Since 1970 Austin, Texas, has been able to provide “high quality, affordable healthcare with dignity and respect” for the medically underserved and uninsured in central Texas, thanks to the nonprofit People’s Community Clinic. Volunteer doctors and nurses funded this important organization in a church basement, paving the way for other community healthcare organizations, which is “one of the oldest continually-running independent clinics for primary care in America.”
The hearts and minds of caring medical practitioners started this initiative, and some 45 years later, who better to partner with in a dynamic fundraiser than the Central Texas Medical Orchestra, a group of “medical professionals who enjoy music fellowship and performance outlets that raise funds in support of local health-related nonprofits.” The Saturday, Nov. 14, the CTMO is offering an exciting evening of music and memories, at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, starring the acclaimed vocalist and songwriter, Kiki Ebsen.
Popular violinist Bryan Hall is also be featured in this second musical partnership event between the PCC and CTMO. Although he is currently the violin/viola teacher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and concertmaster for the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra, Hall has ties to Austin. Bryan completed his MM and DMA at the University of Texas at Austin, and undergraduate work at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. The Central Texas Medical Orchestra is led by Musical Director, Dr. Robert Radmer.
Speaking by phone from Los Angeles yesterday, Kiki Ebsen said in her travels as a vocalist and musician, Austin was one of her favorite venues to perform in and that she was “very excited to be coming back to Austin to perform with the scholar-artists of the Central Texas Medical Orchestra to support the People’s Community Clinic. She said, “My father, Buddy Ebsen, began his college career as a pre-med major; he wanted to become a doctor, but economic challenges forced him to give up that dream.” Turns out that his second career choice, as a dancer, led to New York’s Broadway stage, then film, television and various recording projects, as he would discover a hidden talent for songwriting and singing among his myriad gifts and talents.
From father to daughter, a love of entertainment was passed on, as Kiki grew up watching her dad perform. Although he suggested she use her vocal gifts for jazz as a natural outlet, she was more interested in listening to Heart, Alice Cooper, and plenty of hard rock. For the past 20 years, Kiki’s voice and keyboards have been heard on international tours backing Austin-favorite Christopher Cross, Boz Scaggs, Tracy Chapman, Wilson Phillips, James Ingram, Al Jarreau and the band Chicago.
Two years ago, Kiki said she “discovered a box in the attic of her mother’s home, which contained a true treasure trove of some of the most important times in his career,” previously unbeknown to his children. Among those prized mementos was Buddy’s original movie script from “The Wizard of Oz,” where he was originally cast as the Scarecrow.
As happens often in Hollywood, someone intercedes in casting decisions, and Louis B. Mayer decided that dancer Ray Bolger should be the Scarecrow, so Buddy was recast as the Tin Man instead. Speaking of medicine, early Hollywood makeup artists were clueless that massive doses of pure powdered aluminum painted on Buddy’s skin would lead to a critical respiratory system failure.
Bedridden in the hospital, as Buddy recuperated from the life-threatening accidental poisoning, producers proclaimed “the show must go on” and recast Jack Haley, Jr. as the Tin Man. That time, the makeup people learned from experience not to use aluminum. Buddy, of course, was devastated at losing the prime role in this now-iconic movie, but he never publicly shared his sorrow about that, not even with his own family. It was not until Buddy was in his 90s that he even told his children about the incident. Fortunately a few filmed scenes showing Buddy were included in the final film, which just celebrated its 75th anniversary year of popularity.
As an ode “to the big role that got away,” Kiki developed an album concept, “Scarecrow Sessions,” and recorded songs that were important to the films of Buddy’s career, including “Moon River” (“Breakfast at Tiffany’s”), “Codfish Ball (“Captain January”), “If I Only Had a Brain’ (“The Wizard of Oz”), plus a song Buddy wrote with music partner Zeke Ebsen, “Missing You,” a sultry haunting melody that Kiki sings poignantly and perfectly.
The schedule for the CTMO Fundraiser Concert evening starts at 6:30 p.m.–7:15 p.m., with “Growing up with Buddy,” a ticketed preconcert presentation by Kiki Ebsen, who will share what it was like growing up with a father who had the number-one rated show on national television. The evening’s concert begins at 7:30 p.m., and is held at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, 1500 N. Capital of Texas Highway. Organizers say some tickets are still available, ranging from a very affordable $10 for students, to $15 and $20 for the public.
The Chief Executive Officer of the People’s Community Clinic is Regina Rogoff, JD, and a recent story on Latino Magazine.com notes that “individual donors provide almost half of PCC’s funding (a $12M operating budget),” which is extremely impressive as a measure of the heart of philanthropy in central Texas. They are tremendous stewards of the funds provided to them and the upcoming fundraiser, deep in the heart of Central Texas, will go a long way towards helping the mission of People’s Community Clinic continue to be served.
This Saturday, Ebsen said, “Come and listen to a story ‘bout a man named Jed,” and stay for a concert that will bring the glamor of Hollywood to Texas on the wings of piano, violin, orchestra, and Kiki Ebsen, an unforgettable evening of great music and generous philanthropy, courtesy of all those whose hearts and minds remain fixed on helping others. For more information or tickets, visit this link.