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Parnelli Scholarship Program Marks 10 Years

September 13, 2018

A Decade of Support for UNLV’s Entertainment Engineering and Design Program

The Parnelli Awards are all about honoring the achievements of behind-the-scenes professionals in the live entertainment industry who dedicate their careers making sure that others in the spotlight and in front of the microphones look and sound their best. They are named for Rick “Parnelli” O’Brien, a production manager who succumbed to cancer in 2000 but is fondly remembered, not just for his Parnelli Jones-style driving skills but his ability to get the most difficult gigs done while inspiring others to share in his passion for excellence.

But if Parnelli Awards co-founders Patrick Stansfield and Terry Lowe created an awards program that honors many with decades of experience, the annual ceremony is also designed to give back by offering support to others at the very outset of their careers. A decade ago, Lowe, publisher of PLSN, FRONT of HOUSE and other magazines published by Timeless Communications, and Stansfield, a legendary tour and production manager who died in Nov. 2014, launched the Timeless/Parnelli Scholarship to support the next generation of live event professionals enrolled in the Entertainment Engineering and Design (EED) program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).

“We chose UNLV not just because I had just moved our operations to Las Vegas, but because, after some research, we saw that their EED program was the most closely aligned with what we in this industry need,” says Lowe. “It’s an excellent program with quality professors producing terrific talent, so it is a natural fit. All who support the magazines and the Parnelli Awards should be proud.”

“I have benefited greatly from my scholarships,” says Jeremy Klein, a UNLV EED student and recipient of the school’s Outstanding Senior Award in Technology and Design. “They have allowed me to take extra classes to expand my knowledge and interests. I have loved the opportunities that I have been able to take advantage of. I would like to thank the donors for the opportunity they are providing for me.”

April Allain one of several recent Parnelli AwardsPLSNFOH Scholarship Receipients 002

April Allain, one of several recent Parnelli Awards PLSN/FOH scholarship recipients.

“My program has been so wonderful,” says scholarship recipient April Allain. “The EED programs offers such a unique experience. We have a great relationship with our program coordinate, and there is a sense of camaraderie within the student body. I would like to share my profound thanks, and I am honored and grateful for both the opportunity to meet with the donors and thank them for the financial help.”

By all accounts, the program as a whole is producing exceptional students. “It is really exciting to have EED students in the scene shop,” says affiliate EED faculty member and technical director, Brian Smallwood. “They are so driven. It’s exciting to see them apply what they learn in the classroom in a practical environment.”

A Firm Grasp

“The Entertainment Engineering and Design program is a marriage of the arts and engineering, the first of its kind,” says Michael Genova, head of the EED program. “The dual college interdisciplinary degree was developed to address the technical needs of the entertainment industry. Students of the discipline engage in engineering and art coursework. The curriculum gives students a firm grasp of engineering practices with a focus on the technology used in live performance.”

Genova’s history with the program started in 2006, when he was a graduate assistant and instructor. After his graduate studies, he worked in the “real world” as an automation technician, fabrication specialist, and mechanical designer. Since 2017, he’s been Fine Arts Coordinator for the program. Appropriately, EED classes are taught with a non-traditional teaching approach. “EED courses employ problem-based and project-based learning. This practical type of instruction requires students to work in groups, solve problems together, and build working projects as a team.” Instructors, Genova continues, let “failures” happen, allowing students to have real-world experiences. Developing project and time management skills, and learning what it takes to work with a multi-discipline team, are all part of the educational equation in addition to learning the technical nuts and bolts of putting a show together. The faculty includes those from the College of Engineering, which specializes in construction management, computer science, electrical engineering, acoustics, material science, and mechanical engineering. Many from the Fine Arts faculty have backgrounds in technical theatre, live performance, lighting design, audio engineering, scenic automation, graphic design and projection.

GlowOut 2

Glowout showcased EED student creativity.

From the beginning, EED students have always worked to support performance groups on campus, but last year the program took a step forward and produced its own event. “Under the leadership of EED faculty members Helga Watkins and Lesley Boeckman, along with the guidance of industry professionals Davin Gaddy and Vickie Claiborne, the EED students presented original material designed for 3D mapping and projection,” Genova says. (PLSN readers will recognize Claiborne as a regular contributor, author of the magazine’s “Video Digerati” column.) “The event was called Glowout, and the quality of the content and production value was high,” Genova continues. “The showcase generated much interest in the program and excited the students with the prospect of future productions. We are planning to develop the showcase further and want to include intelligent lighting and automated scenery.”

The Spark of Inspiration

“Every Parnelli Awards sponsor, every person who buys a ticket to the event, contributes to this dynamic program,” Lowe states. “Could one of these kids, one of these sponsor recipients take home a Parnelli him or herself some day? I would not be surprised, and that’s what makes work my team does on the show even more rewarding.” The EED program has 55 graduates to date. The program has typically hovered around the 100-student mark, but has spiked in the last two years. They have 40 incoming freshmen this year, and Genova says if that trend continues, the program will double in size in three years. “To the live event industry, I give my sincerest thanks for the partnership that it has developed with UNLV over the last decade,” Genova says. “The live event industry has provided the spark of inspiration that brought the program into being, and continues to play an important ongoing role in the success of EED. When companies host internships and employment opportunities, they provide an incalculable service that helps graduates to break into the industry and launch careers. Likewise, the Parnelli scholarship award, which has been awarded to number of EED students is made, possible by sponsorship of the Parnelli Awards and all those who patronize the magazines.”

Supporting the Next Generation of Live Entertainment Professionals

A portion of the proceeds from the annual Parnelli Awards supports students enrolled in UNLV’s Entertainment Engineering and Design program. Charitable contributions can also be made online. Go to and, under the “Designation” drop-down list, select “Other.” Then enter the words, “Parnelli PLSN/FOH Scholarship” or “EED Program.” Checks with “Parnelli PLSN/FOH Scholarship” or “EED Program” in the memo line may be made out to the UNLV Foundation and mailed to 4505 S. Maryland Parkway; Box 451006; Las Vegas, NV 89154-1006. Industry professionals can also call Diane Zapach (702-895-4292) or Deborah Seda (702-895-2312), who facilitate the scholarship program directly, to discuss several opportunities to support UNLV’s EED program.