Laying the Foundation: Or, Carter Albrecht's Dad Needs Your Help

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At last, Pegasus News has finally posted the downloadable videos from last Saturday night's Carter Albrecht Memorial concert at the Granada Theater. They are free, per the family's wishes, but as the event was a fund-raiser for the fledgling Carter Albrecht Music Foundation, so too are the videos: Pegasus would like to "strongly suggest" you pay before for you play and give to the foundation.

But what, exactly, is the Carter Albrecht Music Foundation? "I am trying to figure that out," says Carter's father, Ken, who has been struggling with doing something in his son's memory since he was shot to death on September 3. "Carter was killed on Monday, and on Tuesday, with everything going on, I was going to have people make donations to the charity of their choice. Then I thought, 'Waitaminute, I have do so something here.'" And so the idea was born, if only so a grieving father could do something.

Precisely what, Ken doesn't know. He is considering many ideas, chief among them raising money to offer lessons to kids who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to learn an instrument. The money would go toward the buying of instruments and paying musicians for their time. Carter often gave lessons to kids: The day before his death, Ken says, he spent two and a half hours giving piano lessons -- something Carter's mother, Judy, has done for years -- and he had about half a dozen students.

Ken's also considering something involving health insurance for working musicians. Or subsidizing musicians so they wouldn't need to get day jobs. Something. "I know," Ken tells Unfair Park. "Right now, it's kind of vague." Which is where you come in, especially if you're a local musician.

Ken Albrecht is strikingly straightforward about the subject: He knows that for the moment, he has the attention of those who still grieve for his son, among the most talented and beloved musicians in a scene short on artists as charismatic as Carter.

"I knew the best time I could raise money was after Carter's death, when everyone was so emotional about it," he says. "I hate to be that blunt, but it's true, and I've been successful in raising money, but the hard part is in forming it. It can be changed and massaged over time, but I also don't want to waste valuable dollars putting it down a hole."

As it happened, Carter had given piano lessons for eight years to the daughter of the president of Northern Trust Bank/Dallas. So he contacted the bank about establishing the foundation; he also met with a woman who set up a similar fund after one of her children committed suicide. He's in the process of establishing nonprofit status -- it takes around six months, Ken says -- and a board is taking shape, with some of the Albrechts' friends and some local musicians, among them singer Jenn Nabb.

But what then?

"One of the things Carter was frustrated by but truly believed in was that some day, the Dallas area could actually support musicians," Ken says. "You could be famous here and make a living and you won't have to move somewhere else to be successful. And in the last six months he would play gigs and they would promise him money, and then say, 'You owe us $22 for the beer you drank.' He worked so much in Austin and New York and Los Angeles, and he would always say, 'But that could be here.' And I am trying to figure out how the musicians could make that work here, and how the foundation could help.

"We can do scholarships and all that, but I want to figure out how we can merge some of these starving musicians -- if they can really teach -- with kids that wouldn't have the opportunity because they didn't have equipment and make that available. I meant what I said the other night about these guys being independent contractors: You don't have to take a day job like on The Office ... As Carter knew, there were people out there that never would have the opportunity and have so much talent going unrealized. You might have to go through hundreds of them to find them, but they're there. There will be gems, and you'll change their lives."

So that is just one possible goal for the foundation. But Ken knows there are other needs, and he needs the assistance of local musicians to fill in what he knows are the estimable blanks. In short, he's asking you post your ideas below, and we are more than happy to offer the space. (Only, as Unfair Park's moderator, I warn you now: Keep 'em helpful, or keep 'em to yourself.)

Ken also sends word concerning Carter's solo album, Jesus Is Alive and Living in London, which will be released next year. Salim Nourallah and Deadman's Steven Collins have been putting the finishing touches on the record, which Carter had all but completed before his death.

"Carter left extremely detailed notes, and they know how it's supposed to be done," Ken says. He also notes that some out-of-town friends of Carter's have asked to play on the record -- to "put their twist on it" -- and that Collins and Nourallah have done a good job of keeping outsiders' mitts off the disc. The art's done; all that remains is getting the disc pressed and distributed, which will be done with the assistance of Edie Brickell, with whom Carter had played for years, and her husband, Paul Simon.

"They sent me in writing that they would cover all expenses and provide whatever resources needed, people and expertise, to take the new CD and make sure it gets national distribution," Ken says. "Edie told me, 'I promise you, whatever you think of Paul as a musician, he's 20 times the businessman.'"

As it happened, Ken and I spoke earlier this week -- the very day he'd received the Dallas County Medical Examiner's autopsy report that showed his son had an alcohol level of 0.29 in his blood the night he died, three times the legal driving limit. It was not an easy thing to accept, but that is all Ken and Judy Albrecht can do now -- absorb the news and move on, trying to raise money for the foundation that will honor their son in the best way they know how.

Putting together the foundation, Ken says, "allows me to touch people Carter knew that I didn't know, so I get to know him better. It doesn't take the heartache away, but his reach was unbelievable. The stories I've heard, I could write a book.That Friday of his memorial service, the people who would wait to talk to me and hadto tell me a story, it was unbelievable. He was so selfless." --Robert Wilonsky

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