Concert fights death penalty
It may not be common knowledge that Texas executes more people annually
than any other state in the nation, but one group is working to change
The Music for Life Tour, a series of concerts geared toward raising
awareness about the death penalty in Texas, concluded last night in Austin
at Scholz Garten. Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty sponsored
the event, which showcased a mix of speakers and musical performances by
"What better way for you to learn about a very difficult topic to have
fun in that Austin sort of way," said coalition member Vicki McCuistion.
Originally, the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty approached
Austin-based musician Sara Hickman about a single benefit concert, but
during their dealings, the idea of a yearlong tour emerged.
"What really struck me was that no one in the state of Texas was really
talking about the death penalty," Hickman said of her decision to expand
The tour started in October 2007 and has been active since. Music for Life
has visited 12 Texas cities in 12 months, including Huntsville, San
Antonio, Corpus Christi, Houston, Beaumont, El Paso, Denton, San Angelo,
Fort Worth, Dallas and Waco. Last night's event was the 13th and final
concert in the series.
The finale, like the previous 12 concerts in the series, featured a blend
of music and dialogue on the death penalty. The performances all came from
Texas talents, including Sara Hickman, the Austin Lounge Lizards, Shelley
King, Jon Hogan and the mayor of El Paso, John Cook, who joined the tour
when Music for Life came to his town.
Last nights event was an informal but passionate affair. Fiddles and
acoustic guitars warmed up on the stage as the night began, and musicians
such as the Austin Lounge Lizards mingled with those in attendance. Kinky
Friedman, who read a personal essay about a man he knew on death row,
smoked a cigar at his table, and families enjoyed food and drinks on
Scholz's patio. Black and white photographs of people executed on Texas'
death row, taken by local artist Alan Pogue, stood on easels between the
tables as tributes to the nights cause.
The songs of the evening, which had country and bluegrass roots, consisted
of material that was generally relevant to the evening's cause, with
lyrics such as "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
Friedman offered his views against capital punishment: "It's a much more
reasonable thing to do, in terms of putting people away forever," he said.
"Never let them see the light of day. Don't kill them."
Friedman said that if he runs for governor again, he plans to bring the
issue to light, claiming it's a topic most politicians today refuse to
The overall goal of the evening was simply to generate dialogue on the
death penalty, and Hickman said that throughout the series, her goal hasnt
been to sway anyone.
"I'm just there to get people talking," she said.
She said audience participation has consistently been one of the most
exciting parts of the tour.
Kay Silkenson, attendee and resident of Elgin said, "I've been against the
death penalty for a long, long time." She stated that the event was
"really designed to make people think, and that she believed that it had
succeeded in accomplishing that goal.
Audiences have consisted mostly of people sympathetic to the tour's cause,
but people with opposing views have been welcomed throughout the concert
series as well.
"Everyone can learn something from that," Hickman said.
Artists' CDs and T-shirts bearing the slogan "Music and people are best
live" were sold at the event, with the proceeds going toward the Texas
Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty to fund further education on the
death penalty in Texas.
"I like to see this kind of thing going on," said Lutheran pastor Karl
Gronberg. "The sanctity of life is such an important thing."
(source: Daily Texan, Oct. 2)