Austin music project ATX6’s last festival appearance canceled, future in jeopardy

Faley Goyette

Each year, music documentary and cultural export effort Project ATX6 takes six Austin musicians to international music festivals and workshops. This year, the project was cut short due to COVID-19.

Project ATX6 is a nonprofit created and directed by Chris Brecht. The goal of the project is to help local artists develop their career and gain international exposure through the festivals. At the end of the tour, the project puts together a documentary of their experience. The third festival on this season’s roster, the Great Escape in London, was canceled. 

Now, Brecht is trying to recoup money, rework the final showcase and plan for the future of the project during an international travel standstill. 

“I’d be lying if I said the project wasn’t in jeopardy for a while,” Brecht said. “It’s very expensive, and it’s a project that has needed support for years. It’s going to be hard to get the train back on the rails.”

Over a year ago, Brecht planned for the musicians to play at the Great Escape Festival in London this month. Brecht said the project spent roughly $4,000 on flights to London and said they weren’t able to get a refund. 

“The inspiration’s been attacked,” Brecht said. “The beauty of international travel with friends and fellow musicians, … that balloon has been popped.”

As a nonprofit, Brecht said he would normally raise money and ask businesses for their support, but COVID-19 has kept him from doing so. Although he’s applied for emergency relief grants and a Small Business Administration loan, Brecht said he’s not sure if Project ATX6 will receive anything. 

Every season, six local musicians from different bands and backgrounds are selected to participate in the project. The artists must learn each other's music to perform together as a cohesive group on the international stage. 

One musician and UT alumna, Leslie Sisson, said she’s grateful for the project, but is upset about the inability to travel with the project’s musicians again.

“I’m so tight with these people now,” Sisson said. “We’re a collection of a little minifamily. I really wish we could've had another trip together. That would’ve been special.”

The season finale, which includes a final Austin concert and showcase of the documentary, was scheduled for June 21. Now, Brecht said he’s not sure if the finale will be possible or what it will look like.

To help bring the documentary story to a close, project photographer and videographer Kate Blaising said she is considering taking front porch portraits of each of the musicians.

“With the festival being canceled, it doesn’t feel like there was any closure to our story,” Blaising said. “In fact, (the story) is kind of changing.” 

As of now, Brecht said the project remains on hold indefinitely.

“I love the project like I’ve loved every musician that’s been a part of it,” Brecht said. “So to be shutdown by coronavirus is probably one of the most deflating experiences of my entire life.”