Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report
After a months-long process, San Antonio has received its official designation as a Music Friendly Community from the Texas Music Office.
The public announcement Monday included a performance by local band Buttercup, and speakers Mayor Ron Nirenberg; Department of Arts and Culture Director Debbie Racca-Sittre; Brendon Anthony, who directs the Texas Music Office; and longtime San Antonio musician Henry Brun.
“It’s fantastic,” Brun said of the honor, pointing out that San Antonio is now one of only four such cities in music-rich Texas. The other officially designated Music Friendly Communities are Austin, Fort Worth, and Denton.
Brun said that he and fellow members of the Music Committee, a subcommittee of the City’s Arts Commission, worked for the better part of a year on achieving the designation from the state office, which supports and promotes the state’s music business.
"But more importantly, it’s only the beginning of what we’re trying to do here as a Committee, and as a Commission, in legitimizing the industry’s perspective,” he said.
Recognition as a Music Friendly Community brings with it support for the San Antonio music industry from the Texas Music Office and the Department of Arts and Culture, to help foster communication with the “powers that be,” Brun said.
Better communication among industry professionals and City and State officials might facilitate desired regulatory changes, including permitting for events, parking rules and other regulations for music venues, payment policies for musicians, and other music industry goals, according to local musicians and venue owners.
Several steps were required for the city to be considered for the designation, including convening a public workshop, which was held Nov. 29.
“We realized that San Antonio is a lot closer to our goals than we may have imagined,” said Adam Tutor at that workshop, speaking of how the San Antonio music industry compares to other, similar music-friendly cities. Tutor is director of community engagement for San Antonio Sound Garden, a local music advocacy organization that completed a report last year on the economics of the local music industry for the Department of Arts and Culture.
The report completed another step towards the designation, to establish data-sharing between the City and State music offices. A further step included establishing an official music liaison, and Film and Music Commissioner Krystal Jones has stepped into that role.
The Music Committee has an open-door policy, Brun said, and is itself a liaison between the music community and the City. At public meetings, anyone is invited to give comments to Committee members, he said.
“To me, the only bad comments are those that aren’t mentioned,” Brun said. “Let me hear the negative, because we can always find answers for those. If not, we’ll look for them,” he said.
The Music Committee meets at 3:15 p.m. on the second Monday of every month at the Plaza De Armas. Meetings are currently scheduled for April 9, June 11, and Aug. 13.
That San Antonio nearly just lost its symphony orchestra might seem at odds with recognition as a community friendly to its musicians. But the official designation focuses on the commercial music industry, Anthony specified, and not nonprofit organizations like the San Antonio Symphony, Classical Music Institute, and other groups.
“What I and the Texas Music Office are working towards, is real systemic support for the commercial music world, and the industry pros who live and breathe it,” Anthony wrote in an email when asked about the designation in relation to the Symphony.
However, Anthony said, “Fine arts programs are extremely important, and cities that can afford to should fully support these programs. They provide real opportunities for education, and for meaningful involvement in cultural activities, for kids who desperately need those kinds of outlets.”
The Tobin Center might be among the biggest beneficiaries if both its resident Symphony survives, and the local music industry thrives.
During its Jan. 17 sold-out show at the Tobin's Carlos Alvarez Theater, Buttercup lead singer Erik Sanden thanked the Tobin for hosting the show, and pointed out that if one local band can pack the house, others should follow.
The crowd cheered loudly.