Rainwater Innovation Grants

Micah Killion poses with trumpet students
2018-2019 Winners

In January 2017, the Butler School unveiled the Rainwater Fund for American Music, a newly established $5 million endowment created by the late UT alumnus Richard E. Rainwater (B.A., Mathematics, 1966), a Fort Worth investor and fund adviser.  The ambition of Mr. Rainwater’s fund is to advance the study of music produced by Americans — from roots to jazz to film music to the concert hall — at The University of Texas at Austin. The gift significantly enhances the Butler School of Music’s capacity to be a fulcrum of research, study and practice of American music past, present and future.

As promised, the newly created Rainwater Innovation Grants will have the most immediate impact on students. Successful proposals for this grant aim to challenge the usual way of doing things and reach unexpected audiences, thus advancing the field of music in a provocative and productive way.

We are very proud to announce the 2018-2019 undergraduate and graduate student recipients of the Rainwater Innovation Grants, as well as their exciting endeavors.


$5000 Awards

José Martinez, DMA student, for Stack Overflow, C3 Residency

C3 (Colombian Composers Collective) is a new emerging collective of six Colombian composers currently based in the US whose purpose is the creation of new works involving cutting-edge technology. Stack Overflow is a newly created concert series, curated by composer José Martínez, which aims to bring to Austinites musical works that use the innovative power of technology. As their first project together, each of the members of C3 will write a brand new piece for soloist and electronics; these six pieces look to portray the diverse compositional aesthetic from Latin America through the eyes of young composers who are creating exciting and colorful sonic worlds using technology.

Jeannelle Ramírez, PhD student, for Future Traditions: Intersections in Multimedia, Technology, and Traditional Performance

Future Traditions is a multi-site multimedia festival that explores digital technology as a collaborative tool for extending and facilitating traditional music and dance practices in the 21st-century. Traditional dance and music groups from the Austin community will actively collaborate with UT composers and multimedia artists to produce new work that expands existing cultural practices, while guest artists and scholars will lead talks and workshops on intersections between technology, experimentation, and tradition.

Jonathan Villela, MM student, for Migration

Migration is a concert comprised of two musically-contrasting, but very similar pieces. The concert will open with Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, produced through stage design and featuring dancers to methodically convey the wagon-covered westward expansion (the first example of migration). The concert will close with José Martinez’s 39 Inside in a contrast that can only be described as “jarring." 39 Inside represents the a modern example of migration, following the story of 39 Central American immigrants and their journey into the United States in pursuit of a better life. The Martinez piece will demand not only interaction between instrumentalist and dancer, but will also restrict the entire performance to occur within the confines of a semi-trailer. To strengthen beautiful parallels between the two contrasting works, the props and instrumentation for both pieces will be alike.

Cheldon Williams, DMA student, for The Objective Rehearsal

Williams will conduct local, national and international research with the aim of further honing in the musical needs of the ensemble director and their respective ensembles. The related workbook and its companion application software will offer the aforementioned target group access to the elements of perceivable quality in music performance that is more quantifiable. The aim of this software will be to provide training to players and conductors in instrumental music ensembles on what to listen for while performing music.


Katia Osorio and Chelsea Daniel, both BM students, for Exposure: Diversifying the Classical Music Canon: Giving a Voice to Silenced Musicians

The classical music canon is primarily made up of deceased, white, European men; while the excellence of their music is undeniable, countless women and people of color have had equally successful (yet deeply overshadowed) careers. To combat the lack of musical resources, their team will create Exposure, a digital database that focuses on filling this gap with video recordings of works written exclusively by women and people of color. Aesthetically modeled after NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series, a YouTube series that invites popular artists to perform in a casual and intimate setting, Exposure’s videos will feature three core elements:  a performance of the piece, a biography of the composer that is being performed, and access to digital sheet music. Their team will compile these resources, creating an easily accessible one-stop shop for practicing musicians.


Sarah Hetrick, DMA student, for Advocating for Young Women in Saxophone through Commissioning and Community Building

In the summer of 2018, Hetrick launched the very first competition for female-identifying saxophonists which has a focus on underrepresented voices in the male-dominated concert saxophone community. As an incredibly exciting component, each year the competition will work together with all applicants to commission a new work for saxophone from a diverse pool of composers. With a primary focus on career building, the competition will help young female saxophonists build valuable relationships with other professionals.


Micah Killion, PhD student, for Bringing Group Brass Instruction to Palestine

Killion will gather donated trumpets and travel to Ramallah in the West Bank. Once there, the instruments will be donated to the Al Kamandjati School of Music, and used to teach group trumpet lessons to Palestinian youth in Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, and Qalandia refugee camps.

Ben Zeff, DMA student, for District XII: Blending Bartok, Jazz, and Heavy Metal to Create a Unique Didactic Path for Electric Guitarists

Through District XII, Zeff and Butler School alum/faculty/staff member Russell Podgorsek will synthesize and arrange early 20th-century piano music for extended range electric guitars, extract improvisational vocabulary that is piece-specific into useful exercises and head-solo arrangements, and recast the repertoire into the genre from which the extended range guitar is the primary voice (progressive/djent metal) in the form of an EP. The project will also be presented in a series of lecture recitals.