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Austin Musicians United

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The fourth annual Black Fret Ball will honor local artists.

By Deborah Hamilton-Lynne, Photos by Nicola Gell Photography, Erin Ivey Bloom Photography and Amy E. Price

In just three years, Black Fret has become one of the city’s most successful nonprofits. In Austin, the live-music capital of the world, many musicians struggle to ply their craft, and Black Fret was created to aid and empower musicians to create and perform new work. To date, the organization has given more than half a million dollars in grants to local musicians.

Carson McHone

The organization’s unique model brings together music patrons and musicians in an interactive exchange that includes unprecedented personal access to some of the city’s top artists. This exchange is done through a broad range of private events, including concerts in intimate settings and the annual Black Fret Ball, where grant recipients are celebrated and also provide the evening’s entertainment.

“What sets Black Fret apart is the opportunity to support local music while participating in an incredible community of members, advisors and Black Fret artists,” says Matt Ott, Black Fret co-founder.

In addition to the grants, all Black Fret nominees have continued access to one-on-one mentoring from Black Fret’s advisory board, which consists of some of Austin’s top music industry leaders.

Erin Ivey

No one can relate to the mission of Black Fret better than Erin Ivey, an inaugural Black Fret artist. The award-winning singer/songwriter, with three releases under her belt, was named Musician of the Year by Texas Music Magazine and now serves as Black Fret’s director of member experience.

“Every day, I feel the urgency of Black Fret’s mission to empower musicians to create and perform new work,” Ivey says. “As our city grows and changes, the Black Fret community is actively building an institution to preserve Austin’s quintessential gift.”

With a goal of building an endowed institution capable of sustaining more than $1 million a year in grants to Austin’s musicians, Ivey is tasked with strengthening the core-membership experience and fueling growth of membership.

Wendy Colonna and Suzanna Choffel

Black Fret annual dues are $1,500 and give members access to all the organization’s events, as well as the annual Black Ball. Grant recipients are selected through a yearlong process through which members, advisors and prior grant recipients nominate, lobby for, attend performances by and finally vote for their favorite artists.

The fourth annual Black Fret Ball will be Dec. 9 at the Paramount Theatre. Membership includes entry for a member and guest to attend. For more information, visit blackfret.org.

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