UNT Showcase Stage

The U-Tubes, a trombone jazz ensemble, perform on the UNT Showcase Stage during the Denton Arts & Jazz Festival in 2017.

The University of North Texas College of Music will be part of this year’s Denton Arts & Jazz Festival after all, thanks to a Denton law office.

Attorney Tim Powers offered to pay the $15,000 sponsorship for the UNT Music Stage this year and going forward. The 2021 festival runs Oct. 1-3 in Quakertown Park.

Powers said he decided to approach the festival and the college after reading about the sponsorship being pulled in a June story in the Denton Record-Chronicle.

“I have been the hugest fan of the One O’clock Lab Band for years, and the other lab bands,” Powers said. “The program is known worldwide. I was actually at the Cork Jazz Festival when I was in Cork, Ireland. It was such a fantastic performance, and to think that the people in Denton might miss out on that didn’t seem right.”

His law firm is sponsoring the UNT Showcase Stage in perpetuity, Powers said, so that thousands can see students from “the best music school in the country” perform without having to buy a ticket.

He also said he knew the university would need help this year to make its funding stretch.

“UNT and all university programs have limited financial means,” Powers said. “Our office gives several scholarships at the high schools in DISD. We try to give back to the community. I didn’t want the UNT students to miss the chance to perform at such a great event.”

The UNT Showcase Stage had been one of the most popular stages at the jazz festival for at least a decade. The Division of Brand Strategy and Communications at UNT pulled its sponsorship of the stage this year, citing the resources required to staff the stage and run the concert performances by the college’s student ensembles. Jim Bersheidt, vice president of the division, said the division didn’t use its marketing dollars for any other festival.

In a sit-down interview with the Denton Record-Chronicle editorial board earlier this month, UNT President Neal Smatresk also said that the festival’s move to October because of the pandemic meant UNT bands wouldn’t be as prepared to perform at the event.

Without $15,000 to pay for the stage, the lighting and sound equipment, festival officials said they couldn’t afford to cover the costs without a sponsorship.

In a university news release, UNT College of Music Dean John Richmond said the festival and the college are grateful for Powers’ generosity.

“The pandemic created such a huge disruption in the performing arts in Denton and around the world. Mr. Powers’ vision to support this important Denton tradition and UNT’s internationally respected College of Music is a source of profound inspiration and so much gratitude.”

Kevin Lechler, the associate director of the Denton Festival Foundation, which presents the annual festival, said Powers’ donation has rescued an important partnership.

“We are sincerely indebted to Mr. Powers for his generous sponsorship, and that we were able to sit down with the College of Music to come up with a plan that benefits both organizations,” Lechler said. “The partnership with UNT is a vital part of our event and we are grateful for its continuation for years to come.”

Powers is a criminal defense attorney with a practice in Denton. He’s a former adjunct professor of criminal law and criminal procedure at UNT, but hasn’t taught there since 2010. He’s practiced law in Denton for 26 years, and has other offices outside of Denton.

Powers said he’s been to the festival for the last 18 to 20 years. He works almost every Saturday, so he makes his time at the festival count, seeing as many bands as he can at all the stages.

“I always eat more than I should,” he said. “Especially with those turkey legs.”

Richmond said in an earlier interview that the college didn’t have the money needed to pay for the stage, and that he shared the community’s disappointment that the student ensembles likely wouldn’t appear at the festival. He said the budget for the college was doubly stretched from the economic downturn during the pandemic.

Powers said his practice has supported arts and education for years. The firm has a sidewalk star outside of the Campus Theatre, which signifies a donation of $10,000 or more to the nonprofit performing arts company Theatre Denton.

“This is something that’s important to the citizens of Denton,” he said.

LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877 and via Twitter at @LBreedingDRC.

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