UH Moment

UH Moment: ‘Texas Music Festival’

If it’s June, it’s time for the Texas Music Festival. The annual summer concert series is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

It’s 9:30 a.m. and students participating in the Texas Music Festival are rehearsing.  They’re working on Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony, a challenging piece for young musicians, but that is why they come to the University of Houston campus each June—to be challenged, to train with the best, on their way to their music careers. 

“We have students from all over the world—from China, from Singapore, Korea, Iceland, Mexico and points in between,” said Alan Austin, the general and artistic director of the Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival for the last 18 years. The festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.  “They all come on full fellowship—full tuition and housing for the month—so they can focus on their training free of the distractions of daily life.”

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Students apply and audition for the opportunity to play and study with international faculty, musicians, singers and conductors.

“Because it’s so intensive, and you’re making music all day long, you cover more music than you would be able to cover in a regular school year,” Austin said.  “You’re essentially getting a whole year’s worth of development in the space of a month.”

When the festival began in 1990, the Olshan’s wanted a place in Houston where the most talented young musicians could come and develop their talent. They also wanted to give Houston a concert series that would provide a big part of the cultural landscape in the summers.   

Since the Festival’s inception in 1990, Austin estimates nearly 9,000 students have gone through the Texas Music Festival. 

Participants spend about three hours a day in rehearsals and have private lessons later in the day. Their musical training is paired with professional development. 

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“We have a panel who will talk about preparing for and winning an audition. We’ll also have a seminar on performance anxiety,” he said. “We look at it like a holistic approach for our young players. We’re trying to give them not just the fantastic musical training, but also the life lessons that will help them be successful when they leave.”

And there are the performances: four special concerts with major works, Classical Minds Guitar Festival and Young Artist Competition. This year’s festivities are dedicated to the memory of festival co-founder David Tomatz, who passed away in January.  

“It’s been a very exciting process to watch the festival grow and become a major cultural institution in Houston,” Austin said. 

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