On Friday, Nov. 27, HOME streamed their annual HOME Cookin’ for the Holidays benefit live via Facebook. The board answered a few questions about the event and its virtual future.
By Cy White, images courtesy of HOME Austin
One of the hardest hit industries in this pandemic was undoubtedly entertainment. Particularly musicians who rely on live events to survive. As with most of the elderly during this time, it was especially difficult for older musicians. On Friday, Nov. 27, Housing Opportunities for Musicians and Entertainers (HOME), an Austin-based women-led nonprofit dedicated to helping older musicians find housing, held their annual HOME Cookin’ for the Holidays benefit. It was an evening of music, food and generosity. The virtual concert included performances and dishes from Delbert McClinton, Charley Crockett, Ray Benson, Lisa Loeb, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ruthie Foster, Marc Broussard, Raul Malo, Jackie Venson, Gina Chavez, Vintage Trouble and more. The board, itself comprised of several musicians who performed, answered a few questions about the event and its virtual future.
Could you each please introduce yourselves for our readers?
Carolyn Wonderland, local goofball, founding member of HOME, guitarist for John Mayall.
Nancy Coplin, HOME Board President. I moved back to Austin in 1983. As an avid music lover, I quickly got involved in the Austin music scene. I was/am 1) first chair of the Austin Music Commission—“Live Music Capital of the World Slogan” and Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial, 2) talent buyer for the iconic Armadillo Christmas Bazaar for 30+ years, 3) music coordinator for Austin Bergstrom International Airport and produced over 7000 shows and 4) 2020 inductee (and first woman) into the Austin Music Industry Hall of Fame.
Hi there, Marsha Milam here. Founder of Ben Milam Bourbon, Milam & Greene Distillery plus cofounder of the Austin Film Festival.
My name is Eve Monsess. I’m a musician, co-owner of Antone’s Record Shop and proud HOME board member.
My name is Shelley King, and I am a singer-songwriter, band leader, record producer, music publisher, multi-Austin Music Award winner, 2008 Official State Musician of Texas, a wife and mom and founding board member of HOME.
I am Marcia Ball, a founding board member and vice-president of HOME.
Catarina Sigerfoos, native Texan. I grew up in a family of working musicians.
Can you tell us a bit about the planning process for an event like this?
EM: Lots of emails, texts and weekly Zoom meetings! We worked on this for months. We initially approached it as a virtual concert, but then Marsha Milam came up with the cooking aspect, and it just built from there.
CW: The biggest hurdle was bringing people together virtually in a world full of livestream shows. How could we make this special? What would be fun and personal? Our committee met virtually every week and started asking our friends if they could send us a song and share favorite recipes. We were excited that dang near everyone said yes and some even cooked for us!
NC: We asked Turk Pipkin to be our emcee. He helped tremendously to help us put the show together, from dialog to run of show. We also were very lucky to get Brown Distributing as a sponsor and having Agnes guide in many areas, including the compilation of our cookbook. Once we determined the basics, we morphed into our skill areas and went to work.
MM: My background is PR and event production, so it was fun to work on something that was not “physical” but virtual. Mainly the same skill set: line up talent, find sponsors, promote the show. We divided up the various functions and the person with the most experience was responsible for that aspect of the show. It was great fun and super smooth.
SK: We wanted to present a show that was entertaining and engaging but also down-to-earth and neighborly. There are a lot of music-only livestream shows these days, but we hadn’t seen one that incorporated cooking segments. The Home Cookin’ for the Holidays show was an intimate peek into these celebrities’ kitchens and a chance to have the recipes of some of our favorite stars.
Did you have any expectations going into planning the event this year?
CW: Just that there would be a few learning curves to master.
NC: Producing virtual events was new to some of us and second hand to others on the committee. One of the most substantial factors for our success was securing Heather Wagner Reed of Juice Consulting as our media sponsor. In addition to her skill for creating local interest and press, she also introduced us to the world of academia. Heather teaches a class in marketing and PR in the Austin Community College Music Business, Performance and Technology program. She made our event her class project. I have never been so inspired by a group of young people ever. They helped us with our social media, advertising, YouTube channel and marketing of this event, and we were all over the place.
The enormous generosity of the musicians. Not only to sing and record a song for us, but to give their individual shoutout for HOME.Marsha Milam
MM: For it to be the coolest virtual fundraiser anyone in Austin has done this year.
EM: I always had confidence that it would be a successful and thoughtfully assembled event. I feel fortunate to have the chance to work with such a great group of people who I knew would be a blast to work with.
SK: We expected that we would have fun and raise money. But the level of support from the artists and community went above and beyond our expectations.
MB: The musicians on the HOME Special Events Committee, Carolyn Wonderland, Eve Monsees, Shelley King and I, have all had experience with livestreaming and pre-recording performances. We have also all seen many virtual events in the past nine months. So we knew how we wanted the show to look, and we knew it was going to be a lot of work. Especially for Carolyn, who compiled all the videos we collected from our guest artists, and Shelley, who put together the video for the finale song featuring everyone on the HOME board.
The committee also anticipated that an important factor in the success of these types of events is how well promoted they are. So we enlisted two key sponsors from the start: Agnes Fuccello at Brown Distributing and Heather Wagner-Reed with Juice Consulting. Marsha Milam is a veteran promoter and publicist and she came up with the idea of adding a culinary element to our event and that gave us a fun and unique angle to add interest to our show.
When planning for this year in particular, what kind of goals did you have in mind?
NC: We hoped to raise a substantial goal of $50,000, which included inviting pre-event angel donors and sponsors and the multiple day of event donors and many after. We have exceeded all expectations and have surpassed $75,000.
MM: Bring in 50K (exceeded), increase HOME’s awareness in the community through press coverage and digital media (Facebook followers up 25%) and have fun working on it.
EM: We wanted to offer something special and unique. At first we focused on securing a stellar lineup. Since we knew this would be a virtual event where artists would play one song, it gave us the chance to feature way more people than a traditional in-person event. Plus we were able to ask folks who normally wouldn’t have been available.
SK: We also had goals of presenting a quality program and giving something worthwhile back to the community. The opportunity to see all of these amazing artists perform their music and share their recipes was wonderful.
MB: We also hoped to increase awareness of the mission of HOME, to assist older Austin-area musicians with their living expenses. In spite of the challenges in 2020, HOME has been able to expand our services to include more clients. While we are somewhat known in Austin, our event got the word out to a wider audience.
For each of you, what has been the most rewarding aspect of holding this event every year?
CW: Knowing that we are keeping roofs over the heads of Austin’s elder musicians. It is disheartening that our services are needed. But we aim to help as many folks as we can to make sure they are afforded the dignity of housing.
NC: I have been involved in hundreds of live events, but virtual is very different. I learned so much. That is the most rewarding aspect for me that I learned so much and that we pulled off this amazing event that started from just an idea.
Also, I must add that our committee was most amazing. Each member had their own skill, whether it was Marsha Milam’s idea to add the cooking component to Carolyn Wonderland’s amazing skill of putting the music together. Shelly King had video skills, which enhanced our “Board Song.” Marcia Ball has amazing outreach in the community and was able to greatly enhance our donations. Plus she can sew masks. Eve Monsees was able to help coordinate art work and social media. Catarina Sigerfoos assisted with sponsors and sponsor gifts. I was, as Marsha Milam noted, “Mission Control,” which helped with the coordination of everyone and everything. I am also a professional nag, so things got done. All our musician board members participated in a great song, written by board member Sarah Brown that was the amazing finale for our show.
MM: First and foremost is the abiity to help those marvelous musicians which helped make Austin, Austin. Second it was a joy to work with the women on the committee on a weekly basis.
EM: The opportunity to give back to people who have helped shape the Austin music scene is such a rewarding feeling. I’ve been lucky to share the stage with a wealth of talent over the years, and as I see my musical heroes getting older, I know that some of them need a little extra help.
The biggest hurdle was bringing people together virtually in a world full of livestream shows. How could we make this special? What would be fun and personal?Carolyn Wonderland
SK: It is rewarding to know we can move forward and help more people in need. The funds raised through this event have helped numerous aging musicians at a time when that help was desperately needed. Because of these generous donations to HOME, many will get to keep roofs over their heads, heat and electricity service will continue. These may seem like very basic needs to some. But unfortunately, many of our senior musicians are seriously in a bind and need this help before it’s too late.
MB: What I think many people have figured out is that the global reach of an online presentation draws a much larger audience and is an asset that we will continue to employ even when we can go back to performing in person and holding live events. That said, we are definitely looking forward to going back to the annual live Holiday Tour of Texas cities that Shelley, Carolyn, Sarah Brown and I have been doing for the past few years, which usually culminates with a show for HOME in Austin.
CS: We’re all fans of music, so we enjoy presenting the excellent talents of our musicians. We like being able to raise funds to support our local senior musicians.
2020 has certainly presented unique challenges for eventing. For each of you, what were some of the most challenging aspects of taking your event virtual?
CW: Learning how to mix sound and edit videos in a timely fashion.
NC: Most challenging for me was the technical aspect. But as I said, I learned a lot. Also, I feel like my biggest challenge and accomplishment was delegating and not trying to do everything myself.
MM: Since I was more concept, awareness, sponsorship—for me it was like any other show.
EM: For live events you get everything planned as best you can ahead of time. Then everyone shows up to the venue and the show unfolds. (And Nancy is there to make sure everything runs on time.) We have all that stuff down. We’ve done it before. But this was very different. There was video editing and elements that we’d never had to consider before. Carolyn did an amazing job of gathering the videos and working with Jumper Productions to assemble a really great show.
SK: Many of us have been performing livestream shows to stay in touch with fans, but a show of this magnitude and with this many artists was challenging. We luckily had the help of many very talented people both on our board and in our circle of friends and that made a huge difference when it came to spreading the word and having a smooth show.
MB: While there were still thank-you gifts involved, it didn’t seem as special as it does when you usher someone to the best seat in the house and serve them a drink. Also, we started our planning in July for a November event. It still felt rushed because we were learning the ropes every step of the way. My own learning curve included using iMovie for the first time to film and compress the two-hour process of making gumbo into a four-minute video with a storyline.
CS: We also wanted to get sponsorships on board, so there were slight barriers to pitching a new type of “concert.”
What was each of your favorite recipe(s) this year? Did you try any for your own family celebrations?
CW: Being the vegetarian, I loved Shinyribs’s Kevin Russell’s cooked salsa. It reminded me of my grandmother’s recipe. I was happy Whitney shared his secret backyard pepper sauce recipe! We just harvested the last of the peppers before the freeze.
NC: I think that I will be trying Ruthie’s Crack Chicken very soon.
MM: Shelley King’s making of Delbert McClinton’s Chicken Pot Pie! I made it the day after the show using leftover turkey. Was so excited to make it, bought all the extra ingredients, made pie crust and realized…I didn’t have a pie pan! So texting the committee, who offered tons of advice, I used a square pyrex pan and made a delicious square pie! Who says you can’t put a round peg in a square opening? It was fantastic, by the way.
EM: I haven’t had a chance to try anything yet, but I certainly will. I do have to say my Grandma was very proud to have her latke recipe published.
SK I love Delbert McClinton’s Favorite Chicken Pot Pie. A while back, Delbert’s wife, Wendy, sent me home with an extra Chicken Pot Pie that she had made. My family loved it. It has now become our favorite! I had so much fun doing the cooking demo for the Home Cookin’ for the Holiday’s show! Move over, Rachel Ray!
MB: My favorite recipe is Shelley’s Chicken Pot Pie for Delbert, and no, I haven’t tried to make it. I want her to make me one.
CS: SHINYRIBS Salsa! I tried it and it’s delicious!
Although you were in charge of making this event possible, I’m sure you’re also fans of the musicians. Who were you most looking forward to seeing/working with this year?
NC: I am a big fan of every musician in our show. I was so proud of our musician board members who performed throughout the video, but especially the finale song. Many of them are personal friends and I am so grateful for their help.
MM: I love Raul Malo, so he was fun for me
SK: I was so excited to see that everyone I hoped would be involved did get involved. I loved performing with Tracy Nelson, Marcia Ball and Carolyn Wonderland for the song “Where Do You Go When You Can’t Go Home.” It’s such a poignant song and really opens your heart. Knowing that many of our fellow musicians are struggling to have a home really pulls HOME’s grassroots vision into focus.
MB: Each of our performers is a favorite of mine. It was amazing that so many said yes and how cooperative everyone was about sending videos and offering to help us explain who we are and what we do. It’s really hard to pick even several: Delbert, Ray Wylie, Marc Broussard, Irma Thomas, Lucinda Williams, Raul Malo. Can’t do it—all of them.
CS: I love the music of Austinite Gina Chavez.
Which artist surprised you the most, and why?
CW: I was just so excited everyone said yes and sent such great performances
NC: Well, I was not surprised, but I was totally delighted by Lisa Loeb’s cooking segment. We have been friends for a long time, and she just made me smile a lot. And yes, that is her real kitchen.
MM: The enormous generosity of the musicians. Not only to sing and record a song for us, but to give their individual shoutout for HOME.
EM: This lineup was insane! I really felt like a fan watching it. Everyone was so great. I particularly enjoyed John Mayall since Carolyn Wonderland tore it up along with him. That was special to see. Kathy Valentine’s video was awesome. I loved how she put that together. I could literally tell you something I liked about every single artist. And of course I was super proud of the HOME Board video at the end.
SK: Although the event supports an Austin charity, many artists who live in other cities helped us out. Lisa Loeb, Raul Malo, Marc Broussard, John Mayall, Vintage Trouble, just to name a few. That just shows the true selflessness of musicians.
MB: I was unfamiliar with Vintage Trouble, so that was my biggest surprise.
CS: Lisa Loeb was charming and fun.
What does the future hold for HOME Cookin’ for the Holidays? Are there plans to integrate the virtual aspect even more in the future?
CW: I am hoping we can all get together in person and revel in the vibratory waves of external unity and return with a live show next year.
EM: I feel like virtual events are going to be around for a while. At some point it will shift back to live in the clubs, but I would envision some element of virtual continuing even years down the line. We had people watching from all over the world. How cool is that?
SK: I think that virtual events are here to stay. I’m sure they will get more elaborate and technology will flourish.
MB: I think we will continue to offer online streaming events even when we go back to live performance fundraisers because there is a larger national and even international audience to reach virtually. When we are playing together live, we can film the whole show and shoot that out to the world. It is one positive outcome in a very unfortunate year.
Sky’s the limit, where do you want HOME Cookin’ for the Holidays to go in the future?
NC: Hopefully, there will be an annual cookbook.
MM: A TV show.
EM: Hopefully this will continue to grow into something bigger each year.
SK: I’d love to see HOME Cookin’ for the Holiday’s on Netflix. Why not? It’s a great show, very entertaining, and it appeals to folks of all ages and backgrounds. In the meantime, if it Netflix doesn’t pick it up, I’d still like to see it grow. This year we compiled the recipes into a digital cookbook that we gave to anyone who donated. I believe we will have printed copies of the cookbooks next year. I’d love to see even more celebrity involvement next year.
MB: Doing a live show broadcast online and archived, interspersed with video appearances by friends in far-away places. We would like to collect more recipes every year and grow our book. We can draw on our connections among the restaurant industry in Austin and hopefully help them regain their footing while they help us provide security for our older musician clients.
CS: I’d love it if we could do special cooking and singing on other holidays, like maybe chocolates for Valentines Day, and bar-b-cue for the 4th of July.
Events like this are really inspiring and help to build up the spirits. Could you each give readers one thing you took away from the event this year that inspired you?
NC: I was totally inspired by the work of our committee, the wonderful cooperation of our musicians, the skills of Turk Pipkin and the students in the Music Business program at ACC. I know that is not one thing, but it is hard to pick one.
MM: Women rock.
EM: We saw such an overwhelming and positive response literally every step of the way. From our initial committee meetings, to artists saying they would be happy to do it, to sponsors stepping up to help out, to donors. I mean it was just awesome.
SK: The most inspirational part of this event was working with the ladies on the HOME board. These are all women in the music business here in Austin. These are all women who are giving their time and energy to making life better for others. The most impressive aspect of this group is their effectiveness. I have never seen things move so quickly and run so smoothly as with them. Everyone was so talented and connected. Each one could pick up the phone and get things done. It was just beautiful to experience true teamwork and be able to see clearly the good we were doing.
MB: One thought that stayed with me is how generous the artists we invited to be a part of our event were. They said yes without hesitation. Many of them recorded songs specifically for us or added heartfelt appeals for donations. This was not unexpected. We all know that whenever there is a need, the first thing that happens is that people call a band and throw a gig to raise money. Still, their willingness to help was so very appreciated. HOME has been at it since 2012, and we’re growing and learning all the time. I was excited and impressed by what we accomplished. And encouraged that we can do more and better next time.
CS: I am always amazed at the fervent love our artists get from their fans. I am humbled and awed at the generous donations we got.
Any final thoughts?
NC: This year has been so hard on so many. Musicians are suffering as much if not more with housing issues and food insecurities and more. I am so proud to be on the board of HOME because we are making a difference in the lives of Austin’s older musicians. We brought lots of joy to those who watched and were able to reap the financial benefits to help those in need.
CS: In the ’50 and ’60s, my grandpa was a Dixieland Jazz-style drummer in San Antonio, Texas, and he sometimes was away from home. The Musicians’ Union building there had a few tiny sleeping quarters for working musicians. I shudder to think where he would have slept some nights without it. I’m always grateful for that place.
Find out more about HOME and their live event at their official website.