Program has boosted local musicians and Austin’s reputation as an iconic music city
AUSTIN, Texas (Oct. 7, 2011) – Bringing live music performances to an airport was an unprecedented move in June 1999, but that’s just what city and airport officials had in mind for the then-brand-new Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

It turned out to be a perfect fit.

“Austin was becoming known for its booming live music scene,” said Terry Mahlum, regional director for airport hospitality provider Delaware North Companies, which helped launch the airport music program. “It fit with our philosophy in operating airport restaurants and retail stores of giving travelers the first taste of what they will experience in a destination.”

More than a decade later, the airport today marks its 5,000th live music performance when jazz musicians Silvie Rider and Red Young take the Asleep at the Wheel Stage at 3:30 p.m. at Ray Benson’s Roadhouse.

Since its inception, all live music at the airport has been produced by the partnership of Delaware North Companies Travel Hospitality Services and the City of Austin Aviation Department. The Austin City Council and Mayor Lee Leffingwell on Thursday issued a proclamation recognizing the milestone performance and Delaware North’s financial support of all 5,000 shows.

“Live music is the lifeblood of Austin” and the airport serves as “the front door to our city,” the proclamation noted. Live music “has given the airport worldwide acclaim and has brought the Austin music experience to countless travelers.”

What started as two performances per week in 1999 has grown to 13 shows per week, with plans to expand to 15 in November. Additionally, extra performances are booked for special events such as the Austin City Limits Music Festival and the South by Southwest (SXSW) music and film festival. The airport has been a sanctioned showcase for SXSW since 2000.

The shows are held Monday through Friday at various times in five different venues throughout the airport, including Ray Benson’s Roadhouse. Delaware North opened the casual bar and restaurant in 2009 in a partnership with the longtime Austin musician, the man behind the Grammy-winning country and western swing band Asleep at the Wheel.

The other venues are The Saxon Pub, Lefty’s, Earl Campbell’s Sports Bar, and the Austin City Limits/Waterloo Records & Video store. All of the venues are located past security checkpoints, accessible to ticketed passengers only, currently an audience of about 24,000 passengers a day.

“As soon as people hear the music, our locations fill up with travelers,” Mahlum said. “Many people tell us they book their flights around the performances.”

In addition to helping define Austin as an iconic music city, the “Music in the Air” program has helped the careers of many Austin musicians, said Nancy Coplin, who has served as the airport’s music coordinator since 1999. Coplin has booked all but a handful of the 5,000 performances.

Rising national Country Music star Sunny Sweeney’s first paid gig was at the airport. Local legends such as bluesman W.C. Clark play the airport, as do unsigned garage bands. Even the youngest Austin musicians get a show with Kid Band Week every July.

“Live music in the airport is a wonderful way to create support for the artists and quality of life enrichment for the community,” said Shelley King, the soulful singer-songwriter who has won two Austin Music Awards and was named Texas State Musician in 2008.

“For a weary traveler to happen upon Austin's best talent gives them a little bit of Austin to take with them. I've often met people in the airport who say they are so happy to have heard the music because they didn't get an opportunity to catch any live music during their stay in Austin,” King said.

Redd Volkaert, the 2009 Grammy Award-winning Telecaster guitar master who once backed music legend Merle Haggard, said the airport program has helped provide dozens of Austin musicians with good pay and steady work.

“The airport is one more place that gives a lot of work to local musicians,” Volkaert said. “I always enjoy playing the Austin airport because people are always in a good mood – coming home finally or going somewhere.”

Mahlum said Delaware North believes having local musicians – not just any live music act – is crucial to the experience the hospitality company is trying to create. That’s the approach the company has taken in launching similar airport music programs in two other iconic music cities – Nashville and New Orleans – in the wake of the program’s success in Austin.

“We want visitors from all over the world to experience a city’s culture in every way possible at the airport, and popular local musicians are a part of that in Austin, Nashville and New Orleans,” Mahlum said.
About Delaware North Companies Travel Hospitality Services
Delaware North Companies Travel Hospitality Services, a subsidiary of Delaware North Companies, is one of the world’s leading airport food service and retail companies, operating 300 restaurants and retail outlets in more than 25 airports worldwide, and serving more than 350 million customers each year. Its award-winning operations include airports throughout the United States, such as Los Angeles International Airport and Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, as well as international airports such as Melbourne International Airport in Australia and Gatwick International Airport in London.

About Delaware North Companies
Delaware North Companies is one of the world's leading hospitality and food service providers. Its family of companies includes Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, Delaware North Companies Gaming & Entertainment, Delaware North Companies Travel Hospitality Services, Delaware North Companies Sportservice, Delaware North Companies International and Delaware North Companies Boston, owner of TD Garden. Delaware North Companies is one of the largest privately held companies in the United States with revenues exceeding $2 billion annually and 55,000 associates serving half a billion customers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. For more information, visit www.DelawareNorth.com.


Glen White
Director, Corporate Communications
Corporate, Gaming, Parks and Resorts
Email: GAWhite@delawarenorth.com
Phone: 716-858-5753
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