Friends and acquaintances, including former Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez, remembered Draylen Mason, the 17-year-old who was killed in one of Monday’s package explosions in Austin, as bright, kind and exceptionally talented.
Draylen’s mother also was injured in the explosion first reported around 6:44 a.m. Monday. She remained in the hospital on Tuesday and was in stable condition, authorities said.
Multiple community members and family friends of Draylen’s shared their grief online after hearing of his death.
His Facebook page shows 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.”
Mason had been accepted to the University of Texas Butler School of Music, UT spokesman J.B. Bird said Tuesday.
“This is an accomplishment, as admission to the school is highly competitive,” he said. “We are deeply sorry for his family’s loss.”
The dean of the College of Fine Arts, Doug Dempster, specifically 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 said.
“He carried himself with a kind of quiet maturity that belied his youth,” Dempster added. “The loss of any child is heartbreaking. The loss of a child with such conspicuous ambition, talent and determination is the cruelest kind of heartbreak. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, teachers, and fellow students.”
Some of Mason’s teachers grieved for him on social media, describing him as a remarkable, talented 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.”
Martinez also re-posted a photo from 2013 of him and Mason.
“I had the honor to meet Draylen Mason in 2013 after he won the Hispanic Bar essay contest,” Martinez wrote on Facebook. “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.”
Former Austin school district Trustee Paul Saldaña offered his condolences as well.
“He was an amazing part of our community who is gone too soon,” he said.
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 the executive director since he was 11 years old.
The group had been contacted by Mason’s family and asked not to comment further.
Mason 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,” Mason wrote. “They push everyone to strive and to do great things in life.”
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.”