Local musicians donate time, talent to help Prevent Blindness Texas group

MARBLE FALLS — Two local musicians — including one who co-wrote a just-released Western novel with Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Willie Nelson — will share songs and stories to help in the fight to prevent blindness.

 

Mike Blakely and john Arthur martinez will perform at 2:30 p.m. Sunday to benefit Prevent Blindness Texas at the Uptown Marble Theater, 218 Main St.

The “Vision of the Songwriter” concert will provide an afternoon of songs and storytelling with both artists discussing what inspired them to compose some of their most popular music.

“The concept behind it was we would do a show where we also explain the stories behind the songs,” Martinez said. “In the theme, ‘The Vision of the Songwriter,’ it will be 80 percent music, but we will also share stories with the audience about how the songs evolved from the initial concept to completion. We hope it will appeal to those who want to know more about how the songs originated.”

The recording artist rose to national prominence after competing  on “Nashville Star.” But Martinez, who works closely with the CastleRock development in Cottonwood Shores, said good causes remain close to his heart.

Prevent Blindness America is a national nonprofit charity dedicated to the prevention of blindness, preserving eyesight and enhancing and extending the quality of vision for all individuals, officials said. The program began in 1908 and currently has 11 branches across the state. The Austin branch serves 20 counties in Central Texas. 

Prevent Blindness Texas was established more than 50 years ago.

Dr. Linda McClain, a Marble Falls therapeutic optometrist, is the 2008 chairwoman of the board for the Prevent Blindness Texas/Austin chapter.

“It is a huge collaborative effort coordinating doctors and eye-care professionals to provide free or reduced eye-care services such as vision screening and exams for schools and businesses,” she said. “The program is open to all people from children to adults.” 

Patients receive anything from eye exams to glasses to necessary medical supplies such as medications needed for the treatment of glaucoma, she added.

“If someone is in need of eye-care services, those without insurance are qualified for the program and given a reference letter to go to a doctor-donor affiliated with the group. I see anywhere from two to 12 patients per year,” she said.

McClain contacted Martinez several months ago with the idea of holding a fundraiser to benefit the program.

“When she asked, I thought it was a great idea,” Martinez said. 

Martinez said all the songs featured in the benefit are original compositions and include tunes written individually and those co-written with Blakely. Martinez says he and Blakely have been friends for almost 20 years.

“I first met Mike in the early ’80s at another charity event. I knew his reputation as a writer and a songwriter, and he and I became fast friends writing songs together on Monday nights in the late ’80s.”

Blakely had just moved to Marble Falls and had a cabin on a ranch called El Rancho Quien Sabe.

“The cabin sat on top of an old Indian mound and was a really beautiful setting. We were inspired by the location and decided we could write more there than in a cramped office or studio,” Martinez said.

When asked, Martinez offered his services to McClain and soon after approached Blakely and another guitarist, Chris Reeves, with the idea of playing for the event. Blakely, known as a novelist and performing singer-songwriter, was quick to agree.

“As starving artists, we don’t always have the money to donate to causes, but we can often donate our services, and that’s what makes us jump at the chance to do something like this,” Blakely said. “I’m proud to help out anywhere I can.”

Blakely co-wrote the just-released “A Tale Out of Luck” with famed singer-songwriter Nelson. The novel features a Texas Ranger and his adventures just after the Civil War.

Martinez expressed the same interest in helping with charity events as often as possible.

“There are a lot of people, including aspiring musicians, who don’t have significant insurance or medical care. Whenever it happens that I can help out with a fundraiser that raises money for causes, such as preventable diseases, I want to help,” said Martinez. “I knew a gentleman who lost a child to a preventable illness. I dare anybody not to want to help out when they can.”

In addition to the concert, the event will also include food provided by Good Thyme Catering, a raffle of two guitars autographed by the artists, a raffle with door prizes and a live auction toward the end of the evening.

The event is open to everyone at a cost of $25 per seat, or $200 for a front stage table for four.

Many local physicians and businesses have already donated.

For more, contact McClain at (830) 693-3292 or e-mail Prevent Blindness Texas representative Vicki Weston at pbtaustin@yahoo.com.