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Austin Youth Orchestra Tribute Concert Remembers Spirit Of Draylen Mason, Who Died In Bombings

Juan Figueroa for KUT
Conductor Ricky Pringle and members of the Austin Youth Orchestra prepare to perform during the orchestra's spring concert Sunday. The event was dedicated to Draylen Mason, a double bassist who was killed last year in the Austin bombings.

The Austin Youth Orchestra dedicated its annual spring concert Sunday to former member Draylen Mason, who was killed one year ago this month by a package bomb that exploded at his East Austin home.

The-17-year-old played double bass in the orchestra and had been applying to colleges to study music when he died March 12.

Bill Dick, president of the Austin Youth Orchestra board and a conductor for the orchestra, said not only did Draylen have remarkable talent, but he was also a “great kid.” He said he was excited to see where Draylen ended up as a musician. He died a few days before a rehearsal.

Dick said orchestra members wanted their big concert to be in his memory.

“I took a lot of inspiration from his family who said, ‘We want tributes to Draylen not wakes,’” Dick said. “So I said, 'We are going to do this concert to American music to remember his spirit that made him so bright.”

Credit Juan Figueroa for KUT
The orchestra collected donations Sunday to a scholarship fund it created in Draylen's name to help low-income families afford music lessons.

At Sunday's performance, the orchestra collected donations for a scholarship fund it created to help low-income families pay for music lessons. 

Andre Plackis, a 17-year-old cellist, said he first met Draylen in middle school when they both played for the Austin Chamber Music Center.

“On my first day of ACMC I didn’t know anybody, and he smiled to me and he came over to me and said hello,” Andre said. “For a seventh-grader, it felt really nice to have someone come talk to me. He had this smile that was infectious to everyone around him.”

In the year since Draylen's death, Andre said he’s reflected a lot on how he made everyone around him feel. He said he tries to emulate that.

“He’s one person who was able to bring everyone together,” Andre said. “He definitely had an aura that accepted everyone that walked by him, and that’s something I try to live for every day now. I try to meet someone new, I try to give them a smile. It’s the little things that he does that I’m trying to incorporate in my life.”

Andre said Draylen's playing style was free and sometimes goofy, and that’s something he wants his peers to remember as they continue in their music careers.

Credit Juan Figueroa for KUT
Conductor Bill Dick said the orchestra played American music to remember the spirit that made Draylen "so bright."

“It shouldn’t just be about – OK, you’re playing a little bit flat; you’re playing a little bit sharp,” he said. “It’s OK, let’s have some fun with this. Let’s make something great.”     

Helen Lundy, a 17-year-old violinist, said Draylen inspired her to remember why she practices music.

Credit Juan Figueroa for KUT
Draylen's mother, Shamika Wilson, gets a hug from Luis Luna before the start of the concert at the Austin High School Performing Arts Center.

“He just brought joy to everything he did,” she said. “Sometimes you can get so wrapped up into technique and did I play the right notes, but he brought joy and he brought the feeling and the absolute joy of being a musician.”

Last month, Mayor Steve Adler declared the day, March 3, “Draylen Mason Tribute Day.”

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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