Friends and acquaintances of Draylen Mason, the 17-year-old who was killed in one of Monday's package explosions in Austin, Texas, remembered him as a kind young man and a talented musician.
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Mason's mother also was injured in the explosion first reported around 6:44 a.m. Monday, authorities said. She remained in the hospital on Tuesday and was in stable condition. Authorities haven't released her name yet.
Mason’s Facebook page shows that he was a senior at East Austin College Prep and was heavily involved in local music programs such as the Austin Youth Orchestra, where he was the principal double bass player, and the youth music program Austin Soundwaves, where he was also the principal bassist.
“He was a cool guy, and he was just so fun to be around,” said his friend, Kylie Phillips. “He was always busy, because he always had gigs and he was always doing things for the orchestra here in Austin. … I used to sing in a band with him, so it was so devastating when I found out he died.”
Another friend from school, Stephanie Lucio, remembered him as “talented to the max, from dancing to playing so many instruments.”
“As for his mother, I pray for her strength and recovery,” Lucio said. “She raised an outstanding son, friend, student and global citizen.”
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Former Austin Council Member Mike Martinez said he had met Mason and re-posted on Facebook a photo of them together.
“I had the honor to meet Draylen Mason in 2013 after he won the Hispanic Bar essay contest,” Martinez wrote. “His essay was on racial profiling and was so insightful and mature for such a young man. All of these tragedies are so horrible for our community. We must put a stop to this. RIP Draylen.”
Mason had been accepted to the University of Texas Butler School of Music, UT spokesman J.B. Bird said Tuesday.
The dean of the College of Fine Arts, Doug Dempster, offered his condolences, calling Mason a "most remarkable talent" who had the "chops to study music in college."
“We at the University of Texas were so eager to have him join our music school … He carried himself with a kind of quiet maturity that belied his youth,” Dempster said. “The loss of a child with such conspicuous ambition, talent and determination is the cruelest kind of heartbreak.”
Some of Mason’s teachers grieved for him on social media, describing him as a remarkable student.
Sam Osemene, a U.S. government professor at Austin Community College, said he was intelligent and well-loved by everyone in the classroom.
“He was a very vibrant young man, full of life, always smiling,” Osemene told the American-Statesman on Tuesday. “He had what I call a zeal to succeed.”
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Mason had previously shared a couple videos of classical string performances on his Facebook page, and several photos of him show him playing a double bass or sitting at a piano.
A spokesperson from Soundwaves said Mason had worked with its executive director since he was 11 years old.
Mason had left a five-star review on Austin Soundwaves’ Facebook page: “Austin Soundwaves is a great music programs that’s dedicated to the advancement of kids in East Austin thru the power of music,” he wrote. “They push everyone to strive and to do great things in life.”
The group had been contacted by Mason’s family and asked not to comment further.
Mason had performed with the Austin Youth Orchestra for the last six years, its conductor, William Dicks, said Tuesday.
“He was an outstanding young man that had the talent and artistry to be a first class professional musician,” Dicks said. “It’s senseless.”
The first victim
Mason was the second person killed in the series of package explosions that began earlier this month.
Anthony House, who was killed in the first package bombing on March 2, was father to an 8-year-old girl and a Pflugerville High School and Texas State University graduate. Friends remembered him as quiet, clean-cut and driven.
House ran track and played basketball at Pflugerville High School where he made friendships that lasted throughout his life.
“He wanted to be something different and bigger than what a lot of people thought he was going to do,” said fellow Pflugerville Panther Greg Padgitt, who graduated two years before House. “He was quiet, but jokey with the kids that he let in. He was a great kid.”
After graduating from Texas State University with a degree in business administration, finance and financial management services in 2008, House started a money managing firm, serving as president of House Capital Management LLC. More recently he worked as a senior project manager for Texas Quarries, a Cedar Park-based lime fabricator, and Acme Brick, a Fort Worth-based firm. According to public records, House had recently begun attending Austin Community College.
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House’s family members declined to speak to the media Tuesday, but Freddie Dixon, House’s stepfather, had previously told the Washington Post that he thinks the bombings were a hate crime.
“Are you trying to say something to prominent African-American families?” Dixon, who is close friends with Mason’s grandfather and is the co-founder of the Austin Area Urban League, told the Post. “It’s not just coincidental.”
State Sen. Kirk Watson, a Democrat from Austin, expressed his condolences for House via Facebook on Tuesday afternoon: "The family of Anthony Stephan House, including his wife and 8-year-old daughter, has endured such a terrible loss through an absolutely inexplicable act of violence. Anthony was laid to rest this past weekend. I've known his stepfather, the Rev. Freddie Dixon, for many years and send my deepest condolences to the family."