Denison to become 'music-friendly community'

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Local group, the Texoma Gospel Saints, perform at Music on Main in 2018. The city of Denison is pursuing status as a Music Friendly Community with the Texas Governor's office.

The city of Denison is taking steps to cement its status as a thriving community of music and musicians.

The city of Denison  held a workshop this week regarding local efforts to have the city designated as a Texas Music Friendly community through the Texas Governor's Office.

The designation, offered through the Texas Music Office — itself a part of the governor's office — will help the city address the needs of the artists within the community while connecting with similar communities across the state.

"Really in a nutshell, what this program does is it gives the cities a framework to help engage their music community," said Chip Adams, community relations & outreach specialist for the Texas Music Office. "To start, it gives them a platform with which to gather together and communicate."

Denison Main Street Director Donna Dow said it is difficult to see the full scope of Denison's music community. Beyond artists, the community also includes venues, teachers and recording studios in town. For the first phase of the designation, Dow has recorded a list of 36 group or individuals who make up the scene.

While the music office has been around for three decades, the designation itself is only a few years old. The initiative was started when new leadership started in the office."

"He realized there wasn't a way to pick a city at large and contact one person to find out what is going on with the music scene in that city," Adams said.

The current goal is to have 20 cities in the program by year's end. Currently, there are 18 certified communities, including Denton and McKenney. Several others, including Denison, are somewhere in the process of being certified.

"Every city across Texas can say they are fans of music and love music, but we are here to bring in those cities that have a viable industry and want to put in the work to support and grow that community," he said.

The purpose of the program is to help draw connections with the local music scene. This can include communication with the city itself but also can be between certified communities.

"Getting a connection between San Antonio and Denison was something that simply didn't happen before this program," Adams said.

Through the designation, the city will create a database of acts, venues, teachers and record studios, among other parts of the music community. These local databases will be added to the state database.

"It also shows these cities what they really have," Adams said. "Many cities don't realize how big their music community really is. So, it gives them a better understanding what they have in their own town."

The first step on the certification process is to hold a workshop between state officials and local members of the music community. Adams said about 16 people attended Denison's virtual meeting this week.

Denison has already met the second requirement for certification by designation Donna Dow as a Liaison for the community.

Once these steps, and the directory are completed, the city can move forward with a memorandum of understanding and certification.

Dow said she learned about the program through Main Street training. From there, she moved to support Denison gaining this recognition as a way to support the music scene during a difficult time.

"Our music venues are suffering during COVID, because many of them are bars, dance halls and even restaurants that have had to scale back. We want to do what we can to help them," she said.

By engaging with other communities on the state level, Dow said she hopes to bring more exposure to what Denison and its musicians have to offer.

This goal also coincides with long-term plans by city leaders to develop downtown into a thriving entertainment destination. The city had made great strides toward that goal, and this is simply the next step, Dow said.

"We would like to grow the music scene even more in downtown," she said. "For downtown, we would like to see musicians playing along the street and have a more vibrant music scene."