Michael T. Strickland

"This is an award for the fantastic Bandit family. No one person ever succeeds alone at this level."

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Michael T. Strickland (’77) is known for being on the forefront of the stage lighting industry. In 1968 at the age of 12 years old, he began working with acts such as the Beach Boys, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Grassroots, and Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons.

Strickland recalled, “You must remember that in 1968 no one had stage lighting. They all played with the ceiling lights in a high school gym or National Guard Armory. Others in New York or LA were also experimenting and doing very psychedelic stuff, but they were adults, and I was a 12-year-old kid.”

As a 6'2" middle schooler, Strickland was able to bluff his way into situations that made his business possible. After hiring someone with a driver's license, they began illuminating rock shows within a 300-mile radius of Kingsport. On any given weekend, Bandit had borrowed all the lighting equipment from the high school, two junior highs, and a theater or two - hence the name Bandit.

After graduating high school, he continued developing the company during his time at the Haslam College of Business. Bandit grew rapidly working for big-name acts and has more than seven locations, including London, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

Not only is Strickland the founder and chair of Bandit Lites, but also the recent 2020 winner of the Parnelli Visionary Award. The recognition is a testament of Strickland’s achievements and the staff at Bandit.

“This is an award for the fantastic Bandit family. No one person ever succeeds alone at this level. The great Bandit team has accomplished this,” Strickland said.

The Parnelli Awards are the live entertainment industry’s premier awards show and will be presented January 17, 2020, in Anaheim, California.