Archive for: August 2014

Tejano Bars Diminishing in East Austin

Music: A Study, A Lifestyle


Written by: Heather Leighton

The smooth rhythms of pianists, strong choruses of opera vocalists, and rapid bowing and fingering of the strings filled the air in the practice hall for the music majors at the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas.

Walking down the hall I would peek through the narrow windows into the practice rooms where the artists would be sitting, or standing, or pacing. All would have a focused stare in their eye as they read their sheet music; many would rarely look up to see me outside.

Listening to these students simply practice caused my body to chill, my heart to smile, and my mind to be amazed.

“Music is great to have a passion for, but if you’re not 100 percent committed, then it’s probably not the life for you,” said Nathan Mertens, a doctoral candidate in saxophone performance at the university.


University of Texas piano professor, Martha Hilley, believes that if more of the general public realized the benefits of studying music, regardless of the instrument, they would see the importance of music. Rather than thinking of it as a frill; an extra. Photo by Marshall Tidrick.

Two to three hours per day is the minimum amount of practice time suggested to the students from many of their professors, although many practice three to five hours per day.

“The amount of effort that you have to put into the artistry side of it and the fact that you’re never at a spot that you can stop, you can always be better,” Martha Hilley, a professor of piano at the University of Texas, says. “Would you ever slow down as a mathematician if you could get smarter?”

Eva Van Houten reads along her sheet music as she plays the viola. She originally learned the violin and has now learned the viola. The two are similar and the transition was an easy one, according to Van Houten. Photo by Marshall Tidrick.

Eva Van Houten reads along her sheet music as she plays the viola. She originally learned the violin and has now learned the viola. The two are similar and the transition was an easy one, according to Van Houten. Photo by Marshall Tidrick.

Along with practicing daily, music majors are required to take the same course load as all other undergraduate students at the university. This entails 42total hours of core curriculum comprised of English, foreign language, sciences, mathematics, government, history, humanities, and arts.

“Not only do I have homework in all of my classes, but every day I am practicing four or five hours on my instrument and that is the number one priority,” said Mertens.

Music floods the airwaves from headphones, to stores and restaurants, to the University of Texas tower at noon.

“Music is a part of everyone’s life. You can’t go a day without hearing music. Even walking down the street you can hear it in cars,” said Brian Taylor, a music and education double major UT student. “And I think that if you study music, you’ll better able to appreciate it and you can understand why it’s making you happy or sad.


Taylor holds a long note through his trumpet during his practice. “Music a part of everyone’s life and after you know more about it, I think, it helps you connect with it more.” Photo by Marshall Tidrick.

According to professor Hilley, people do not go into music thinking that they are going to be better coordinated, better organized, or have a better ability with scanning material.

“These skills are not normally linked to music, but things that happen as you study music,” she said. “It’s beneficial from a stand point of social well-being, because so much of music is making music with other people.”

According to Dr. Robert Duke, professor of music and human learning and an advisor for the Butler School of music, there is an immediate connection with other musicians, regardless of a possible language barrier.

“I’m not sure how many other activities you can have that immediate rapport with people whom you’ve never met before,” he said.

Though when the Texas Legislature threatened to cut public education budgets by five million dollars in 2011, many music and fine art supporters wereworried that the arts would suffer.

“I think that the arts are becoming less important in our secondary education and that we are ignoring a whole section of our society,” said Harvey Pittel, a former professor of saxophone for the Butler School of Music. “And we are, in a way, beginning to turn our back on our culture.”


Harvey Pittel smiles at his home while speaking on the impact of music in his own life: “I think that everyone that plays a musical instrument has something they want to say, that maybe can’t say it in a different way.” Photo by Marshall Tidrick.

According to Pittel, although the amount of money may be decreasing, the amount of students interested in the arts is not.

“I see more students that I have ever seen wanting to go into the arts, but often the funding isn’t there,” he said, “and that’s of grave concern to me.”

Eva Van Houten, a master’s student in music and human learning, caught this desire for the arts.

“My original inspiration for studying music was joy, I think, I found a lot of happiness in it,” said Van Houten. “When I was a kid I felt a sense of happiness that I didn’t experience in other places.”

Hilley describes this sense of happiness differently. “Music is all consuming,” she said, “so there has to be a fire in the belly or you wouldn’t do it.”


Would you donate your own money towards music education?

image (2)Information gathered from:

Music's Benefits To The Brain


Up, Up, and Away: Austin Cosplay Community Takes Off

Lee, suited in his Iron Man costume, takes a photo with a fan in the middle of Sixth Street. Photo by ChinLin Pan.

Cosplayer Albert Lee, suited in his Iron Man costume, takes a photo with a fan in the middle of Sixth Street. Photo by ChinLin Pan.

By ChinLin Pan, Barbi Barbee, and Alisa Semiens

When Arcy Ward steps out in her new outfit, people will stare. As she walks down the sidewalk, some may take pictures. She just smiles when this sort of thing happens because she knows she looks good.

After all, her top made of black pleather and gold trim is certainly eye-catching. She matches the look with velvety maroon cutout pants. To pull it all together, she handcrafted silver and red skull knee pads and the matching necklace and belt buckle.

“You get the strangest looks from people,” Ward said. “Also some good reactions, too. It’s kind of part of the fun in being in costume. That you can go around and kind of freak out some people who weren’t expecting you.”

No, Ward isn’t joining a metal band. She is a cosplayer.

Cosplay is costume play. A person dresses up as a character from any of their favorite works. Popular choices come from anime, manga, role play games, and comic books. Costumes are often handmade and then worn to conventions.


Ward’s latest creation is High Command Katarina from the multiplayer online game “League of Legends.”

“I’ve actually had to use a lot more complicated materials than I have previously when I was making it,” Ward said. “I have pleather for the top and I have probably had to use a good 120 pins just to get everything in place with proper ribbons and everything. I have suede belt buckles that I made by hand.”
After working on her costume at least eight hours a day for a week, Ward traveled from Austin to Baltimore to debut her costume at the Otakon anime convention from Aug. 8-10.

Otakon is just one of many conventions Ward has attended in costume. It is one of many conventions that will occur in the next few months all over the United States.

Lee often suits up as Iron Man to take photos with people on Sixth Street, meet up with other cosplayers, and score free drinks. Photo by ChinLin Pan.

Lee often suits up as Iron Man to take photos with people on Sixth Street, meet up with other cosplayers, and score free drinks. Photo by ChinLin Pan.

“At various conventions, it’s like a con family where you see the same people a couple times a year,” Ward said. “You can meet other people too if they are cosplaying something from a series you like. It’s an instant friend. You can just go up to them and talk to them about the series.”

But conventions can cost hundreds of dollars to attend.

Cosplayer Albert Lee says the trouble is finding a balance between the cost of costume materials and the price of admission into events to display them.
“I have only been to Ikkicon and South By Southwest sadly,” Lee said. “It’s like the great paradox of cosplaying. You always have ‘X’ amount of time to finish a cosplay, and then you have so little time to go to these convention. And then you have all this money you dumped into the costume, you don’t have enough money to purchase tickets for conventions.”

Lee has poured thousands of dollars into creating his costumes.

“The most amount of time and money I have put— that costume would probably be my Iron Patriot suit,” Lee said. “That one cost me 1.5K of my own dollars to put into. A lot of that went into electronics and such.”

As a result, he chooses to showcase his work weekend nights on Austin’s famous Sixth Street. These days he’s sporting an Iron Man costume made of foam, yoga mats, and various electronic parts.

“Recently I started walking downtown,” Lee said. “My other friend—he dresses up as either Boba Fett and Mecha Spawn—we walk around downtown, and take pictures with people and it’s fun. People get us drinks and stuff, so it’s always a great experience.”

Austin will host a Cosplay Expo at The Vortex theatre and bar. Cosplayer and host of the event Justin LaVergne hopes to draw in cosplayers from all over Austin and create a greater sense of community in the city.

“Austin’s cosplay community is a little more spread out than other places like Dallas and Houston and San Antonio,” LaVergne said. So we’re trying to bring things things together, because if we get together we can help each other. Because everyone has a different skill set. And if we can get all of these people together, that can boost everybody’s ways of making cosplay.”

As an experienced cosplayer, LaVergne says the best thing about it is the social world it opens up to people.

“Cosplay allows them to be more of themselves, be more social,” LaVergne said. “Wearing a costume is like wearing armor. Seeing someone that’s from the same anime or from the same comic as you, and being able to go up to them, because you have something, that you can see physically that you have something in common with this person. It’s a lot easier to talk to them.”

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of West Campus