The Women’s Symphony League of Austin Debutante Ball
By Madeline Cummings Noal
Photography By Rose Betty Williams
The term Moonlight and Magnolias evokes a sense of old Southern charm, classical tradition, and impeccable heritage. The Women’s Symphony League annual Jewel Ball was nothing short of all these ideals. The organization has served the community with a commitment to the Austin Symphony Orchestra for 59 years, and with its 57th Jewel Ball, the legacy of service was continued with the Jewel Ball Royal Court of debutantes and escorts.
The Palmer Event Center was surfeit with giant magnolia trees lining the tables, the ceiling decorated with magnolia blossoms and branches. As guests entered they were greeted with décor nothing less than that of an old southern plantation. Each ticket holder was given a poker chip for the many casino-style tables, and the silent auction boasted items like immaculately detailed violins, each instrument displaying a different theme on its body. Each table had an immaculate selection of hors d’oeuvres for guests to enjoy as the presentation commenced.
While guests made their way to the tables, the back of the Palmer Event Center was a buzz with the Jewel debs, their escorts, and their families alike. Champagne, wine, and appetizers were served as proud parents watched their children take photographs and family portraits. The jewels and escorts, who are selected in honor of their families’ continued support for the WSL and the Austin Symphony Orchestra, were all beaming as the began their special night. The Duchesses from out of town added a spark to the gorgeous white gowns worn by the Jewels with dresses in every shade of the gem, and when the group came together for a group portrait, it was breathtaking.
As symphony music began to fill the room, the black tie guests took to their tables as the debutantes and escorts lined the back of the room. First presented were the Maidens and Squires, 8th grades who share a common love for music and philanthropy. After their individual presentation, the debutante presentation began. As everyone turned in their seats to watch the beautiful debutantes approach the runway with their fathers, the onlookers took in the beautiful gowns and anxiously awaited the debutante’s bow. As debutante Mary Frances Barksdale, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Barry Barksdale took the stage on the arm of escort and brother Barry Ross Barksdale, Jr., the song Moon River began to play, transfixing the audience. Turning to the audience, she raised her arms, bent her legs, and bowed gracefully for the entire audience’s delight, and then smiled with the confidence of a new debutante.
Following the presentation, a delicious meal including a fresh mozzarella and arugula salad, steak and Brie, and a miniature crème brûlée was served to the guests. The band began to play as the debs flocked to the dance floor with their fathers and the poker tables and auction area began to swarm. The belle of the ball was Diamond Catherine Chlebowski, who comes from a legacy of Symphony League women. Her mother, Sharon Wilson, is the current Women’s Symphony League president, and her grandmother, Sonia Wilson, served as the president of the charity in 1976. The beautiful event would not have been the same without two women, Jewel Ball Chair Kelly Goulding and Jewel Chair Diane Falkenberg, who together organized the debutantes, the décor, the diversions, and an all-around memorable evening.