Red lights illuminate the stage as the upbeat guitar riffs of Canadian guitarist Redd Volkaert fill the space. Members from across the Denton community gathered around Dan’s Silverleaf take in the Friday night atmosphere and entertainment.
The Made in Denton Music Event, a three-day fundraiser for this October’s Denton Arts and Jazz Festival, opened its first night with performances from Volkaert, Minnesota-based singer Mary Cutrufello and local folk-rock artist Levi Cobb. Other local acts will be featured throughout the weekend, including rock band Brave Combo and Cuban music group El Nuevo Mi Son.
John Williams, an event organizer and Dan’s Silverleaf co-owner, said Made in Denton is a great way for others in the area to raise awareness and support for the Arts and Jazz Festival, as well as local music acts.
“It’s great to get involved with a music event, support the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival and see some awesome, amazing music,” Williams said. “We just want to keep [the fest] going because it’s such a great thing for the city and the residents.”
The idea for Made in Denton originated from a golf course conversation between Williams and Denton Festival Foundation president Jason Stewart. Their goal was to present a mini version of the Arts and Jazz Fest to pay homage to the event’s roots while also raising funds for the event. With a goal of around $15,000, the concert’s benefits will be used to help keep the yearly festival free for the public.
Kevin Lechler, Denton Festival Foundation executive director, said the Arts and Jazz Festival was born out of the belief that the highest quality of art and music should be available to the community free of charge. Years later, the foundation remains true to that belief and dedicates part of its mission to keeping the event free for all.
“The need to raise money is important but we also believe in our community and providing an outlet to bring people together,” Lechler said. “At its heart, the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival is an event that unites people of all walks of life and celebrates the arts and music in the most positive way.”
Local musician Lauren Upshaw, 44, said it is an honor for her to be included in Made in Denton to help support the Arts and Jazz Fest. For years, Upshaw has seen the level of production needed to hold the free concert and feels it demonstrates the full efforts put into the local music scene by the Festival Foundation. Because of this, Upshaw said she, like many other artists involved, was eager to show up and support the institution and its work.
“It’s all hands on deck,” Upshaw said. “The festival is such a cornerstone of the Denton community and does so much for its community and its artists. That’s why we’re here.”
Seeing many Dentonites join together for the Festival Foundation, Upshaw feels the event also demonstrates the love and efforts that are poured into the music community by the artists and their audiences themselves.
“The unique thing about Denton is that it’s not just that there’s a lot of musicians here, it’s that there’s a lot of great musicians,” Upshaw said. “Music is the identity of this town, so it’s special to see such a supportive community through fundraisers like this.”
Upshaw believes events like Made in Denton are able to impact others financially, as well as emotionally. She said when music is involved, one can feel a connectedness with everyone around them, particularly when it is a community-focused event. By offering these spaces in the community, Upshaw feels those across Denton are able to set aside their social and political differences and unite over a universal love for music.
“It’s nice to put aside all the stupid things that are the source of all trouble in our society and just share the joy of music and community in a way that transcends our individual selves,” Upshaw said. “We’re all able to just be together as part of something greater, something pure.”
Featured Image: Mary Cutrufello performs at the Made in Denton music festival at Dan’s SilverLeaf on April 29, 2022. Photo by Matt Iaia