Letter from the Executive Director: Play on

So much of our identity as Austinites comes from the city’s famously vibrant live music scene. And Longhorns have always been especially proud to attend college in such a cultural mecca. Actually, let’s just call it what it is—a really cool place.   

In this issue, Alcalde senior editor Chris O’Connell interviewed three Longhorns who, against all odds, managed to build major careers in music. Even before the global pandemic hit our shores, success in the industry was elusive for most. But when COVID-19 forced bars and clubs across the country to close, and social distancing became the norm, it was nearly impossible. These three alumni have found a way to survive, and keep others employed, by being resourceful, adaptable, and—it comes up several times in the story—optimistic.   

Music is the fuel that keeps Austin so delightfully weird and has nurtured the souls of college-age dreamers since the beginning. Personally, what I love about the live music capital of the world is its magical ability to convene old friends and bring new ones into a circle. Who has been out to a show where you didn’t meet someone new? I can’t tell you how many strangers I’ve bought a Shiner for over the years. Now at 50-something years old, tickets to see the musicians I love are still my favorite date night splurge with my wife. Black Cat and its heavy rock music from my days as a student at UT have been replaced by the Saxon Pub, Speakeasy, and the Continental Club—but the feeling I get is the same.  

There is absolutely no replacement for that atmosphere, or the transient camaraderie you form with 200 strangers for an evening. The music scene is our brand in Austin, and it has made an indelible mark on the history of the university. As I’ve traveled the world in my career and told people I’m from Austin, it’s always the live music they ask about. And when I entertained visiting clients here, sure they liked the food, but what they really wanted to do was catch a set or two at a club downtown.   

There is some combination of things that are unique and special to our city—call it the innate friendliness of Texans, combined with the appreciation and acceptance of all walks of life, but it wouldn’t be Austin, Texas, and it wouldn’t be The University of Texas, if the shows don’t come back. I’m encouraged to know such talented Longhorns are doing everything they can to keep the lights on and preserve the magic for future generations.   

Hook ’em, 

Chuck Harris
BBA ’86, Life Member

Above: Harris and his wife, Tamra, out at a live show pre-COVID.


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