Left to right: San Marcos Baptist Academy (SMBA) Director of Alumni Relations Madeline De Long, SMBA President John Garrison, Joel Hofmann, Ronnie Huckaby, and Cecilia Peña, mother of Capt. Paul Peña.
By HAP MANSFIELD
Music has a healing quality. When one loses a friend or loved one, sometimes it’s the only thing that helps. This was literally true, recently, at a local music venue.
A series of interconnected friendships and a love of music resulted in a benefit at Riley’s Tavern, 8894 FM 1102, honoring one friend lost to tragedy and raising donations for a scholarship fund on behalf of San Marcos Baptist Academy graduate Captain Paul , who was killed while stationed in Afghanistan earlier this year.
Ronnie Huckaby, a frequent tour mate of George Strait and keyboardist for the Ace in the Hole band, planned the benefit, the Jason Schnautz Memorial Music Fest on May 16, to honor Schnautz, a friend and music fan, who was killed in a car accident two years ago. Huckaby may be familiar as a performer in the 1992 movie, “Pure Country” and, more recently, in 2008’s “Stop Loss.”
Schnautz attended SMBA from 1988-1982. He w,as close friends with Joel Hoffman who attended SMBA from 1993-1995, and Alan Cummings, a 1997 graduate of SMBA. Hoffman is known to San Marcians as lead vocalist for the Joel Hoffman Band, the “house band” of Riley’s Tavern. Hoffman owns and operates Riley’s, the famous road house in Hunter.
Huckaby talked to Hoffman, who offered Riley’s as the setting for the Schnautz benefit. Riley’s Tavern, like most of the music venues in the area, is no stranger to benefit events, having yearly throw downs that support work with juvenile diabetes and other causes. Cummings, owner of Green Valley Lawn Services, joined in planning the event and suggested that the proceeds from the Schnautz festival could be donated to the Captain Paul Peña Memorial Endowed Scholarship, which was set up shortly after the SMBA graduate was killed in action.
Cheatham Street Warehouse’s Ken Finlay has said on more than one occasion that musicians in this area have the largest hearts when it comes to donating their time to help a fella or a cause, and this was certainly illustrated at Riley’s Tavern.
After the word went out about the Schnautz memorial festival, eleven bands volunteered their time to perform at the eight-hour event, including Glenn Allan, Ricky Calmbach, Dave Jorgenson, the Rusty Brothers, Beverly Hensley, Paul Eason, the Darren Kozelsky Band, Vitera, Todd Leger, the Joel Hofmann Band, Kyle Park and Members of the Ace in the Hole Band.
Funds were raised through the $8 entry fee and through two live auctions in which a George Strait guitar and other collectible items were sold. This is Texas, where nobody goes home without getting fed, and the entry fee included barbecue sponsored by two new Braunfels restaurants, Cooper’s Old Time Pit and Bar-B-Que and Scores Sports Bar and Grill.
More than 250 attended the event, which raised more than $9,000 for the scholarship fund.
“The event truly exceeded all of our expectations, ” said Huckaby.
On June 1, Huckaby and Hoffman presented the money to Peña’s mother, Ms. Cecilia Peña, and representatives of SMBA.
The scholarship fund met its requirement for minimum endowment. However, SMBA is hoping to raise $100,000, which would produce a more sizable scholarship for future years. Those who missed the event can still contribute to the Paul W. Peña Memorial Endowed Scholarship through the academy’s development office. Call (512) 753-8000 for more information.