Things to Do

Robert Earl Keen’s Heart for the Hill Country Youth Orchestra

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Robert Earl Keen finds himself at a singular point in the life and career of a performer. Robert stands poised to assume the position of the Dean of Texas Songwriters, making the leap from cult performer to becoming a genuine legend of Americana and Texas Music. A lifetime of song-smithing has produced an extensive and extraordinary catalog of work that defies stereotype and extends from humor to nostalgia to acutely perceptive commentary on the human condition from his uniquely incisive and intelligent (and very Texan) perspective. Robert is at heart a storyteller. His compositions embody a legacy to the craft of Texas songwriting.

It will not represent his entire contribution to American music, however. Robert Earl Keen is the prime supporter of music education in central Texas as benefactor to the Hill Country Youth Orchestra.  According to Robert, his daughter wanted to play violin and the Youth Orchestra was the only place around the Kerrville area where it was available. One day he walked by the classroom and was startled to find the students working on a classical piece.

“I never had any classical training. When I saw the passion and the talent that is involved, I wanted to help out. Put on a concert…”

He allows that the folks at the Youth Orchestra were a bit skeptical at first — “…a musician wants to do what?”  Kathleen Vincent at the Orchestra says the notion was pitched to her by its founder Lynda Ables adding, “We can do this, right?” Kathleen had no experience but shrugged okay, and everyone pitched in to make it happen.

REK as Mozart and HCYO orchestra — Partain Photographs2
Photo: Hill Country Youth Orchestra by Partain Photographs

The first benefit was held at the Cailloux Theatre in Kerrville. Robert donated one hundred percent of the net proceeds. The concert was a resounding success netting the Hill Country Youth Orchestra some Fifty Thousand Dollars. Nine years on Robert and the HCYO still have a one of a kind, once a year benefit at the Cailloux. Through the years they have added a preliminary meet and greet in a special VIP package along with a silent auction.

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