Hurricane Harvey's floodwaters wrecked things. Because it wields the powerful tool of music, the state's music community has tried to help rebuild what needs fixing with an array of benefit shows and fundraisers. Organizing all those tools neatly into one toolkit has recently become the Texas Music Office's most pressing objective.
The TMO is an arm of the governor's office designed to create and promote business opportunities for the Texas music industry, and it oversees a vast network to do so. After the storm, it noticed many musicians were eager to help their neighbors. TMO director Brendon Anthony said the office's vast reach seemed like a natural fit for promoting these benefits and providing some structure. As early as August 29, just days after Harvey's landfall, the TMO asked benefit producers to submit their events to the office so those shows could be promoted via its media connections and social-media channels. The office also teamed with a prominent rebuild effort to help benefit producers channel the funds they'd raised.
"The TMO recognized early on in the wake of the Harvey disaster that it could play a vital role in an organizational capacity," says Anthony. "We were given the tools by the Rebuild Texas Foundation and their creation of a central nonprofit and began to work within the industry community to direct efforts. We issued a release via our office database encouraging those interested in the relief effort to contact us immediately. The idea was to encourage these efforts, prevent unnecessary overlap that might cannibalize funds, and then begin pairing these events with Rebuild Texas."
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The Rebuild Texas Fund is an initiative spearheaded by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, in collaboration with the OneStar Foundation. Its mission is to raise $100 million for long-term rebuilding efforts. It's about two-thirds of the way to its target and is expected to get a boon from a special event tonight in Austin's Frank Erwin Center. Dubbed "Harvey Can't Mess With Texas," the benefit will feature Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, Leon Bridges and others, with special guest appearances by celebrities like Matthew McConaughey, Dan Rather, Renée Zellweger and Luke Wilson. The event is sold out, but will stream live via YouTube and air locally at 9 p.m. on KHOU-TV (Channel 11).
"This benefit is a fine example of the willingness shown by the Texas Music Community to come together to support their fellow Texans in times of dire need," says Anthony. "We even got some legendary friends from around the country to pitch in. This concert event benefits rebuildtx.org and represents a partnership between several organizations who helped make it possible."
Those partners, he adds, are C3 Presents, GSD&M, ATX Music Office, the City of Austin, UT-Austin and the Erwin Center, KUT, KLRU, TEGNA, "and the amazing artists and volunteers who have said yes at every step of the way," Anthony says. "The event was a true collaboration and shows what the community is capable of in times of trouble."
Tonight's superstar event is just the latest in a series of shows, large and small, created to assist storm victims, the director notes. Other examples include the recent Hand In Hand telethon starring George Strait, Stevie Wonder and many others; a "softball jam" organized by Reckless Kelly, which raised $100,000; and the Texas Music Flood, a slate of benefits at nearly 50 Texas venues scheduled for October 8 and 15.
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"These efforts will generate millions in funding for those affected across this massive region," says Anthony. "We encourage any organizations that may be interested in continuing this effort to contact us if they haven’t done so already."
The state's music community took a hit, too. Many of the same musicians and industry professionals trying to help others have also lost their homes, instruments and/or livelihoods. The TMO has posted a list of resources on its site for artists and music-business professionals affected by Harvey, linking to information on a quartet of organizations offering assistance. They include the Grammy Foundation's MusiCares Foundation, the Houston Arts Alliance, the Texas Commission on the Arts and SoundExchange.
Anthony said the TMO continues to accept benefit-show submissions and encourages promoters to contact the office with pertinent information. He's quick to point out TMO is the toolbox, the receptacle holding the apparatuses that are helping to fix what's been damaged.
"Really want to help tell this story the best way we can," he says, "not to tout the TMO but to shine a light on our incredible Texas music-industry community that we are so proud and honored to serve."