Special Reports

MA Top 30 Professional: Patrick Slevin

December 5, 2023 | By John Fleming

Executive Director
Austin Soundwaves

Talk about being in the right place at the right time: In 2011, Patrick Slevin—a percussionist with degrees in performance and urban studies from Northwestern University, plus a year in the El Sistema Fellows Program at New England Conservatory—was hired by a fledgling music-education organization focused on reaching out to Hispanic students in Austin, TX. Today Slevin is executive director of Austin Soundwaves.

From its start with 42 students at a single middle school, Soundwaves has grown dramatically during Slevin’s tenure. In 2022-23, it worked with 1,100 students—80 percent Hispanic—at 23 schools, supporting orchestra, band, mariachi, and general music instruction in grades K-12; it also has after-school and summer programs. “For me it’s been a lot of learning by trial and error,” Slevin says. “At Soundwaves, I have been able to combine my love of music with my interest in making communities stronger and more equitable.”

One Soundwaves program was launched out of tragedy. In 2018, Draylen Mason, an African American double bass player and longtime student in the organization, died from the explosion of a package on his home doorstep, one in a series of random murders known as the Austin Package Bombings. “He was the most gifted musician I’ve ever worked with,” Slevin says. “When Draylen died, he had been accepted into Oberlin Conservatory, the University of North Texas School of Music, and the Butler School of Music of the University of Texas at Austin. Along with being an extraordinary talent, he was a champion for social justice. It was important for us to honor his legacy.”

The Draylen Mason Fellows Program is in its sixth year of supporting a small group of Austin area high school musicians—there are eight fellows this year—who meet monthly to collaborate on an original performance highlighting an issue of their choosing. Previous fellows have examined themes such as Black Lives Matter and gun violence in schools. “I still lead the program and work with it closely,” Slevin says. “It’s a special part of my life personally, and definitely for our organization.”




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