Ashley Capps (’79)

Category: Alumni Professional Achievement | Awards

2021 Alumni Professional Achievement Award Winner

Tennessee is a well-known entertainment destination, but it did not achieve that notoriety without effort. It has taken the leadership of many individuals to build that reputation, and foremost among them is Ashley Capps.

By the time Capps earned his BA in cultural studies in 1979, he had already begun his career booking events at UT and off-campus venues. In 1991, he founded his own company, AC Entertainment. Now closing in on 30 years of work, AC Entertainment is responsible for some of Tennessee’s most recognizable entertainment, including Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival and Manchester’s Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. The company produces more than a thousand concerts a year and operates five historic venues, including the Tennessee Theatre, Bijou Theatre, and Mill and Mine in Knoxville.

The economic contributions of AC Entertainment are enormous, bringing boosts to cities and towns throughout the country and especially in the Southeast. Bonnaroo alone adds an average of $14 million annually to the economy of Coffee County, Tennessee. Beyond that, Capps organized the Bonnaroo Works Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization administered by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. To date, the organization has given more than $7 million to nonprofits benefiting the arts, education, sustainability, and social well-being.

Despite building an entertainment empire, Capps has remained committed to UT. He has served as a member of the Religious Studies Board of Visitors for 12 years. In 2016, the College of Arts and Sciences presented him with its Professional Achievement Award. He has also been recognized at the state level, receiving the Tennessee Governor’s Arts Leadership Award in 2019.