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Longhorn Music flies under the radar, but plays big role at UT

Jeanne Claire Van Ryzin, Seeing Things

Staff Writer
Austin 360

It makes sense, but few know of it.

Why wouldn't the signature university in the self-proclaimed "Live Music Capital of the World" have its own record label?

It does.

Though it has been in existence for five years, Longhorn Music is a low-radar affair.

An initiative of UT's Butler School of Music, the label has released 13 CDs since launching, all of which feature UT faculty and students.

It's an auxiliary enterprise, explains Glenn Richter, interim director of the Butler School. And it is funded in a rotating fashion almost entirely by its own sales.

Some projects, though — like the Miró Quartet's current recording of Beethoven's Razumovsky quartets — seek additional monies. (The Miró raised $30,000 to fund extra costs associated with their ambitious project.)

The Miró CD will be released this fall, the second that the faculty string-quartet-in-residence has released on the UT label.

If the Longhorn Music catalog is small, it doesn't lack for eclecticism.

The 2009 Longhorn Music CD of "Queenie Pie," a reconstructed version of Duke Ellington's only opera left unfinished at the composer's death, is arguably the first commercial release of the piece. (The Butler School staged the opera in 2009 in a co-production with Huston-Tillotson University.)

Faculty member Rebecca Henderson (oboe) and Marianne Gedigian (flute) both have recordings celebrating their respective instruments.

The Butler School's jazz division gets plenty of play time: The jazz orchestra, the trombone choir and saxophone ensemble each has its own title.

The UT Chamber Singers recorded repertoire by the often overlooked Brazilian classical composer, José Maurício Nunes Garcia.

And Aeolus Quartet — the graduate student string quartet-in-residence from 2009 to 2011 — released two CDs.

It's more than instrumentalists who can cut their teeth on Longhorn Music.

On each release, students majoring in music business have the chance to get familiar with the complexities of licensing and copyrights by assisting with contract juggling. Likewise, students taking music production courses have the chance to sit elbow-to-elbow with the professional producers on some recording sessions.

The entire Longhorn Music catalog is available for purchase online (www.music.utexas.edu/longhornmusic). And two years ago, the Longhorn label was picked up for distribution by Naxos, one of the largest classical music labels in the market.

Richter says he hopes that the agreement with Naxos will raise the profile of Longhorn Music, even if CD sales industry-wide have been in a tailspin with digital music sales now accounting for the majority, according to a Nielsen and Billboard report. (Longhorn Music recordings are available for digital purchase through Amazon and the Naxos site.)

For all involved, especially students, Richter says Longhorn Music "is an important walk in the real world."

jvanryzin@statesman.com; 445-3699