Under the direction of Rob Parton, The University of North Texas Two O’Clock Lab Band is among the premier collegiate big bands in the nation. The Two O’Clock maintains a tradition of garnering national and state recognitions, including twenty invited headline performances at the Wichita Jazz Festival, first place at the Longhorn Jazz Festival in Austin, TX, invited performances at the Texas Music Educators Association state convention, the International Association of Jazz Education Conference, Jazz Education Network, and The Midwest Clinic. With a recording catalog of 20 critically acclaimed albums, the band has earned multiple DownBeat Student Award recognitions across four decades as the Best Graduate Level Jazz Ensemble in addition to innumerable individual student recognitions. Previously under the direction of jazz legends James Riggs (1978–2008), Jay Saunders (2008–2014), Rodney Booth (2014–2019), and now led by Professor of Lead Trumpet and UNT Jazz Division Chair Rob Parton, the Two O’Clock continues the storied tradition, focusing on its legendary reputation for heavy swing and outstanding jazz soloists.
The Two O’Clock performs from a curated library of the very best repertoire for large jazz ensemble as well as innovative original compositions by UNT students and is actively sought after to present jazz concerts at jazz festivals, high schools and colleges throughout Texas and the U.S. Alumni of the North Texas jazz program are virtually everywhere in the professional music industry as performing artists, jazz educators, producers, composers, and arrangers. The list of significant alumni names is too numerous to mention here. An ongoing tradition at North Texas is to bring major jazz figures to campus to perform and interact with students. This is achieved through four means – the Annual Fall Concert (since 1959), the Jazz Lecture Series (since 1982), the Gomez International Artist Endowment residency (since 1995), and the various instrumental clubs organized by UNT students. The list of legendary jazz artists (performers, composers, and scholars) who have shared their music and experience with North Texas students and faculty is formidable.
Bringing this wealth of information to Denton is a key element in the success of the North Texas jazz program. The jazz studies degree program at North Texas, the first of its kind in the nation, began in 1946 under Dr. Gene Hall (’47–’59), gained national recognition under Dr. Leon Breeden (’59–’81), achieved international renown under Neil Slater (’81–’08), and experienced unprecedented growth under Dr. John Murphy (’08–’19). The tradition of excellence continues. The UNT jazz faculty, chaired by Professor Rob Parton since 2019, is the foundation of the North Texas jazz studies division. Eighteen full-time faculty members provide UNT jazz studies students with an educational environment unparalleled among university programs.