Austin-based classical music station KMFA 89.5 will host a special virtual concert festival on January 29-31 for the grand opening of the Draylen Mason Music Studio. The TLU Choirs will sing selections from the 2020 Christmas Vespers service, “Singing Darkness to Light” and Percussion Instructor Adam Bedell’s band, line upon line, will also perform.
The 135-seat music studio is the centerpiece of KMFA’s new facility and is named after Draylen Mason, the talented seventeen-year-old bassist who was a victim of the Austin package bombings in March 2018. Mason performed with Austin Soundwaves, Austin Youth Orchestra, Austin Chamber Music Center, the UT String Project and at the Interlochen Center for the Arts. He had been admitted to the music schools at the University of Texas at Austin, University of North Texas and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music to study bass performance.
A memorial tablet on the Walk of Heroes at East Austin Prep shares his statement: “The greatest gift I can ever offer is to rekindle someone’s passion by sharing my talents. I want to share my gift and inspire others to discover, develop and use their own.”
Assistant Professor of Piano Carla McElhaney is also KMFA’s director of creative learning and artistic director of the Draylen Mason Music Studio. She currently teaches online Music Appreciation and was honored to help KMFA transition from classical radio station to a cultural hub able to offer in-person live music performances, plus arts and educational experiences.
“While this event also serves as the world’s first glimpse into our new facility, it showcases the kinds of offerings people can expect from us once we’re past the pandemic and able to be together in person,” she said.
As part of the festival’s creative team, McElhaney was in charge of curating the performances and presentations for a “Best of Austin Arts Collection.” According to her, this is a free on-demand video collection highlighting the breadth and depth of our local arts community.
She knew the 2020 Vespers performance and line upon line would be the perfect pairing to illustrate the diversity present in all 16 videos chosen for the collection.
“On one hand, you have the beloved TLU choirs and instrumentalists offering a full-length Vespers program; a beautiful message of hope and healing through choral artistry and spoken word,” she said. “Austin audiences look forward to Christmas Vespers every year, but the pandemic made it impossible for TLU perform in person. On the other hand, you have the bold innovators from line upon line offering two new short, inventive works that can’t be performed live, made especially for the times we’re living in. It’s such a captivating pairing. On the surface, one seems to offer tradition and the other innovation, but which is which? Both are highly creative in their own way. Both are steeped in the tradition of innovation that is central to all the arts: they are using the materials available to them to speak to the human heart.”
Both McElhaney and School Of Music Director Dr. Doug Boyer hope viewers are moved by the message of resilience.
“We are much stronger together,” Boyer said. “The Vespers theme of ‘singing’ light and grace into the darkest places of human experience is what ties us closely to the event, the other amazing musicians and ensembles, and to the community of listeners. As musicians, I feel our job is to connect to one another through music and to experience moments of beauty together in community.”