New Board Initiates Changes:  Sponsors Major Festival, Partners With Non-Profit To Bring Instruments to Schools

The Brass House Blues Tavern, 115 San Jacinto, Austin, TX will be the site of the annual “Heart of Texas Blues Challenge” staged by the Austin Blues Society (ABS). The 4-week challenge happens each Thursday in July starting  July 10th. Thirteen bands will vie for $500 in prize money and a chance to represent Austin in Memphis, Tennessee at the International Blues Competition (IBC) on January 15, 2015.

Tickets to the first event July 10th are $10 and can be bought here. The featured bands during the “Heart of Texas Blues Challenge”  Preliminaries #1 are Palacio Brothers, Lazy J and the Dirty Shuffle, The PMJ Blues Band, Kid Blue, and Granvil Poynter. Heart of Texas Blues Challenge (HOTBC) competitors who advance to the international competition have an unparalleled opportunity to showcase their music to recording industry representatives, music festival organizers, talent scouts, and promoters.

Rev. Al Green and Julia Cruz Magness in Memphis

Rev. Al Green and Julia Cruz Magness in Memphis

The Austin Blues Society  has sent  bands every year to Memphis since 2006.  In 2012, Julia Cruz Magness (The Bells of Joy, Miss Julia and the Cruzers) was Austin’s winner and advanced to the semi-finals of the International Blues Competition. She was asked to return to Memphis the next year as a judge. Magness said “I think the best thing about the IBC is the fellowship with other musicians. You make lifelong connections with people who have a passion for the Blues. I also have a passion for Gospel. You can actually go to church in Memphis and experience Al Green preaching to you and singing.”

If you are a musician and you haven’t been to Memphis then you must go! Even if you aren’t competing … go to the IBC. – Julia Cruz Magness

She continued “Meet people, learn about music history, listen to some amazing music….Try to meet Al Green or the countless musicians around Beale Street. There is so much history there.”

The ABS represents the past, present, and future of Blues music through the education, commemoration and preservation. They seek to honor the many Blues legends that have graced their stages, and they support and promote all of Austin’s Blues artists, both veterans and new arrivals. Plans are in the works for a Blues Hall of Fame (possibly hosted by the Texas Music Museum) according to Bill Bushey, Vice President of the society.

The ABS also serves the  community as “Ambassadors of the Blues” and  share their  love for the culture through hosted jams and community events.  The ABS is sponsoring the “Pflugerville Pfirecracker Pfestival,” on July 4th from 3 p.m. to 11. p.m., and over 10 thousand people are expected to attend this free annual event.  There will be 12 bands on two stages on Pflugerville Lake, vendors, swimming, kayak rentals and a major fireworks display. Thirty free shuttle buses will start running at noon, ferrying people from Hendrickson High School and Pflugerville High School to the festival.    The ABS will have a booth set up on the grounds with membership information and merchandise.

One of the Austin Blues Society’s latest accomplishments is the alliance with Envision. Design. Create., an Austin based community organization lead by Amberly Russell, dedicated to countering the way poverty is systematically crippling communities. Russell approached the Austin Blues Society in March of 2014 to ask for support with their latest community project –an Indiegogo fundraiser to provide instruments for an at-risk youth music program at Sims Elementary School titled, “Help Fund the Future of Austin Music”. Together these two organizations have raised $3200. Strait Music, an Austin based music retailer, graciously offered deep discounts for any items purchased with their company. Due to these strategic community partnerships, economically disadvantaged children in East Austin now have access to music as a creative outlet and an additional source for enhancing English and mathematics competencies.

The Austin Blues Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is looking for volunteers in different capacities to help further a higher awareness and greater appreciation of this historic art form. To learn more about the Society and find out how you can help contribute, contact Veronica Kump, To help fund the dreams of aspiring blues musicians and “keep Blues music live” in Austin, make a donation to ABS for the “Heart of Texas Blues Challenge.”


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