Becki Howard Makes Music Happen for Dallas Even When She's Not Playing It
In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 20 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Can Turkyilmaz. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.
In order for a city's music scene to thrive, it's important to have talented people working both behind the scenes and on the stage. Becki Howard is one of the rare ones who does both.
As the director of programming at AT&T Performing Arts Center, she curates the musical acts and performers for some of the most distinguished venues in the city. In her spare time, Howard serves as volunteer music coordinator for Dallas' premiere annual fashion runway, the Pin Show, and charity art auction series, Art Conspiracy. In her spare spare time, Howard, an accomplished violinist, plays live and on record with some of the city's most talented musicians.
Howard grew up playing violin in Mesquite, when she was 11. "It's been 21 years now," she says. "It's weird to think about, that my violin playing is old enough to drink." As soon as she was (or looked) old enough, she barged into the Dallas music scene, spending her weekends in Deep Ellum watching bands like Centro-matic, Pleasant Grove and Flickerstick.
While attending UNT, she met John Congleton, frontman of the Paper Chase and production/engineering wizard. Upon finding out she was a music performance major -- she would eventually graduate from UTA's music business program -- he tapped her to record violin parts on a Paper Chase record. From there, she went on to work with Clinic, Doug Burr and Sarah Jaffe, whose band she played with for four years. She's also done stints in The Crash That Took Me, Radiant and Bosque Brown, and she and her husband, Kevin, play with indie siren Bethan.
"That was really a big door opening for me," Howard says of the artists and collaborations she was exposed to during that time. "I owe John Congleton a lot of introduction credit."
After graduation, Howard took a job at an ad agency and killed time trying to find some direction. She found it in 2008, when AT&T Performing Arts Center opened its doors. She took an entry-level job and worked her way up to programming director. There, she spearheaded Patio Sessions, the popular Annette Strauss Square spring concert series.
"I kept wanting Patio Sessions to turn into this way of transplanting the nighttime concert-going crowd to a daytime concert, but that's really not what happened," Howard says. "It's for people who love going to concerts, but might be a little older and have kids now, so they don't get to see their bands as often. So it's interesting how that worked out."
After having hand surgery last year, Howard is just getting back to violin. One of her first projects has been session work for the forthcoming solo R&B debut of Dallas rap producer Picnictyme. There will be more, even if time is tight. "I really just want to make good music," she says, "and I want to do it with people I love."