Mike Seman

Photo: Danny Fulgencio, 2010

     Mike Seman is a man of many talents. In addition, to slowly rocking in Shiny Around the Edges, he also is a research associate at UNT’s Center for Economic Development and Research, a Ph.D. student student studying urban planning and public policy at the University of Texas at Arlington, the daytime programming coordinator for 35 Conferette and a frequent Kroger shopper. Oft overlooked, the daytime panels at the annual festival provide both a good time for people who enjoy angsty-arguments and informative discussions. In the run up to the beginning of the festival,  the ever-busy Seman hustled and bustled his way through a few of our long-winded questions.

We Denton Do It:How much say-so did you have in creating the actual discussion topics for each individual panel?

Mike Seman: Last year, I developed a majority of the topics and chose the panelists; this year I wanted to engage the people that had come to me throughout the year with great ideas. Each moderator developed a topic and selected his or her panelists. I was consulted on the subject matter and asked for insight on occasion. It was an experiment for all of us and I am pleased to say that the results are way beyond what I was anticipating.

Do you have specific people in the community whom you would want to attend specific panels? For example, Land Mammalshas a song that suspiciously sounds a lot like another local band’s song. Should they plan on attending Music Business Legal Check Listwith Tamara Bennett?

MS: If you are a musician, you should visit “DFW is the New Black!” as discussing the future of the DFW art scene may yield perspective for what you can do in your local music scene. Those in the music legal arena may want to visit the “What is the soul of the city?” Drink and Think event to meet City representatives and musicians and learn how they can integrate their skills into a city with a music scene that has a strong civic focus.

Each year the daytime panels at the festival have been more well-attended. However, this is the first year that there is not keynote speaker for the festival.Was that decision on purpose or did you guys just forget?

MS: A keynote speaker was not to be this year. We are very focused on developing 35 Conferette in a way that reflects the dynamic eclecticism of the Denton music scene and the cultural vibrancy of the city, while also incorporating the best that DFW and points beyond have to offer. We had several keynote speakers in mind that would have meshed well with our ethos. Unfortunately, none of them could not commit due to scheduling conflicts.

Your better half, Jenny Seman (also of Shiny Around the Edges), is sitting in on a panel this year. Her panel, Kool Thing: Women and Power inRock and Roll, is about women in the music industry. Denton has often been described as a “boy’s club” in terms of female participation. Do you believe that to be a misnomer, or do you actually have to be able to grow facial hair in order to rock here?

MS: “Kool Thing: Women and Power in Rock and Roll” was actually co-developed by Katey and Jen. In my experience, the Denton music scene is pretty open to anything. There are (have been) some great bands that include female perspective, Record Hop, Cuckoo Birds, Peopleodian, Vulgar Fashion, Sarah Jaffe, Christian Teenage Runaways, Fight Bite to name a few. Heck, the Rival Gang set at the Bake Sale benefit Shiny threw a while back rocked almost into a riot. Ask that question at the panel session.

Is there anything you wanted to squeeze into the topics for this year’s panels that you weren’t able to? If so, what was it?

MS: I really, really wanted to present Big Freedia’s lecture/dance workshop concerning the history of bounce music and its place in New Orleans’ cultural framework. I also wanted to present a panel session discussing music’s use in the treatment of autism. Sadly, I just couldn’t make either happen in the time-frame presented.

Looking through the topics and panelists invited to speak this year, the range of topics seem to have drifted towards DFW/Dallas in their scope as opposed to just Denton. Is this because you feel that DFW has embraced 35 Conferette and are changing the topics based on your audience, or because it is virtually impossible to talk about Denton for an hour without saying “Dallas” at least a fewtimes?

MS: It’s a reflection of the growth of the Conferette. Although the Conferette’s core reason for being is to celebrate Denton and its music, it is in no way to be at the exclusion of everything else. We are lucky to live in a rapidly growing region with a large population, many of who are adamant about art and music - as both creators and aficionados. 35 Conferette is a way to get these people together in Denton to experience what it has to offer and hopefully encourage friendships, dialogues and a broader cultural flow circulating through Dallas, Ft. Worth, Denton and all points in between.

Which is the panel discussion not to miss this year?

MS: I honestly can’t say one is better than any other; they are all strong. It should be noted though, this might be the only time one could start a sentence with, “So, last night at happy hour, I was having a drink with a coffee roaster, a cultural economist, Midlake’s guitarist, Tre Orsi’s bicycle activist bassist, a historic landmark commissioner, a planning and zoning commissioner and the Mayor of Denton.”

35 Conferette’s daytime programming begins with the first official event this Thursday, March 10th, at 3pm at Banter. More information on the panels (including a detailed list of all topics and panel members) can be found here.