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Musical Feast: Teen Composer and Erhu

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Musical Feast: Teen Composer and Erhu


On this episode of NPR’s “From the Top,” we meet a teen composer who performs her own work on cello, learn about the beauty of the erhu, and discover the joy of marching bands through the experiences of a teen flutist. Learn more about the musicians and repertoire featured on this episode: https://fromthetop.org/show/show-449/

  • Cellist Mira Kardan, 17, from Los Angeles, California
  • Dance of the Green Devil by Gaspar Cassadó (1897-1966)
  • Pianist Kate Shao, 15, from Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Viva! Vegas: Show City, Show Girl by Hiromi (b. 1979)
  • Violist Daniel De La Cruz, 17, from Laguna Niguel, California
  • Myrthen, Op. 25, No. 1. Widmung by Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
  • Flutist Soomin Oh, 15, from Austin, Texas
  • Sonata for Flute and Piano in C Major – I. Allergo cantabile by Otar Taktakishvili (1924-1989)
  • Composer/Cellist Mary Brook Hartmann, 17, from Sugar Land, Texas
  • Behind the Barrier for Solo Cello by Mary Brook Hartmann (b. 2006)
  • Erhu player Brian Zhu, 17, from Andover, Massachusetts
  • The Sun Shines on Tashkurgan by Chen Gang (b. 1935)

Copyright 2024 NPR





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Austin, TX

Whataburger sues North Carolina chain for trademark infringement

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Whataburger sues North Carolina chain for trademark infringement


Whataburger is suing a North Carolina-based restaurant chain with a nearly identical name for trademark infringement.

Whataburger accuses “What-A-Burger Number 13” in North Carolina of infringing on its federal trademark, breaching contract, and committing unfair and deceptive trade practices.

ALSO| Austin’s Zilker Eagle mini train opens with new engine, new route and free rides

The defendants claim to have started using the name around 1969, more than 10 years after the Texas chain’s first copyright registration.

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The Texas Whataburger claims to have signed a co-existence agreement after announcing plans to open in the Tar Heel State in 2022.

However, Whataburger says conditions in that agreement were continuously violated.



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UT Austin, one of the city's largest employers, is eliminating most remote work

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UT Austin, one of the city's largest employers, is eliminating most remote work


The University of Texas at Austin will require “almost all” staff members to return to working on-site, full-time ahead of the fall semester.

In an email to the campus community Wednesday, UT President Jay Hartzell said leaders of individual colleges and schools will finalize logistics by early July, and the policy will fully take affect by Aug. 19 — the week before fall classes start.

“Staff members can most effectively serve our students, faculty, fellow staff members, and other stakeholders when working together in an environment that fosters collaboration, innovation, availability, and reliability,” Hartzell said in the email. “We are here because of our students, and your consistent presence will help provide a more complete and engaging learning experience for students throughout campus.”

Some roles will still be eligible for remote or hybrid work based on what department leaders decide. Hartzell didn’t share specifics, but said the roles “will be characterized by observable productivity; work that is transactional, internal, or service related; or functions that require high levels of individual time to perform.”

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Mike Rosen, a spokesperson for UT Austin, said in an email that “certain accounting, payroll, or IT positions” could be examples of jobs eligible for hybrid or remote work. Rosen said UT Austin doesn’t have a tally of how many staff members the new policy will affect, but that many employees have already returned to full-time, in-office work.

UT Austin has 21,000 faculty and staff members, according to its LinkedIn. That makes it one of the largest employers in the area, according to data from the Austin Chamber of Commerce. KUT staff are also employees of UT Austin.

One UT staff member, who asked to remain anonymous out of concern that her coworkers could experience retaliation, said she thinks returning to the office full-time is unnecessary for her position. As an academic adviser in the College of Liberal Arts, she works directly with students.

“Most of my job is with students over Zoom,” she said. “A lot of students … they commute to UT, they have jobs, they have other things going on outside of school. Not everybody is able to stay on campus and meet with advisers for whatever they need.”

Her team currently works three days in office, two days remote during the fall and spring semesters. After receiving Hartzell’s email Wednesday, she said she got another email from her team’s HR representative specifying that she will now need to work four days in person, one day remote every week while school is in session.

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The UT employee was already planning to quit her job for personal reasons before the most recent announcement, but this has cemented her decision.

“I think everybody’s aware that it’s very expensive to live in Austin,” she said. She has worked in multiple positions at UT since 2019 and now makes $53,000 a year. “The university is also fairly expensive [for] anyone who commutes to UT …. We have to dedicate even more of our time to getting to campus, paying to get to campus and continuing to do these jobs where we’re very underpaid for the amount of work that we’re expected to carry out.”





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Austin’s housing market tumbles as developers abandon neighborhoods

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Austin’s housing market tumbles as developers abandon neighborhoods


Home prices in the former pandemic boomtown of Austin, Texas, have slowly started to climb back in March and April, according to Redfin data, but are far from their 2022 peak, as the market is flipping in favor of buyers and the city experiences troubles with developers abandoning projects.

In April, the latest data available on Redfin, the median sale price of a home was $567,000, up 0.4 percent compared to a year earlier but down 16 percent compared to the peak of $667,000 reached in May 2022. Austin, once one of the hottest markets in the U.S.—and one of the most overvalued—experienced the biggest drop of any metropolitan area in the country following the pandemic.

In May 2024, according to data compiled by ResiClub using the Zillow Home Value Index, home prices in Austin were down 18.7 percent compared to the May 2022 peak.

The groundwork for apartments undergoing construction on March 19, 2024, in Austin, Texas. Austin’s home prices are still down more than 16% compared to their pandemic peak in May 2022.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

The only other cities that experienced price drops beyond the 10 percent mark from their pandemic peak were New Orleans, Louisiana (-13.7 percent); Lake Charles, Louisiana (-11.7 percent); and Boise, Idaho (-10.4 percent).

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The U.S. housing market experienced a modest price correction between late summer 2022 and spring 2023, driven by the increasing unaffordability of buying properties in a higher mortgage rates environment.

In Austin, which saw a huge influx of residents during the pandemic driving up prices, the correction was a much more dramatic phenomenon. Prices slid down as coastal and remote workers started leaving the city after the end of the pandemic and new construction projects got on the way, increasing Austin’s inventory.

While a historic lack of supply at the national level has contributed to keeping prices from plunging and is now leading their slow comeback in Austin too, there’s no doubt that the city is not the same place it was during the pandemic years.

Software giant Oracle Corp. announced a month ago that it would be moving out of Austin and creating its “world headquarters” in the city’s archrival, Nashville, Tennessee. The company had arrived in the Texas capital only in 2020.

In recent months, Austin has seen developers abandon several construction projects, as reported by Austin realtor Jeremy Knight in a series of videos on YouTube. In a previous comment to Newsweek, Knight explained that many of these projects started in 2020-2021 as the market was beginning to skyrocket.

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“There was a lot of demand with more people moving to Austin. Unfortunately, the city of Austin has a lot of red tape and logistics to get through. Many of these projects take years to get greenlit,” he said.

“Now add the delays with workforce during the pandemic, the backlog, and developers rushing to buy in Austin, and then a turn in the market of 21 percent peak to trough. The valuations many of these developers put on these projects no longer make sense. Now add the fact that interest rates have doubled and nearly tripled since the projects started. Many of these small developers are facing headwinds.”

In a recent video, Knight said that over 57 percent of the inventory on the market is now vacant.

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.



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