DENTON ARTS AND JAZZ FESTIVAL
DENTON ARTS AND JAZZ FESTIVAL. The Denton Arts and Jazz Festival is a free, two-and-a-half-day event held in Quakertown Park on the last weekend of April in Denton, Texas. The festival features more than 2,300 musicians and performers on seven different stages, along with numerous arts and crafts booths, children’s art educational activities, food, drink, and family-oriented recreational games. Sponsored by the city of Denton and the Denton Festival Foundation, the event attracts well over 200,000 people annually from all over the Southwest.
The Denton Arts and Jazz Festival is the result of efforts by the Denton Festival Foundation and the local community to promote jazz music. From the first arts festival, the “Spring Fling” on April 19–20, 1980, to the emergence of the Denton JazzFest in 1988, the Festival Foundation has striven to bring good music and art to the public. In 1990 the two events of Spring Fling and JazzFest were merged into one event and renamed the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival. By the late 1990s the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival had turned into a major regional music event that began to attract large crowds from all over the state.
Highlighting local and national jazz artists, the festival has hosted a diverse range of musical acts since it began. These include Red & the Redhots, Doyle Bramhall, Brave Combo, Marcia Ball, Arturo Sandoval, Chick Corea, Tower of Power, Joe McBride, Storyville, Lou Ann Barton, Double Trouble, Sara Hickman, Light Crust Doughboys, Buddy Guy, McCoy Tyner, John Scofield, The Boneshakers, Wayne Shorter, Joe Ely, Trout Fishing in America, Susan Tedeschi, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Anson and the Rockets, Joe Zawinal, Stanley Clarke, the Neville Brothers, Delbert McClinton, and Robert Cray Band. Since the festival’s inception, organizers have worked to provide a wide variety of entertainment by offering not only jazz, but also blues, funk, rock, and even choral music.
The Denton Festival Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and supporting music and the fine arts, organizes the event in cooperation with Denton Parks and Recreation, the city of Denton, and the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the American Federation of Musicians. Many corporate and individual sponsors contribute to the festival, including the Denton Record-Chronicle, Budweiser, Wells Fargo Bank, the Dallas Morning News, Coca-Cola, University of North Texas, Texas Woman’s University, and others. With the help of these sponsors, the Denton Festival Foundation is able to provide the event free to the public. A large portion of the proceeds generated by the festival benefits the University of North Texas Center for the Visual Arts and renovation efforts for the Campus Theatre. The Festival Foundation has also contributed funds for improvements to Denton Civic Center Park, along with money presented to area civic organizations that participate in supporting local jazz artists.
Since Denton has long been home to a thriving jazz scene that dates back to the early 1940s, festival organizers have worked to feature musicians that are connected to the Jazz Studies Program at the University of North Texas, including the One O’Clock Lab Band, the Faculty Jazz Ensemble, and the Grammy award-winning polka band, Brave Combo. In fact, the annual event has evolved into a kind of homecoming for famous University of North Texas jazz program graduates that began their musical careers in Denton. Many faculty members of UNT’s College of Music help recruit prominent artists to play the festival, which is one of the reasons the event has proved to be a success year after year. Many distinguished jazz program alumni from the University of North Texas also perform at the festival in an effort to give back to the community of Denton and to help inspire up-and-coming local talent. In addition, festival audiences over the years have included hundreds of undergraduate and graduate music students from the nearby University of North Texas campus. The festival celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2010.
Dallas Morning News, September 22, 1988; April 27, 2001; April 27, 2007. Denton Arts & Jazz Festival (www.dentonjazzfest.com), accessed September 1, 2010. The Festival Beat, Vol. 11, Issue 1, (January 2008). Meredith Stein, “All That Jazz,” DentonLive.com (http://dentonlive.com/2011/01/08/all-that-jazz/), accesed September 21, 2011.