Among the many Austin music non-profits that KUTX supports, Swan Songs has long been one close to our hearts. Swan Songs is dedicated to fulfilling musical last wishes by organizing personalized concerts for individuals nearing the end of life. Musicians who perform are compensated, so in addition to bringing comfort through music, the organization supports Austin musicians.
Since the organization’s founding in 2005, Swan Songs has provided concerts for more than 1,000 terminally-ill Central Texans, at no cost to the recipient, family or healthcare facility. Traditionally, these concerts were performed at bedsides, in homes, and in care facilities. However, the current pandemic forced Swan Songs to pivot. Most of their recipients had compromised immune systems, facilities weren’t allowing visitors, and it quickly became clear that singing was a high-risk activity in terms of virus transmission. Swan Songs founder and CEO Christine Albert explained to me by email how the organization responded. “We met the moment by engaging musicians to record virtual concerts of diverse styles and genres of music, making them available on our website.” Swan Songs essentially created a menu of pre-recorded concerts that families or facilities could easily access when needed.
“Gradually, as our community adjusted to the new normal,” Albert said, “the requests for specific music for individuals began to come in again.” Swan Songs’ musicians began to fulfill those requests by recording personalized concerts. “Now that the weather has cooled,” she added, “we’re also fulfilling requests with outdoor, safe-distanced concerts, both at care facilities and private homes.”
Like a lot of organizations, the pandemic has also hit Swan Songs’ bottom line. “We have lost some funding, for sure,” said Albert. “Sponsors who were not able to contribute this year, people needing to scale back their financial commitment, planned events that were put on hold.” But thanks to the organization’s strong board and years of community support, she says “We are not in danger of shutting our doors.”
Nevertheless, Swan Songs’ annual gala, Swan Song Serenade, remains a crucial source of both revenue and outreach for the organization. This year, the event will be held virtually on October 25, with a virtual silent auction, artist testimonials, and special performance by Texas music giant Robert Earl Keen. “Creating a virtual Serenade is giving us the opportunity to tell our story and highlight our programs more deeply than we do at the in-person gala,” said Albert. “We are excited about that and I believe that supporters and viewers will come away with an even greater understanding of and appreciation for what we do.”
Visit Swan Songs’ website to purchase passes to the gala and to learn more about their mission, services, and how you can get involved.
– Jacquie Fuller, KUTX Assistant Program Director