We had the good fortune of connecting with Lauryn Gould and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lauryn, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
Music is an incredible tool. It can be a vehicle for social change, community-building, empowerment, healing, expression, outrage, joy, connection, affirmation, release, transformation, and transcendence. And the list could go on. I believe musicians play a unique and vital role in facilitating those things. That is the ethos from which I approach any musical activity. How can I serve others through my work? How can I leave the world a better place than I found it? How can I help create a joyful and cathartic experience for all? In addition to performance, other musical activities geared toward social impact consist of organizing community-building events, giving educational workshops, and doing historical research to raise awareness of important, but often overlooked pioneers. A few years ago, I founded and ran a group that presented classical music in non-traditional spaces — taking it out of the concert hall and making it more accessible to a wider audience. Then, after studying community music in Ireland, I became more interested in group work. I’ve discovered that collective learning and music-making can be even more impactful as a way to connect, explore vulnerability, learn from each other, and express oneself in a supportive environment. My most recent research project is a blog in which I’ve compiled short vignettes on jazzwomen through history. It is still a work in progress, but I hope to shed light on as many of these underrepresented contributors to the art form as possible. If you’re interested, here’s a link to that project: https://jazzwomenarchives.wordpress.com/
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Just like nearly any creative pursuit, life as a freelance musician is usually multi-faceted and often unpredictable, but I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate that. It definitely keeps things interesting. For example, one day I may perform at a local honky-tonk; the next day I might give a masterclass or workshop at a high school, followed by an evening in the recording studio, then travel cross-country to provide music for a weekend-long dance event. These days, (when there isn’t a pandemic on) I find myself performing nearly every night of the week, both locally and nationally. I specialize in saxophone, flute, and voice and play quite a bit of early/hot jazz, swing, and New Orleans brass band music, with some indie rock, old-school funk, and anything else that might come up. I’m currently a member of 18 bands (some of them more active than others), and do a fair amount of studio work, arranging, composing, event planning, and community organizing. I’m probably most proud of the fact that I have found myself in a position to make a living sharing music in a wide variety of formats and genres, with some of my favorite people. My goal is to continue to grow as a musician and human being so that I can rise to any occasion that might come my way. I started my professional career teaching beginning flute, piano, and guitar lessons at a local music school, then went back to college to study classical flute. During that time, I worked with as many groups as I could — from community orchestras to indie rock bands — and said yes to every opportunity that came up in an effort to overcome my crippling performance anxiety, and of course, to become a better musician. By the time I finished my bachelor’s degree, I’d developed some coping strategies and gained enough experience to feel much more confident and comfortable on stage, though it was still a struggle at times. After graduating, I continued to say “yes” and wound up with 80 students spread across 6 schools and 7 days a week. I did that for a year and realized that I’d found my limit, so I opened my own teaching studio out of my home with a much more reasonable student roster. Also shortly after I finished that degree, I joined Minor Mishap Marching Band, which gave me a safe space to come out of my shell as a performer, and introduced me to a wider community of brass bands (the Honk! community) which would become an extended family of sorts. I also started The Sound Bridge Project, to present classical music in non-traditional spaces. I wanted to bring the music I loved to people who might not hear it otherwise and do it in a creative way. Our crowning achievement was an 18th-century-glam-rock wig party and concert we called “Rock Me Amadeus” in which performers and audience members alike costumed to the nines and gathered at the Butterfly Bar/Vortex Theater for a night of revelry and music. We had a chamber orchestra perform Mozart’s flute and harp concerto, a rock band reinterpret his G minor symphony no. 25 as an epic metal tune, and everything in between. Instead of a concert, it became an all-encompassing experience in which the lines between performers and audience members were blurred and anyone from any walk of life was welcome and included. I also became heavily involved in the swing dance scene and helped start a non-profit organization to support and nurture the growth of the hot jazz and swing music and dance community here in Austin. Every year, we organized a workshop weekend, a riverboat excursion and dance, and other community-building events. In 2014, my husband and I moved to Ireland to pursue our master’s degrees in community music at the University of Limerick. That proved to be one of the most difficult years of our lives, but that’s a story for another time. When we returned home to Austin, we had to rebuild our careers again, and though it was a huge challenge, we had a new perspective to incorporate in the next phase of our journey. At this point, I was playing quite a bit more saxophone and had been learning to improvise in the jazz idiom for a few years. All of a sudden, opportunities started to arise that required me to push the limits of my musicianship and I loved it. I was finding a new kind of joy in collective improvisation, and making music with many of my heroes. Three years ago, I made the leap from primarily teaching, to primarily performing, and I’ve never been happier. I love teaching, but I realized I wanted to spend some time gaining more performing experience so that I would have more to share with my students in the future. I also decided to go back to school once more to strengthen my fundamentals as a saxophonist and improviser. This May I graduated with an MM in jazz performance from Texas State University. It has been a long, bumpy road up to this point, but I am happy to be here and excited about where I’m headed. Sometimes it seems like magic, but that’s because all of these successes are the result of a lifetime of experiences up to that point and it’s easy to forget about all those lessons learned along the way. One of those lessons that I try to remember is that in order to be successful (whatever your definition of success might be), you have to let go of the fear of failure and just keep doing the work to constantly improve. Granted, that’s easier said than done. And it’s a process — you have to keep letting go because those fears will try to creep back in. So you just say hello to them and then let them go. Just keep taking the next achievable step. Accomplish one micro goal at a time and before you know it, you look back and realize how much you’ve achieved. As cliché as it might sound, it’s really much more about the journey than the destination. If you feel stuck or lost, find mentors and spend time with them, listen to them, and learn from them. It also helps if you constantly refill your inspiration bank — you can’t just be all output all the time. This is admittedly a difficult time to be building a career as a performer due to the Covid-19 outbreak, but it is also an opportunity to do some of that inner work and ask ourselves what is serving us, and what can we shed? My hope is that we all develop some more mindful habits of self-care and reflection to keep us focused on what is really important. And finding new ways to share our gifts and present our work is sure to stimulate our creativity and maybe bring about some unexpected results. Live, in-person performance may be on hold for the time being, but we have ideas and projects in development to keep the lights on and the spirits up. I believe in our community and I believe what we do is important, so it will always have a place.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is a tough one to answer considering the current circumstances, as it’s impossible to say how many Austin institutions will continue to be in operation once this pandemic has passed. But, assuming my favorite places are still around when it’s safe to go out and about freely, here’s what I’d say: We’d start with a swim at Big Stacy Pool in Travis Heights and brunch at Magnolia Cafe on South Congress, followed by a jaunt up the street to check out Allen’s Boots, Lucy in Disguise, Parts and Labour, South Congress Books, and hit a couple of the vintage stores while we’re at it. Then maybe we’d catch a mid-day movie at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar to get out of the afternoon heat. If it were a Monday, we’d head up to Quality Seafood on Airport Blvd. for dinner and they could hang to take in some hot jazz with our group, The Texas Moaners. Then we’d swing by Sweet Ritual for a vegan ice cream treat, and take a quick browse around Toy Joy for fun before heading back to South Congress for Church on Monday at the Continental Club Gallery. We could have breakfast at my other favorite place for an omelette, Bouldin Creek Cafe, then catch a daytime swim at Barton Springs. Maybe we’d grab dinner at Taste of Ethiopia and then I’d give them a glimpse of true old South Austin at Sam’s Town Point where they can dance to Floyd Domino’s All-Stars, or any of the other great swing bands that play Tuesdays at Sam’s. Another classic Austin breakfast spot is Kerbey Lane Cafe. There are many locations these days, but I recommend the one actually on Kerbey Lane. If we were up on that end of town, maybe we’d also head over to the UT campus area to visit the Blanton Art Museum, Harry Ransom Center, and/or LBJ Library. Then we could grab lunch at Mother’s Cafe in Hyde Park, or a smoothie from Juiceland on 45th and Duval. Wednesday nights we’d be at the White Horse on East 5th and Comal for the free swing dance lesson at 7pm, and hot jazz with the Rock Step Relevators at 8. We’d probably stay for some two-stepping with Bobby Marlar, The Gin Racers, or the Colton Turner Band at 10. If we’re lucky, Big Daddy will be there and we can pay him a visit to get an excellent shoe shine, along with some great conversation. Second Thursdays of the month, you can catch fiddle and guitar genius and songwriter extraordinaire, Erik Hokkanen with his trio at Radio Coffee and Beer. For dinner, you could grab tacos at Veracruz, one of the delicious food trucks that lives at Radio, and enjoy the expansive patio under the trees, then venture inside for some of the most virtuosic, energetic music you’ll ever hear. Fridays, you can take in some fabulous swing music with Rent Party on the east side at Stay Gold. For the rest of the weekend, I’d say it would depend on what events were happening that particular week. There are always many choices for amazing live music every night in Austin, and obviously that’s where my head lives as far as evening outings go. When in doubt, I’d check the Austin Chronicle listings to see what they recommend, or you can always go to the Continental Club, Continental Club Gallery, C Boys Heart and Soul, and/or ABGB as they can always be counted upon for great music. If you’re interested in Jazz, you must head down to the Elephant Room for a more casual, old Austin vibe, and don’t miss out on Parker Jazz Club for a classy experience and the best sound design and engineering in town. I will say, be sure to catch the “Sinner’s Brunch” with the Jo’s House Band on Sundays from 12:30-3pm at Jo’s Coffee on S. Congress. They feature a rotating cast of excellent guest artists and the coffee is great. Some of my other favorite restaurants in Austin are Habana on South Congress for Cuban food, Via 313 for Detroit Style Pizza (best gluten-free pizza in town, in my opinion), Buenos Aires Cafe for Argentinian food, Frank for fancy hot dogs and more (try their reuben fries…you won’t regret it), Patrizi’s for Italian (they also offer veggie noodles), and for the obligatory BBQ: Terry Black’s, Stiles Switch, La Barbecue, Micklethwait, or Metcalf BBQ, (formerly known as Do Rite — they have the best sides ever). A couple more of my favorite things to do are take a sunset hike up to Mount Bonnell, visit Mayfield Park to say hello to the peacocks, catch a nighttime free swim at Barton Springs, have a glorious walk through the Zilker Botanical Gardens, explore the Greenbelt, or take a dip in any of the nearby natural swimming holes like Krause Springs or Blue Hole in Wimberly. For that matter, if there was time for a day trip, Enchanted Rock outside Fredericksburg is gorgeous. I was born and raised in Austin and I love this city so I could go on and on, but I’ll close there by just saying I hope you’ll come see us sometime.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many mentors to which I owe a great debt of gratitude for everything I’ve learned so far. First, I have to recognize my father, Rick Steinburg, (who has been featured in this series as well!). He was the first person to ignite that spark for music in me. There are too many members of the Austin music community (current and past residents) to list them all, but Erik Hokkanen, JD Pendley, Ryan Gould, Jonathan Doyle, Stanley Smith, Dave LeRoy Biller, Freddie Mendoza, Alice Spencer, Hal Smith, Albanie Falletta, Floyd Domino, Emily Gimble, David Jellema, Mark Gonzales, Oliver Steck, Joe Cordi, Paul Schlichting, Ed Hayes, Datri Bean, Katie Shore, Beth Galiger, Shawn Jones, Lyon Graulty, Westen Borghesi, Luke Hill, Rick McRae, Lindsay Greene, and Ben Saffer, are just a few of the mentors in the community who stoked that fire and inspired me as a young adult. Of course, I have to thank my flute teacher, Dr. Adah Toland Jones, who saw potential in me when I had a lot of rough edges, Morris Nelms, who helped me navigate the challenge of learning to improvise and develop my own voice as a jazz musician during both my undergrad and master’s degrees, and Dr. Russell Haight, who really taught me how to practice improvisation, and is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. Finally, I have to recognize my dear husband and musical partner, Ryan Gould. He’s in that list above, too, but he’s been such an integral part of my growth as a musician, he deserves to be mentioned twice. I can’t say how fortunate I am to have him as my partner in life and music. These folks (and so many others) supported and encouraged me, helping me gain the confidence to dedicate my life to this art form and I am eternally grateful.
KT Yarbrough Photography Camille Stallings Crowell Forrest Gibson Bells & Whistles Productions Kelly West
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