Brooks and Ken’s house party at The Bender includes Brian Holland on piano, Danny Coots on drums and Steve Pikal on the standup bass.

 

Two well-known local businessmen want to create Lake Houston’s biggest musical house party at the Charles Bender Performing Arts Center near Downtown Humble July 20.

Ken Austin and Brooks Christianson are bringing to The Bender what Christianson calls “…three of the best musicians on the planet.”

The musicians are pianist Brian Holland, drummer Danny Coots and Steve Pikal, who plays stand-up bass. The three recently released their debut album, “All We Know.”

“These world-class musicians play all kinds of American pop that The Bender audience will recognize and enjoy, including jazz, blues, stride, swing, boogie, pop and ragtime,” said Christianson. “They’ll play music that makes us feel.”

-  Ken Austin and Brooks Christianson plan Lake Houston’s biggest house party -

Austin and Christianson have named the performance “Blues, Ragtime and All That Jazz Concert” presented by KAustin and Associates. It will be held at The Bender Saturday, July 20, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Austin is owner of KAustin & Associates, a general contractor and construction management organization, and Christianson is president of Monk Engineering, Inc., a manufacturer’s representative for companies that supply custom-engineered air pollution control and water-treatment equipment.

Those are just their day jobs. Austin is a fervent supporter and participant of the MS 150, and KAustin and Associates was one of the 2019 presenting sponsors of the City of Humble’s Good Oil Days.

Christianson could have been a starving pianist having dropped out of college more than 40 years ago to play piano in and around Kansas City. A chance meeting in a piano bar with Marvin Monk, a Lake Houston sales impresario, led Christianson into the sales rep business in Lake Houston and he eventually bought the business, Monk Engineering.

Being a sales rep may be how Christianson makes his living, but music is still his passion, supporting the fine arts primarily through Lone Star College’s fine arts program. While he no long performs professionally, Christianson continues to attend piano contests and festivals throughout the country.

“I’ve met so many talented and remarkable people. I was struck by how difficult it is to make a living even when you’re a world-class performer,” he said.

That’s when Christianson came up with what he calls the “Christianson Concert Series.”

“When these talented musicians that I’ve met come to Houston, I’d invite them to play at our house,” he said. “Three or four times a year, we’d invite 80 to 100 people to the house, ask them to each donate $20 and give the proceeds to the artists. My friends would get to hear first-rate performers. The performers would get some extra cash.”

Christianson met Austin through the Humble Rotary and discovered that music is his passion, too. Austin became a regular supporter of the “Christianson Concert Series.”

“Ken suggested we bring it up a notch by bringing our ‘musical house party’ to The Bender,” said Christianson. “We met with Jennifer Wooden (the director of The Bender) and she was so cooperative and enthusiastic about this show. We’re especially excited for these special musicians to perform at The Bender – the art deco lighting, the wood-stained columns, the superb acoustics and the intimacy of the auditorium; there isn’t a bad seat in the house.”

And so, “A Night of Blues, Ragtime and All That Jazz” was born.

Austin and Christianson are covering the musicians’ expenses and cost of The Bender. Ticket proceeds will go directly to the musicians. If there’s an overwhelming response to the Saturday performance, they’ll book a Friday performance, too.

And, if the July 20 performance is successful, Austin and Christianson have talked with Wooden about a dueling pianos concert, even a ragtime festival.

“The question is, how do we get people in our community to come see The Bender?” Christianson said. “Thanks to Ken’s generosity, his love for music and his devotion to his community, we’re able to present these special performers.”

The Bender is becoming Lake Houston’s go-to place for live performances. Port Arthur’s Jivin’ Gene Bourgeois brings his “swamp pop” performance to The Bender Sept. 21. The inspirational Jade Simmons returns to The Bender stage with part 2 of her performance, “The Sound of Breakthrough,” Nov. 9. Additionally, special Christmas performances will soon be announced.

“Blues, Ragtime and All That Jazz,” presented by KAustin and Associates, is set for Saturday, July 20, 7 p.m. at The Bender. $25 tickets are available at 281-446-4140, humblepac.com, or Facebook at Charles Bender Performing Arts Center.

Tom Broad
Author: Tom BroadEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Columnist
Besides being a proud graduate of The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and, therefore, a Cornhusker, I am retired from Memorial Hermann. I am a correspondent and columnist for Lake Houston's hometown paper, The Tribune, as well as a director of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Corporation, a member of the board of the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, and Volunteer Extraordinaire for the Lake Houston Area Chamber.

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