John Strauss (left) sitting alongside Dr. John W. Richmond (right), dean of the UNT College of Music, at a celebration event for the John and Bonnie Strauss Foundation's $1 million commitment to UNT's commercial music program.

John Strauss (left) sitting alongside Dr. John W. Richmond (right), dean of the UNT College of Music, at a celebration event for the John and Bonnie Strauss Foundation's $1 million commitment to UNT's commercial music program.

At the University of North Texas, amidst the halls of the renowned College of Music, a new chapter is unfolding in philanthropic history. Like a crescendo building to its peak, the John and Bonnie Strauss Foundation's $1 million commitment heralds a transformative era for UNT's commercial music program.

But this isn't just another story of a generous donation — it's a story of vision, dedication, and personal connection. It's a journey that intertwines family history, a love for music, and a vision for empowering future generations of musicians. From Wall Street analyst to high-impact philanthropist, John Strauss's path has been an enduring melody, each note leading him closer to the intersection of passion and purpose.

Echoes of Influence

Music is coded in Strauss's DNA. This Emeritus Chair of the College of Music Advancement Board fondly recalls jam sessions with his saxophonist father and piano-teacher mother during his childhood.

Starting with piano lessons at the age of five, Strauss’s passion for music blossomed. He soon found his true calling in jazz, forming bands and orchestras during his college years, where he honed his skills as a saxophonist and bandleader.

"My interest in music is kind of obvious," says Strauss. “And it’s important to me that young musicians understand how the real-world works, how they can find success.”

His words carry the weight of conviction as he envisions a future where aspiring musicians are equipped not only with artistic talent but also with the business savvy to navigate the landscape of a competitive industry.

An Improvisation of Impact

With the creation of The John and Bonnie Strauss Foundation Commercial Music Excellence Fund, UNT's music program enters a new era and genre.

UNT’s Bachelor of Arts in Commercial Music degree program will begin in Fall 2025. It will focus on the contemporary music-making process from the early creative stages to final release. The goal? To give students tools to manage their careers in a dynamically changing music industry.

Dr. John W. Richmond, dean of the College of Music, anticipates a strong future for the new, hands-on program and praises Strauss and the foundation's commitment to bridging the gap between artistry and entrepreneurship.

"This gift will enable us to enhance our curriculum, provide scholarships and offer innovative experiential learning opportunities,” says Richmond.

The Commercial Music Excellence Fund not only will support students financially but also provide them with real-world experiences. From internships at top music venues and businesses to workshops on music production, students will acquire the tools they need to succeed in a competitive industry.

A Finale of Gratitude

As the notes of gratitude reverberate through UNT’s campus, the legacy of John and Bonnie Strauss takes root — a testament to the enduring power of philanthropy to transform lives and shape futures.

John Strauss reflects on his journey — the highs, the lows, and the crescendo of generosity that is part of his musical legacy.

"If I've had an influence in the life of one person, I feel like I've justified my existence," says Strauss.

At UNT, we are proud to sing the praises of this extraordinary family of transformational philanthropists!