Being that we have a few music aficionados (and some practitioners, at that) on staff at the Libraries, we note that we’re once again amid the academic calendar timeout when the students take a (mostly) well-deserved break from classes and the city becomes a mobility nightmare as vectors from the tech, film and music industries converge on Austin to engage in a gathering of equal parts profile building and navel gazing.
It’s no easy task to break through, though — be it at an annual conference like SXSW, or just as a matter of standing out in a world where technology has been significantly democratized creating a flood of entertainment options. And refining your craft is somewhat easier when your passion is also your job; the tech sector tends to breed its own winners, and industry experience is almost a prerequisite for succeeding in Hollywood. That fact makes being a pure artist an almost Sisyphean undertaking in the modern world.
More often than not, people with creative dispositions need to find jobs among the ranks of the blue and pink collar working set in order to provide income to support themselves through early (or even permanent) periods of anonymity. In New York, fledgling thespians eye Broadway from behind the mirrored windows of cafes as baristas or bartenders. The young and attractive who trek west with eyes on Hollywood make ends meet working as waitstaff in LA’s swankiest hotspots, hoping to cross paths with an industry bigshot. And many visual artists bide their time in production jobs on Grand Avenue in Chicago waiting for their first big gallery show or positive review to launch their career.
So how do musicians who live in the “Live Music Capital of the World” sustain themselves while they hone their art and build an audience? At least one place you might find a featured act in a new music showcase or subject of a glowing Pitchfork review are among the staff in the libraries on the UT campus.
The Libraries have harbored a substantial lineage of musically-inclined talent among the ranks of its past and present staff, mostly in support positions that provide the heavy lifting — both literally and figuratively — of library work. Beloved Austin singer Marcia Ball worked as a clerk at the Collections Deposit Library on the edge of campus in the early 70s. Before he was placing his stamp on the scene with fellow True Believer Jon Dee Graham, Alejandro Escovedo was checking out books at the Perry-Castañeda Library circulation desk. And there’s a virtual catalog of other personalities from Austin’s music scene — both known and supposed — that have some connection to the libraries on the Forty Acres.
How an academic library became a magnet for creatives in Austin makes sense. As the city has grown in fits and starts, much of the wage-earning job opportunities have been in the retail and food service spaces that serve the university community and cater to the student demographic. Likewise, many of the low cost residential rentals have historically been clustered in north and west campus neighborhoods where it provided easy access to campus denizens who didn’t have access to vehicles, or artists who needed to be close to the arts and entertainment venues that afford the best opportunities for exposure. A university community tends to feed the intellectual curiosity of its host city’s population, and those with natural tendencies toward cerebral pursuits, in turn, gravitate to the campus.
Add in an ever-escalating cost of living — especially those costs associated with healthcare — and a university job with its relative security and benefits becomes a much more attractive prospect for an artist who needs income to support their creative habits than most of the other wage-based options available.
Then again, some folks just wind up here because they love the books, or the people, or the place.
LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections celebrated the memory of Dr. Nettie Lee Benson and the achievements and generosity of Dr. Teresa Lozano Long at the unveiling of two bronze plaques in Sid Richardson Hall honoring the influential women on Friday, March 6.
LLILAS Benson director Charles Hale provided a warm introduction to attendees, and UT president Bill Powers followed, remarking with admiration of the late Nettie Lee Benson, a librarian and a scholar, whose vision and tenacity built the Benson Collection into one of the world’s premiere collections of Latin American materials. Powers also spoke to the significant contributions — material and intellectual — that Lozano Long and her husband Joe Long have made to Latin American scholarship and to The University of Texas at Austin.
The Longs shared the ceremony with family and friends, and Benson was represented in attendance by her three nephews, Bill, Doug and Joe Benson.
See more photos of the event from the Austin American-Statesman.
Hi. I’m Natalie Moore, the development specialist for the Libraries.
Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a grassroots effort to crowd-fundraise for the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio here at UT. At first mention, this seemed like a really great idea for a really unorthodox place. Don’t get me wrong, I love working in the Libraries, but it seemed like an unlikely place for a recording studio. As I started to identify students, faculty, and other staff members to help with this cause, it became apparent that the Fine Arts Library is the most appropriate place for a recording studio on UT’s campus. While this technology exists on campus, it is locked up, and saved for individuals in certain departments and colleges. Students, faculty, and even my fellow staff members’ eyes lit up as they learned that, “yes, the FAL Recording studio will be open to all current faculty, students, and staff,” and, “no, this isn’t just for musicians.”
I am excited about the Fine Arts Library hosting this incubator for creativity. I can only imagine what types of work will surface as a product of this great initiative.
UT Libraries HornRaiser site will become live Wednesday, March 18. Interested in getting involved? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
As we gear up for our HornRaiser campaign, I want to share some reactions from current UT students. Here is the first one:
Music Production, Sophomore
“Well, I work in my shoddy home studio everyday. It’s very low key with the ultimate level of ‘just the essentials.’ Having a place to have access to more equipment, like 2 mics, different kind of mics, instruments, workstations, really awesome sound monitors, would make the biggest difference in the world. Having a professional area adds a level beyond hanging up egg cartons and stuffed animals to help reduce room noise. The possibilities are endless.”
UT Libraries is about to embark on a HornRaiser (crowd-funding) campaign to equip a recording studio in the Fine Arts Library. You can check out our funding page here: https://hornraiser.utexas.edu/createut