Founded in 2013 by actor Matthew McConaughey, coach and sports analyst Mack Brown and recording artist Jack Ingram, along with their wives, Camila Alves, Sally Brown and Amy Ingram, MJ&M has already netted millions for selected children’s charities.
It’s a multi-tiered, star-studded affair with celebrity golf tourney, signature fashion show and two nights of music. The second concert, dubbed “Jack & Friends,” will feature Patty Griffin, Butch Walker and John Fullbright on April 13. That night, the spotlight falls on singer-songwriters.
Once controversial, the Dixie Chicks — Natalie Maines, Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire, in case anyone has not been paying attention — is the biggest selling all-female act in the country. They have taken home 13 Grammy Awards, sold more than 30 million albums and $100 million in concert tickets.
Past MJ&M headliners have included Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Kacey Musgraves, Toby Keith, Sheryl Crow and John Mellencamp.
In a statement, the three namesake fundraisers shared their excitement about this year’s big draw.
McConaughey: “The Dixie Chicks are incredible artists and we are looking forward to their performance.”
Jack Ingram: “Every year the music at MJ&M just gets better and better and this year is certainly no exception. We are honored to have the Dixie Chicks headline the gala concert.”
Mack Brown said: “The Dixie Chicks are so generous to support MJ&M with their incredible talent. Sally and I can’t wait to host them at MJ&M.”
Of course, Austinites claim the artists as their own.
“It’s always fun to play in Texas,” Maines says, “and supporting this incredible charity event which empowers kids and saves lives, is an opportunity we are inspired to be a part of.”
If you lived in Austin during the 1960s and ’70s, you called the oddly shaped domed structure on the shores of Town Lake the Municipal Auditorium.
If you arrived in the 1980s, it was then known as Palmer Auditorium, renamed after late Austin Mayor Lester Palmer. Maybe you referred to it jokingly as the “Green Turtle,” or variations on that theme.
If you were around during the 1990s and early 21st century, you’ll recall the seemingly Sisyphean efforts to turn that outdated 1959 building into the Long Center for the Performing Arts. Many things were tried; some failed, some succeeded.
And if you were in town March 28-30, 2008, you might have attended one many glorious events staged for the Long Center’s grand opening. One could praise right away the handsome and lively Dell Hall, the largest performance space, but also the terrace lined with columns — the result of an engineering challenge — that offered one of the finest views of the city skyline.
The center, home to the city’s top symphony, opera, ballet and choral companies, as well as to mid-sized arts groups and touring acts, is back in the spotlight this year. A larger 10th anniversary party is planned for fall 2018, but before that on March 3, the center will blaze with the talents of the Avett Brothers and Asleep at the Wheel for a celebratory concert and after party.
Never one to rest on its laurels, the Long Center staff and trustees have spent the past year reexamining the center’s role in the community. It was known in some circles a decade ago primarily as a place of refuge for the larger arts groups who were nudged out of Bass Concert Hall by the University of Texas. Yet even from days when charismatic leaders such as Cliff Redd explained the unbuilt center’s future role, it was always intended to be a place of convergence for all of the arts.
It became more than that — and, then again, sometimes less. Despite the absence of a hoped-for café or shop, the center swarmed with unexpected activity year-round, much of that outside. The place itself became the main event, not what was booked on its two indoor stages. And even those performance offerings became increasingly varied, less traditional.
Well, after spending a year with consulting creatives from the ad agency Archer Malmo, the Long Center leaders have in hand a plan to fill the spaces, including the much-loved H-E-B Terrace, with an even wider variety of entertainment.
“The landscape of Austin is changing and so are we,” says Cory Baker, president and CEO of the Long Center. “The most immediate changes you’ll see are in our programming, wherein we’re diversifying in order to set the stage for the next generation of artists.”
How that will play itself out remains to be seen. Everyone is aware of the city’s need for affordable artistic venues. What it means, however, for the current resident companies of Dell Hall and Rollins StudioTheatre, who often rehearse as well as perform there,remains unclear.
For now, branding upgrades will suffice while the staff tries to free up more dates to mix in fresh forms of shared activity.
UPDATE 1:30 Feb. 28.: We asked Baker to amplify her comments on the changes at the Long Center.
American-Statesman: What exactly do you mean by more diverse entertainment bookings in the future? The examples you use — movies, talks, etc. — are already a part of your line-up and have been for a while.
When we say diversifying programming, we are thinking beyond just adding new genres to the mix. We are focused on diversifying the experience options within the performing arts spectrum and being more intentional about our choices in order to expand our reach and engage new audiences.
We strive to be progressive, relevant and genuinely more reflective of our ever-evolving population. This means working with artists to create unique experiences for Austin – the Avett Brothers playing with Asleep at the Wheel, Bill Murray’s critically acclaimed new project – and blurring the lines to surprise our audiences by partnering with b to showcase boundary-breaking opera singer, Joseph Keckler.
We are also expanding the offerings within each genre, for instance, we are proud to present José Gonzálezand the Boston Pops (coming 2019). Our speaker series goes from world-renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to iconic photographer Annie Leibovitz.
Family programming is another area where our offerings are as different as the many families that we serve, from seeing the Paw Patrol juggernaut in Dell Hall to enjoying free bubble fun on the lawn for Bubblepalooza and our All Summer Long series of community events. This is part of our current programming, and it shows the intentional choices we will be making for the next 10 years and beyond.
What exactly does this mean for the seven resident companies? Less performance time? Less rehearsal time?
The Long Center is proud to continue to be the home of our resident companies. Our strategy has been to look at the calendar and performance spaces as creatively as possible in close coordination with our partners. An example of this is that the Austin Opera graciously works with us so that we can present on their dark nights. This year, we have already presented many incredible artists … through our willingness to share the space in creative ways.
When it comes to Rollins, the venue was always intended to be a shared community asset — an accessible, affordable and practical performance space for a wide array of local artists to create and present work. With the space crisis in Austin growing and demand on the room increasing, we have challenged ourselves to think proactively about how we can serve an extended range of arts groups in the city and work creatively with our existing partners to find practical solutions that will best serve the arts ecosystem here in Austin
KMFA Classical 89.5, the Texas Book Festival and the LBJ Foundation showed us all how to do good and have a good time this past week.
Sound Bites: KMFA at 50
When you throw your first gala 50 years into your history, you really want it to sing. The good folks behind Sound Bites for KMFA Classical 89.5 made it trill. First, they picked a music-themed venue, Hotel Van Zandt, then they placed musicians at key spots. Even the dinner dishes came with (stretched) musical analogies. Among my favorite touches was a mock-up of longtime “Voice of KMFA,” the late Leonard Masters, in his studio. The man looks like he was born to be a classical DJ.
The fundraising duties were kept classy and relatively short. We were hoping for a hint at bigger news, but none was forthcoming by the time I left, which, alas, was also before additional performances from some of my favorite local artists. But I did have time to relish one of the best things about Austin society: A long, far-ranging chat with somebody who knows our city well, cares about its future and does everything she can to make good things happen. In this case, it was Sharon Watkins, owner of Chez Zee, and a constant friend of the arts her entire life.
First Edition Literary Gala
Before I go into detail about this benefit for the Texas Book Festival, always one of the high points in the Austin social season, I must relate a sweet case of mistaken identity. It is the custom of the First Edition Literary Gala to place one of the year’s honored festival authors at each table of 10 guests. I was ushered to Table 2 as a reporter, but the table hosts from Dallas assumed I was “their author.” These incredibly gracious people treated me like royalty and it wasn’t until very late in the evening that I realized their misapprehension. Too late to disappoint them with the truth, that they spent dinner with a mere workaday writer whose second book is coming out in December.
On the dais, Dallas journalist and author Skip Hollandsworth (Texas Monthly, “The Midnight Assassin”) managed to be genuinely funny while retaining his dignity, a hard balancing act. The author-speakers, including Min Jin Lee, Attica Locke and Kevin Young, were not only incredibly distinguished in their own rights, they were more charismatic than any writer has a right to be. I can’t wait to read Locke’s “Bluebird, Bluebird,” set along Highway 59 in East Texas.
Two days later, at the actual festival in the Capitol district, I mostly haunted the tables of the small presses that don’t receive much attention, and made a neat discovery of a small book about the drug wars by Texas senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke with Susie Byrd, “Dealing Death and Drugs” (El Paso-based Cinco Puntos Press). Plainly written in a powerful style.
LBJ Foundation Award
We were not free to jet up to Washington, D.C., for this one, but the Austin-based LBJ Foundation handed David Rubenstein its LBJ Liberty & Justice for All Award during a dinner at the National Archives Museum. Rubenstein was honored for helping to preserve the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Declaration of Independence and other treasures. How’s that for a list of accomplishments?
“David Rubenstein has distinguished himself as one of the most grateful and generous Americans of our generation,” said Larry Temple, chairman of the LBJ Foundation. “He embodies the beliefs that President Johnson held dear — that our mission in public service is to serve man and provide opportunity to all.”
Among the dinner guests were Lynda Johnson Robb, Luci Baines Johnson, Amy Barbee, Ben Barnes, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Joaquin Castro.
Now the Academy Award-winning actor, the ESPN analyst and former Longhorns coach and the ACM Award-winning recording artist have set the date for their sixth annual fundraiser that culminates at ACL Live: April 12-13, 2018.
No headliner named yet, but past musical partners have included Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Kacey Musgraves, Toby Keith, Sheryl Crow and John Mellencamp. Additionally, Camila Alves will bring back your signature fashion show that weekend; past spotlighted designers have included Jason Wu, Veronica Beard, Badgley Mischka, Lela Rose, and Milly.
You probably stayed up pretty late after the first day at Zilker Park for the ACL Music Festival. Although plenty of potable and edible treats await you on the Great Lawn, you can zing into action before you arrive.