Draylen Mason remembered through music fellowship

Cynthia Miranda

Nearly one year after the death of Draylen Mason, the Austin Soundwaves music program announced its first class of Draylen Mason Fellows.

Mason was 17 when he was killed by a package explosion last year. He had been accepted to UT’s Butler School of Music and was part of Austin Soundwaves, a music program created by The Hispanic Alliance in 2011. The program works with Title I public schools, which are schools with a significant number of children from low-income families, to provide students with access to music instruction for free, said Austin Soundwaves director Patrick Slevin.

Now, they also have the Draylen Mason Fellows program.

“We wanted to present a program that would be in Draylen’s spirit and try to in a small way make our community a better place,” Slevin said.

Slevin said through the fellowship program, students will receive a $1,000 stipend to use to attend music camps, cultural events, conferences and travel. The first class of all-women fellows are Cristal Martinez from the Liberal Arts and Science Academy, Sarah Chu from McNeil High School, Angie Ferguson from Austin High School and Barbara Reyes from East Austin College Prep.

“They’re very diverse and an interesting group of young musicians,” Slevin said. “We have three violinists and one french horn player.”

During the fall, the committee reviewed applications, which included a musical audition. Among the selection committee were members of Austin Soundwaves, The Hispanic Alliance, Austin radio station KMFA 89.5 and Mother Falcon Music Lab — all organizations involved in Mason’s music education, Slevin said.

Slevin said the fellowship will allow students to learn about different social issues that are affecting the city and nation.

“We’re excited that we can encourage other programs to include social justice into their music program,” Slevin said.

Douglas Dempster, dean of UT College of Fine Arts, said UT helped Austin Soundwaves when the program was just beginning, and the University currently provides the program with concert halls where the students can perform. Dempster also said he had the opportunity to meet Mason.

“I remember watching him at concerts and recognizing his talent,” Dempster said.

Monica Balleza, a health and society and radio-television-film sophomore, said she knew Mason from Austin Soundwaves. 

“If he knew you he was always encouraging you,” Balleza said. “You could see he really loved music.”