One of Letatia Teykl’s earliest memories was attending a Willie Nelson concert at the old, old Arlington Stadium. Her parents were — and remain — big music fans and instilled that love in her as well.
“Lyle Lovett is a dream get of mine,” she said.
But Teykl’s career path led her to banking, retail and leading the Mansfield Chamber of Commerce as well as other endeavors until two years ago, when she was asked to take the helm at the nonprofit Levitt Pavilion Arlington.
“I mean, here I am, not far from that memory of seeing Willie Nelson and I get to bring music — free music — to Arlington and Fort Worth,” said the 59-year-old corporate banker turned music venue director.
Along with attending plenty of concerts — including some memorable ones at Fort Worth’s lamented Caravan of Dreams — Teykl even incorporated music into her volunteer work at the Byron Nelson Golf Tournament when, during the pro-am, she would have women serenade golfers on certain holes to raise funds for the Salesmanship Club.
“It’s like music has always been there,” she said.
Teykl took the helm in late 2019. Shortly after she started, one of her first responsibilities was to respond to the pandemic. As part of that response, she introduced live-streamed concerts. It wasn’t easy. The Levitt had no archived content.
“We had to create our own,” she said.
She reached out to Fort Worth’s Brad Thompson, of Brad Thompson and the Undulating Band, for the first of several pieces of video content.
“We improvised with cell phones, but we got it done,” she said. “We’re more sophisticated now.”
Thompson, who has played the Levitt Pavilion several times, said the addition of the restroom facilities was a plus.
“We were using port-a-potties all those years, so we’re moving on up,” he said.
The fact that the Levitt Pavilion is an outdoor facility was an asset during the pandemic.
“With spacing, we could do a lot,” she said. “We did graduations, that sort of thing. We really proved our worth, I think.”
Teykl also took the helm when the Levitt Pavilion, which opened in 2008, was finishing its first major expansion with the addition of a new hospitality center that added restrooms — replacing the portables used previously — and a hospitality center on the second floor for sponsors, guests and special events.
The hospitality center was designed by Fort Worth firm Ibañez Shaw Architecture with construction by Arlington’s J. Hutcherson Construction. Bart Shaw, architect, said the most challenging aspect was how to maximize the space and provide a facility that would be a showcase and enhance the vibrancy of downtown Arlington.
“The idea of putting a hospitality suite on top of a restroom building was tricky,” he said. “We needed to maximize the space on that corner and yet meet all the needs of the facility.”
The interior includes panels to maximize the acoustics of the space, even down to the air vents, said Teykl.
“The regular vent made a little ‘hiss’ sound,” she said. “They fixed it with this beautifully designed vent. I love that.”
The space gives businesses and organizations a new option for meetings, retreats, workshops and receptions. The hospitality suite and the new restrooms also make the Levitt appealing as the site for fun runs and 5Ks, fundraisers, events and festivals.
“We’re a community space,” said Tykel. “This new building just emphasizes that.”
Arlington Mayor Jim Ross feels Tykel is not afraid to ask for broad support for the Levitt mission.
“Two qualities I particularly respect about Letatia’s leadership of the Levitt are her passion and tenacity,” he said. “She’s an enthusiastic advocate for everything related to what she and I have dubbed ‘The Levitt 2.0,’ referring to the Levitt’s ongoing development as an important community gathering space and economic driver.”
Levitt Pavilion at dusk during a concert. (Courtesy photo | Levitt Pavilion)
As part of that next chapter in the Levitt Pavilion Arlington story, Tykel has opened the Levitt to many additional community events and local music acts.
“I kind of put on my banker hat and looked at all the money we were paying for lights and sound for the acts and thought, ‘We’re spending that money. Why can’t we have local acts on first? We’re already paying for the lights and sound?’ And that’s what we did,” she said.
They added local musicians as part of the Levitt’s “Share the Stage” initiative promoting North Texas talent. The local acts can now share the stage with emerging talent and original artists from a range of music genres, many of them Grammy Award winners.
“The program allows local artists to get exposure and lets them interact with other musical acts on their way up,” she said.
Noted as a signature destination and performing arts centerpiece for Downtown Arlington, the Levitt plays a significant role in Downtown Arlington’s designation as a Cultural District by the State of Texas and Arlington’s designation as a Music Friendly Community by the Texas Music Office.
“I’m really proud of that because, growing up here, I know for a long time Arlington — and downtown Arlington — wasn’t thought of in that way,” she said.
The Levitt is also home to community celebrations, which is another area Teykl plans to expand.
(Alexis Allison | Fort Worth Report)
“We are trying to encourage not just the same 300 to 1,000 people to show up every weekend but to provide programming that is inclusive and offers something for everybody — so that everybody not only feels welcome here, but there’s something they want to do, that they want to experience and be part of,” she said.
Coming up Oct. 15 will be the Hispanic Heritage Festival. Along with the music, featuring Gary Hobbs, a Tejano music star, will be a collaboration with the Arlington Museum of Art.
On Oct. 28 will be what Teykl calls the biggest Nepali event outside of Nepal, the MoMo Festival 2023. It will include music as well as international icon, U.K. MasterChef finalist Santosh Shah. Last year over 8,000 attended the event. Teykl expects more this year.
“This is a really great event that exposes Nepal and its culture to a wide variety of people,” said Teykl. “And people really turned out.”
While many think it is a city-owned venue, the Levitt Pavilion program was created by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, which supports music, dance, the arts and educational institutions around the country. The Levitt Pavilion Arlington is one of eight pavilion sites, while another 33 sites use existing spaces for their concert series.
“We’re not a city-owned site, though we do work with them and are involved with them. But we’re a nonprofit working to provide a community space,” she said.
And the community shows up to the space that can hold about 3,500. Levitt Pavilion just held its opening concert for the season on Sept. 2.
Teykl feels the Levitt Pavilion is doing something that is needed in the current culture: bringing people together.
“Music does that and here we have this great space, this great space where we can come together,” she said. “I think it’s very important.”
Bio: Letatia Teykl
Birthplace: Stephenville, but grew up in Arlington.
Work experience: TexasBank, Southwest Bank, Mansfield Chamber of Commerce.
Education: Bachelor of Business Administration, marketing, Texas Wesleyan University.
Volunteer experience: Salesman Club of Dallas at the Byron Nelson Golf Tournament, Girls Inc. of Tarrant County, SafeHaven of Tarrant County
First job: Cashier at a Minyard grocery in Arlington. “Back then you actually had to count money.”
Advice for someone learning to be a leader: “You have to get out among people and listen. Listen and then, if you can understand them, then you can start to connect the dots.”
Best advice ever received: “No matter what happens, do the best that you can. That’s kind of what my mother taught me.”
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.
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