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Kim Phillips: ‘Music Friendly Community’ to Drive Denton’s SXSW 2018 initiative

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Kim Phillips

"Participation in the Texas Music Office's 'Music Friendly Community' program provides Texas communities with a network for fostering music industry development, and sends a clear message to industry professionals that certified communities are serious about attracting and developing music industry growth."

This is the mission statement of the Music Friendly Community initiative designed and spearheaded by the Office of the Governor's Texas Music Office Director Brendon Anthony. Anthony's been in Denton the past couple of days for a special reason: Denton is now a designated Music Friendly Community.

Mayor Chris Watts reads an official proclamation acknowledging the importance of the Texas Music Friendly designation to Denton during last week's City Council meeting.Courtesy photo
Mayor Chris Watts reads an official proclamation acknowledging the importance of the Texas Music Friendly designation to Denton during last week's City Council meeting.
Courtesy photo

At last Tuesday's City Council meeting, Mayor Chris Watts read a proclamation acknowledging the importance of this achievement for Denton. Then on Friday, Dan's Silverleaf hosted a community-wide celebration sponsored by the city of Denton, Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau, Denton Music and Arts Collaborative and Hoochies Oyster House as Anthony presented the official Music Friendly Community certificate to City Council member Keely Briggs, who received it on behalf of Denton.

Denton is only the third city in Texas to earn the designation behind Austin and Fort Worth, and just barely ahead of San Antonio whose achievement was announced last week. Other cities are queuing up for their awards in the near future.

It was nearly a decade ago when Denton first began earnestly seeking a music-related designation, a time before the Texas Music Office existed.

The Texas Legislature has offered honorary city designations for many years through a fairly simple process. Community officials define the desired designation and beseech their state senator or representative to carry it forward. For instance, Denton is the 'Redbud Capital of Texas," a designation granted to Denton in 1993 by the 73rd Texas Legislature, the result of a campaign largely led by Keep Denton Beautiful.

In 2010, then-state Rep. Myra Crownover offered to champion an additional designation for Denton. Proposed by city of Denton economic development and DCVB officials, the designation would have been, "Indie Music Capital of Texas."

It was not to be, though. Legislators representing constituencies with already-established music-related designations expressed concern that Denton's would-be designation was too similar. Representative Crownover's resulting counsel was to reconsider revised wording and revisit the legislative proposal in a future session.

As is often the case, hindsight is 20/20. While it seemed like a great idea then, we look back now and see the wisdom in Representative Crownover's counsel and the blessing of heeding it.

The reason? Denton's music scene has never fit into a single-genre category. As solid as Denton's musical identity has been for a hundred years, there is no specific "Denton sound." Our musical make up is broad, original and independent. The music created here runs the gamut of genres, evidenced by the vastly different styles of artists who've achieved international acclaim in jazz, rock and roll, country, Indie and countless specialties and nuances in between.

We've bided our time regarding the musical designation pursuit, but the music coming out of Denton has continued to evolve. Isn't that exactly what music does? It's ever flowing, changing, moving. Could the Indie moniker have put Denton in a theoretic music box? Would being in that box have accomplished anymore than ascribing to Denton a limiting musical label? The Indie movement made headlines at the time, but the tag would have been a nod to only a piece of Denton's musical wealth.

In the aftermath of receiving the Music Friendly Community designation, we can see the merit of having earned versus asked for it. Music Friendly Community says something significant about a place. It is a standard, equitable across the municipal playing field. It requires every would-be community designee to accomplish the same dictated objectives that are meaningful to the global music industry.

Representative Crownover called me a couple of weeks ago, thrilled about Denton's Music Friendly Community achievement, news she had heard from Mr. Anthony himself. We reminisced about the music designation challenges we faced back then and agreed that this outcome was worth the wait.

So, what now? The journey begins March 9, when a Denton delegation will head to South by Southwest 2018 in Austin. Denton's Music Friendly Community award will be front and center as we remind the world that Denton's music scene, venues and support industries are as rich and diverse as they ever have been.

Denton at SXSW is another story with historical tentacles reaching back in time, especially where music is concerned. We'll be playing on that SXSW history in a big way in Austin this year. Tune in next week to see how the past and present are coming together for a dramatic SXSW 2018 splash.

KIM PHILLIPS is vice president of the Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau at the Denton Chamber of Commerce. She loves promoting Denton's original, independent spirit through the city's sense of place and cast of many characters. She can be reached at