Austin’s music community has been shaken by a tragic loss of one of its own. Yesterday, news came that Esme Barrera, a music mentor, teacher’s assistant for children with special needs and part-time record store employee was found murdered in her Austin home in the early hours of New Year’s Day. She was 29 years old.
A wide network of friends are remembering Barrera by online tributes, as well as in flowers and cards at the gate of her home. Alyx Vesey, friend of Barrera’s and author of one such tribute, met Barrera in the summer of 2009 when Vesey was teaching a music history workshop at Girls Rock Camp Austin. She wrote of Barrera as “an amazing Girls Rock Camp counselor” and someone who “became a model for how I present myself in front of students and run a classroom.” Vesey also told The L in an email that “half of Austin” could share fond memories of Barrera, but one thing that distinguished this mentor was her genuine enthusiasm for her girls’ bands.
I remember back in 2010 when she worked with a GRCA group called Chucky’s Unborn Children. They weren’t very experienced with making music, but they loved horror movies and had a clear concept for their sound. They wanted to create a song that sounded like it could be heard on a horror film soundtrack. Anyway, Esme was invested in this band and pulled my arm to get me to listen them during rehearsal. She didn’t just think they were cute girls learning how to play guitar—she believed in them.
According to KXAN News, the club where Barrera had been celebrating was just two blocks away, and ‘it is unclear’ if she walked home alone. KXAN also reports that just 30 minutes prior to police finding Barrera’s body, another woman walking Barrera’s block experienced an assault, and that two hours later, yet another woman was attacked in her home. Police concluded that Barrera’s death was a homicide, but further details have not been made public.
“Everyone seemed to have the same impression of (Barrera), whether they were a parent of a student or were meeting her at a rock concert,” Emily Gross, a coworker of Barrera’s at Casis Elementary School, told The Statesman. “She was just this bright, shiny light.”
“The main thing is that I hope that the tragedy of her passing doesn’t outshine what a warm, gracious, hilarious person she was,” Vesey added. “Mainly don’t let this death eclipse this bright, too-short life.”