Salado and Harker Heights recently became official Music Friendly Communities — a designation achieved through the Texas Music Office — and local residents say it is time for Temple to join the growing number of cities that have taken a big polka step forward.
“I definitely see many benefits to Temple becoming a Music Friendly Community,” said Daniel Haug, a local resident and manager of Cowboy Mouth guitarist Frank Grocholski. “Temple residents have always strived to put their touch into the music community, and the city deserves to see the growth in entertainment this would bring to the area.”
“I feel this designation would show venues the potential in opening in Temple,” Haug said. “It would bring in lots of tourism dollars. Temple’s growth is rampant, and we need to focus on more than housing — at some point new residents will question the lack of entertainment the city has to offer.”
Haug is far from alone when it comes to the need for a Music Friendly designation. Temple resident Lisa Sullivan also believes a pro-music mindset would be beneficial to bands and music-related businesses.
“I think the designation would be a good thing,” she said. “The Temple area has so many outstanding musicians, and many are going out of town to play because there are not enough venues here. Temple needs to take advantage of the local talent and expand its musical horizons.”
“My mate plays guitar and has been in many bands since the 1960s,” Sullivan said. “He keeps a little out-of-town gig going weekly, but we always support live local music.”
Salado began its quest to become a Music Friendly Community in the eyes of the state about a year ago, and the Bell County village received the designation this past summer.
“This designation allows us to show local musicians, local music venues, recording studios and local music educators that we support them,” said KD Hill, co-owner of Barrow Brewing Co. and a member of Salado’s Music Friendly Community advisory board.
“We will be able to bring in people for music events and hopefully we get hotel taxes from them,” she said. “But also it could lead to where more people want to move here and more businesses that are music friendly actually want to develop here.”
“As a venue owner and board member, I am excited for the potential to create partnerships with other Music Friendly Communities in the state,” Hill said. “If this designation can help increase the diversity of musicians performing here and opportunities for all musicians within the village of Salado, it will be a great thing for the community.”
While Salado and Harker Heights are two of the newest communities to achieve the designation, they are hardly alone. They are joined by dozens of other Texas cities both big and small.
Fort Worth was the first city to achieve the designation back soon after the program launched in 2017. Cowtown was soon joined by Austin, San Antonio, Denton, Lindale, Stephenville, Conroe, San Angelo, Nacogdoches, Abilene, Port Aransas and many others. Houston, Hutto and six other cities are currently going through the steps.
So what does being a Music Friendly Community mean?
“It can be whatever your community wants to make of it — every city does it differently,” Hill said. “In Salado, we’ve decided to organize a concert series and host music education events.”
“There are many music-related grants out there, and being a designated city allows you to be more tapped into the grant network,” she said. “It lets them know you are serious about music.”
Salado has a seven-member advisory board, and most members are in the music industry in some form.
“We have musicians, venue owners, a songwriter, an agent and a band director,” Hill said. “We meet monthly.”
Participation in the state program provides Texas cities with a network for fostering local music industry development and it sends a clear message to industry professionals that certified communities are serious about attracting and developing music industry growth.
Temple’s music community is extensive but loosely connected. There are many musicians and related schools and businesses that could benefit from greater organization and collaboration.
What does Temple have to offer musically?
First of all, it’s already here. City officials worked tirelessly to bring in new industry and that may be a great thing. But there is a lucrative and somewhat overlooked industry that is firmly entrenched in Temple’s roots and culture — music.
Temple has hundreds of musicians, many of whom live here and commute to gigs in Austin. Back in the early days of being “The Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin was a cheap place to live and there were venues on every corner.
Now that Austin is all grown up, that cheap cost of living has vanished. Instead, upscale apartments with upscale price tags have become the norm. The venues are still there — the older, iconic ones have been replaced — and many musicians have moved to places such as Temple, Belton, Bastrop and Taylor to live. They are still close enough to Austin for stage and studio work.
Temple is home to a mix of musical styles including rock, Tejano, hip-hop, polka, country, gospel and classical. The city has a growing number of venues, and more are being planned. A proposed North Arts District likely will include a performing arts center, the Arcadia Theatre is being renovated, Bold Republic Brewing and Bird Creek Burgers have or will open new establishments with venues — the list can go on.
In addition to musicians and venues, there are recording studios, music schools such as Academie Musique, and two local school districts with outstanding fine arts programs. Temple has an outstanding symphony orchestra, and Temple College has a growing number of music and performing arts programs.
TC also is home to a huge Jazz Fest that easily could be expanded into much more. Concert promoter Roney Castro has produced several big-ticket concerts in the recent past and has another coming in April.
On any given week, Temple residents can catch at least a dozen live music performances at places such as Bo’s Barn, Firebase Brewing, BJ’s Tasting Room, Fuzzy’s Tacos, 3 Texans Winery, Wilson Valley Mercantile, Corky’s, Ras Kitchen, J Kowboys, Mo’s, O’Briens, Green Door, the Cultural Activities Center, Temple Civic Theatre, local schools, at Temple College and on downtown streets every First Friday.
Salado, Waco, Harker Heights and every other town that has received the Music Friendly Community designation is positioning themselves for the future.
In 2018, Texas lawmakers mandated the creation of a Texas Music Trail, but as of today little has been done on that project. According Mallory Laurel, a special projects coordinator with the Texas Historical Commission, work on the trail will begin soon.
“This has the potential to be a high-profile tourist draw, but it needs to be done right,” Laurel said. “I hope to really get into it later this summer and hopefully we can launch at least part of the trail in fall 2023.”
Many cities see the Music Friendly Community designation as an important first step in participating in the Texas Music Trail.
Music-related tourism is nothing new, and some states are seeing significant economic impact to marketing local musicians and attractions.
Steve Ray, a program specialist for the Texas Music Office, envisions a state music trail similar to the Blues Trail in Mississippi. In that state, music history is marked by “Blues Trail” signs that provide information about specific musicians, venues or events connected to an area.
“These trails are big tourist draws,” Ray said. “The Crooked Road Heritage Music Trail in Virginia is very popular and has an economic impact of $9.2 million a year.”
Temple has musicians, venues and music-related school programs and businesses. Now locals just need to plant the seeds and grow a culture around music.
Austin did that long ago.
“I grew up in Austin, and there was a wide variety of live music,” said Temple transplant Libby Johnston. “I think this would be a huge draw for tourists and give residents more options for entertainment.”