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How a chance meeting inspired blind songwriter to live her dream

Kristin Finan,
Aundrea Moore, who is blind and hearing impaired, performs Jan. 27 at a meeting of the Austin Songwriters Group at Threadgill's. Listening are Carlee McConnell, her father, John McConnell, Elana Priesman and Gregg Miller. [JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

The dying man didn’t pull any punches.

It was June 2019 and Aundrea Moore, who underwent a double mastectomy for breast cancer in 2016, was at Texas Oncology for a checkup when she struck up a conversation with the man next to her.

“He was a songwriter looking for a line to go with one of his verses,” recalls Aundrea, who goes only by her first name. “I said, ‘Sing your verse. I’m a songwriter, too.’”

They swapped favorite lines they’d written (hers: “All that’s left of loving you is a phone that never rings”), and then she confided that although she’d been penning lyrics all her life, she’d never pursued her dream of songwriting.

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“He said he was going to hospice pretty soon and he was not going to be able to complete his work,” she said. “Since I was healthy, he said I had no right not to start doing my creative passion. Oh, it changed my life.”

Aundrea could have found excuses. She’s 67, blind and hearing impaired and recently battled breast cancer. Instead, she used the man as inspiration to rewrite her bucket list — with singing, songwriting and stand-up comedy at the top — and made a goal to check off each item.

“According to society, I should not be having any fun,” Aundrea said. “I get in trouble because of my sense of humor, but I think it’s essential, especially if you have a disability.”

Aundrea, who went blind shortly after her birth, is no stranger to challenges.

“My parents made a conscious choice that I would do whatever my brothers did,” she said.

She attended both the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Austin and Columbus High School as a teenager, then attended what was then A&I University in Kingsville, where she moonlighted as a singer at parties.

After nearly 25 years working for the state, during which time she began to lose her hearing, she retired in 2013. Three years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“My original mastectomy was on Halloween 2016,” she said. “A friend of mine brought balloons, and we gave all the staff treats. I told the phlebotomist, ‘If you can get that IV on the first try, you can have two pairs of earrings and all the snacks you want.’ She did it.”

Since her wake-up call last summer, Aundrea has gotten serious about her bucket list, which also includes hand modeling and visiting Ireland. She’s done open-mics at Cap City Comedy Club and has visions of doing a set topless like comedian Tig Notaro, who famously performed shirtless after a double mastectomy.

“I have a lot of friends who have had breast cancer. They’re not doing stand-up,” said Lee Duffy, Austin Songwriters Group director. “Most people are fear-driven. She’s not. She’s almost fearless.”

One recent Monday, Aundrea attended an Austin Songwriters Group meeting at Threadgill’s, where, in the glow of a Janis Joplin portrait, she performed a song called “Adam’s Chest.”

“I now have Adam’s chest,” she sang, “but I’m still Eve. I took us to the laughter clubs and they agreed with me.”

After the group applauded, Duffy offered a suggestion: “Where you’re talking about being at the comedy club and the people there agreed with you, I would use the word laugh — laughed with me,” she said.

In January, Aundrea, who is 4-foot-10, performed at a songwriters symposium where “a famous publisher from Nashville” gave her his business card.

“That’s very, very empowering,” Aundrea said. “That’s one of the things I’ve learned about my bucket list — you just have to put it out to the universe.”