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Music Commission recommends moratorium on Austin Music Memorial

Deborah Sengupta

Editor’s note: This article was originally published August 5, 2014

At Monday night’s meeting of the Austin Music Commission a motion was approved to recommend an indefinite moratorium on the Austin Music Memorial. The memorial is a collection of bronze plaques placed on the Long Center terrace listing the names and achievements of prominent Austin music scene contributors. Along with well-recognized names like Janis Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Clifford Antone, many less famous Austinites have been honored. Last year’s honorees included A.C. Littlefield, lead vocalist of successful gospel group Bells of Joy and Randall “Poodie” Locke, longtime stage manager to Willie Nelson.

At Monday’s meeting city music manager Don Pitts presented an overview on the memorial which was created by City Council resolution in June of 2007 and has honored 51 inductees since its inception. According to Pitts the annual budget allocation for the memorial is $12,000, roughly 25 percent of the Austin Music Office’s overall operating budget. Approximately half of the money goes to the production of the bronze plaques and the other half to a ceremony at the Long Center honoring the inductees, Pitts said.

In addition to overseeing the induction process and ceremony for the memorial, the Austin Music Office runs a number of other initiatives to support the local music scene including a music venue assistance loan program, a monthly live music series at Hope Farmer’s Market on Plaza Saltillo and a Leaders in Austin Music program produced in partnership with the Austin Music Foundation. At the meeting, Pitts outlined alternative ways that his office honors past and present music contributors. In May of this year the office partnered with City Council to create Margaret Moser Plaza, a small tree-lined stretch of benches next to the Austin Music Hall downtown, honoring the longtime Austin Chronicle music journalist. The office is currently partnering with community access television station ATXN to produce a “Notes in Time” video archive series featuring musician interviews and performances.

“It is a touching ceremony for people who are there for their families,” Nakia Reynoso, the commission member who introduced the motion for a moratorium, said about the annual event at the Long Center, but he questioned the longstanding value of the plaques as a meaningful tribute. Reynoso said he would like to see more events like the Moser Plaza unveiling, “celebrating the work of people who are here with us.”

Austin’s most famous standing tributes to local musicians, the iconic statues of Stevie Ray Vaughan on Ladybird Lake and Willie Nelson in front of ACL Live were paid for with private funds. Prominent Tejano musicians, the Peros-Ramos family were honored with a sculpture at the Mexican American Cultural Center and a statue of trumpeter Nash Hernandez stands at Fiesta Gardens. Both of those projects were financed through Austin’s Art in Public Places program. Music commission members were open to the idea of continuing the Austin Music Memorial with sponsorship from an outside partner.

The commision’s recommendation for a moratorium on the Austin Music Memorial will now go to City Council for consideration.