probably an above-average lipreader.” Baldwin, who was prepared to go to battle earlier this year when a Texas legislator suggested selling off some of the Texas School for the Deaf’s land on South Congress Avenue, thinks that Texas founders were sensitized to the needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing citizens, in part because of their close association with Smith, whose features appeared on the $5 Republic of Texas bill.”

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