Join Us For A Swinging Season Premiere Kansas City Jazz Orchestra

Join Us For A Swinging Season Premiere at The Helzberg Hall for the “ONE O’CLOCK JUMP!” THE EVOLUTION OF THE BIG BAND

Friday, October 3, 2014 – 8 PM in Helzberg Hall

Purchase your tickets Today! 

Visit http://www.kcjazzorchestra.org/ for all of the greatest jazz events in the Kansas City area.

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The Evolution of the Big Band Kansas City Jazz Orchestra 2014-15 Season at Helzberg Hall

“ONE O’CLOCK JUMP!”

THE EVOLUTION OF THE BIG BAND

Friday, October 3, 2014 – 8 PM in Helzberg Hall

The KCJO and guest artist Hal Melia will take the audience  on a “swinging musical journey” featuring the unforgettable music of Count Basie, Jay McShann, Benny Goodman, Fletcher Henderson, Tommy Dorsey (and many others) through the “heyday” of the big band era.


Hal Melia

 

Join us on Friday, October 3, 2014 – 8 PM in Helzberg Hall for the “One O’Clock Jump” — Purchase your tickets Today!  Visit http://www.kcjazzorchestra.org/ for all of the greatest jazz events in the Kansas City area.

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Art for Arthritis Unites Young Artists and Mentors

Fifteen young people and 15 mentors have teamed together to offer up some incredible artwork that will be on display Sept. 26 at The Gallery, 61 E. 14th St., Kansas City. The similarity for all children is their diagnosis of juvenile arthritis.

Most people don’t think about children having arthritis but more than 3,000 children in the Kansas City Metro area have some form of this painful disease. Our Art for Arthritis event teams as many as 20 local children affected by juvenile arthritis with area artists to spend a summer together creating unique pieces of artwork. The art is then auctioned off at the Art for Arthritis event in order to raise money for nationwide arthritis research, as well as local programs and services.

This event, however, is much more than a fundraiser. It affords local children with arthritis an introduction to the arts and teaches them to utilize art as an alternative method of self-expression free from the restrictions their disease.

Art for Arthritis also empowers participants by introducing them to other children with similar circumstances and encouraging them to work together to fight against arthritis by raising awareness and helping to support the agency that advocates on their behalf. The pieces will be auctioned off to raise money for nationwide arthritis research and advocacy, as well as local programs and services.

Kaitlyn Brooks at last year's event. Photo courtesy of Kansas City Arthritis Foundation.

Kaitlyn Brooks at last year’s event. Photo courtesy of Kansas City Arthritis Foundation.

A repeat artist from 2013, Kaitlyn Brooks returns for the 2014 event. Some of Kaitlyn’s favorite memories are those where her arthritis doesn’t bother her. Kaitlyn is 16-years-old and has had mixed connective tissue disease for two years. Kaitlyn enjoys being able to meet other kids who have similar diseases and understand how she feels. Most of all, Kaitlyn loves to be creative. She loves bands and wants to be a tattoo artist when she grows up so she can help others wear art on their sleeves. Music and art inspire Kaitlyn and help her keep moving forward.

Her mentor is Laura Simmons from Kansas City and has a traditional background in painting and drawing. She graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor of fine arts degree. She typically seeks to capture a love for nature and the beauty of the ordinary moment in her paintings. Laura enjoys working in many mediums although oil pastels and acrylics are her favorite. She believes these give her the effect of an almost “accidental” blending of colors.

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American Royal Coming this Month

The 2014 American Royal is around the corner and the wild side of Kansas City will be on display.

The events start with the Arabian Horse Show Sept. 18. One of the community’s first big celebrations comes with the American Royal’s 89th Annual Parade Sept. 27. This year, the parade pays tribute to the American military. The parade starts at 9:45 a.m. at Grand Boulevard. The parade will travel north up Grand Boulevard from Pershing to Truman Road. Close to 4,000 active duty military, veterans, Boy Scouts, youth from the 4-H and FFA, and many of Kansas City’s marching bands and drill teams. The parade will also feature saddle clubs, vintage cars, civic groups and decked-out parade floats.

Lance Duffin BBQ 2During the parade weekend, the 65th annual rodeo takes visitors on a wild ride. The rodeo starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday Sept. 26 in Hale Arena and continues at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday Sept. 27. Each night includes events such as bareback riding, steer wrestling, mutton busting, team roping, saddle bronco riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing, and bull riding. The award-winning rodeo announcer Randy Corley and clown John Harrison will keep the audience laughing through the performances. Other fun family activities in the Governor’s Expo before the rodeo: mutton busting preliminaries, a moonwalk, roping demos, rides and games. After the rodeo, adults can head to the Crown Royal Saloon for live music, a mechanical bull, free samples of Crown Royal products, autographs from pro riders and a chance to win prizes and take pictures with the Crown Royal models.

Another big event is the 35th Annual World Series of Barbecue. From Oct. 2 to Oct. 5, the American Royal Complex will smell fabulous. The largest barbecue contest includes some family-friendly activities with cooking demonstrations, the Kids’ Korral and live music. Along with the barbecue, there will be a hall of fame induction ceremony. The Barbecue Hall of Fame exists to recognize, document and preserve the heritage of barbecue in the world. Nominees for 2014 include celebrity Ray Lampe AKA “Dr. BBQ” who will be honored during the Barbecue Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony during the American Royal World Series of Barbecue on Saturday, Oct. 4.

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KC+Connect Ready for September Show

Writer Albert Camus once penned, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” As the leaves start their magnificent change to golds, reds, oranges and more, those who embrace these colors and more will be on display through the art exhibitions organized by KC+ Connect Curator Ashley Anders.

HILLIARD Gallery, Sept. 5

1544443_10152110188278752_1433855023_nKC Studio’s new event series KC+ Connect is back with their September group exhibition at Hilliard Gallery! The September KC+Connect gallery show exhibits a series of collaborative acts through the use of photography, performance and installation. These works address the personification of our interconnected relationships as individuals, a society, and members of the natural world. Each artist explores these concepts through their chosen processes.

In the September show, two of the seven artists, Lydia Boehr DeMonte and Cory Hinesley, have completed their Indiegogo campaign and have raised more than $2,000 for the sculpture and photography installation.

KCS-SeptOct2014 A.inddDiana Shattuck and her startup Lucky Baby Tea Co. plan to be integrated into this front gallery experience. Join the Facebook event as artists in the group exhibition post process photos leading up to their Opening Reception September 5 from 5-6 p.m. The Closing Network Gathering is September 26 from 5 – 7 p.m. Colin Joseph Burke, Lydia Boehr DeMonte, Brandon Forrest Frederick, Cory Hinesley, Adam McBride, Diana Shattuck and Taylor Wallace make up the rest of the artist cohort.

The Hilliard Gallery has been in business slightly more than 39 years making it Kansas City’s oldest existing gallery. Director/Owner Bob Swearengin says the gallery space is more than 6,500 square feet set in split level urban loft environment. “We are an elegantly urban and ever changing gallery,” he says. “Our mission is to bring high quality artwork of an eclectic mix to the Kansas City area.  But we are also trying to do more than that. To establish a quality art culture and district, the public has to be educated in the fields of artwork. …  It is also educating the public to the importance art to the cultural development of the city and its community. ….”

As one of the supporting art galleries, Hilliard and Swearengin believe in connecting the arts community to the people of Kansas City and the surrounding areas.  “Putting us, the art and art community out in front of the public, letting them discover new things to their liking. Creating a stronger influence to the importance of art to the cultural development of the Kansas City and making it an international recognized area.”

Check out the event listing in our Arts Calendar for more information about each artist:
http://kcstudio.org/artscalendar/index.php?eID=29243

The Boulevard Sponsor Artist is Wayne Wilkes. The food sponsor is KC Door to Door Organics and Mood Food, Jaimie Ward.

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Taste and Tour Event Coming Sept. 6

DSC05651In just a few days, the Northeast Chamber of Commerce’s International Taste and Tour will make thousands of taste buds happy. The Northeast International Taste and Tour Sept. 6 will give guests the tastes of Ethiopia, France, Haiti, Italy, Mexico, Somalia, Vietnam and America. Cuisine will be sampled under the roof of Don Bosco Center, 580 Campbell Ave.

Along with the adventurous world cuisine, guests are invited to take a trolley ride and tour the sights of the Northeast. Mark Alford from Fox 4 will serve as the guest master of ceremonies. After quenching the appetite, dancing will be on tap with music provided by Grand Marquis Band. Along with dining and dancing, there will be a live auction with auctioneer Randy Easley.

Here’s a breakdown of the evening’s activities:

5-7 p.m., social hour and trolley tour

6- 10 p.m., tastes the flavors of the world and then dance to the Grand Marquis Band

8 – 9 p.m., swing dance performance by the Swingsters

For more information, visit the NEKCchamber.com or call 816-231-3312.

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Kansas City Jazz Orchestra Music – Thursday September 4th 7:30pm at Kauffman Center

Don’t miss this amazing and great opportunity to hear The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra music and all these sensational KC jazz artists ‘on one stage at Muriel Kauffman Theatre at Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

This very special “Kansas City is Jazz!” showcase will highlight the music of jazz legends Count Basie, Jay McShann and Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker. Clint Ashlock, The KCJO’s conductor and artistic director, has written a special tribute arrangement of Charlie Parker’s composition, “Confirmation,” which will bring the concert to a swinging, rip-roaring finale!

TICKETS ON SALE NOW!
KAUFFMAN CENTER BOX OFFICE: $25 – $50
816-994-7222/www .kauffmancenter.org

Visit us at www.kcjazzorchestra.org

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Kansas City Repertory Theatre … Honoring the Past, Present and Future

Dr. Patricia McIlrath founded the Missouri Repertory Theatre in 1964 as a means to integrate professional theater training into the curriculum of academic theater programs in the United States. The years she sat at the helm, McIlrath never lost sight of her educational roots or the development of regional theater. Those first steps are not forgotten as the theater still sits on the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City and has grown to a significant regional theater that attracts national directors while nurturing local talent.

Angela Gieras has been in her role of executive director for a year. During her first year, Gieras says The Tallest Tree in the Forest about singer, actor and lawyer Paul Robeson, validated the work they do at the Rep. “The play just seemed to be a wonderful validation of the incredible work we offer. Now, I am probably most excited to bring David Cromer’s Our Town. I have seen Our Town and people walk of the theater talking about how dramatically changed they are by the experience. We strive for that as well.”

Hamlet

Hamlet

“Prior to the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Kansas City was not known for theater,” she says. “The 50th season was designed to celebrate everything that makes Kansas City great and theater great. UMKC and the Rep helped shape an amazing and eclectic vibrant economy for the city. We view our role as the largest regional theater and as such, we can use that role to foster a collaborative environment. For 50 years, we have been creating a family tree that has helped spawn many of the theaters in town.” Gieras believes the success of the theater can be traced back to the original vision of McIlrath and the current vision of Rosen.

PRESENT

Artistic Director Eric Rosen will start his seventh year with the Rep this fall. He credits the genius of the institution created with each artistic leader pushing the direction and creating a stronger presence in the community. “First there was Dr. McIlrath, George Keathley, and Peter Altman. Pat and George helped build the regional theater profile and Peter shaped the national recognition. I think I am fusing those three legacies in that broad vision. I want our theater to reach more people with plays that are entertaining and intellectually rigorous. Every day I am learning and uncovering different parts of this theatrical DNA.”

Rosen explains his excitement for each show. First, David Cromer’s Our Town is considered one of the finest versions of the iconic play, he says. Then he directs The Who and the What at the Copaken. “The acclaimed novelist Ayad Akhtar wrote about what it means to be in America. We are the third theater getting to do this play.” In the spring, he will direct Hair. “It’s going to be a combination of rock concert and a documentary piece on the importance of this musical,” he says. “Then we commissioned Nathan’s play Sticky Traps and I couldn’t be more thrilled with … Of course, Angels in America is a play that changed my life and brought me into this field. It is an honor to bring Gary Griffin in to direct. I would say Angels is the most important play in the past 50 years.”

Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s Producing Director Jerry Genochio, who is entering his 10th season, says his most important role is to expect the unexpected. “I work with the artistic director and mounting the artistic product on the stage; I also direct one or two shows,” he says. This season he will direct An Iliad and A Christmas Carol. “There is an electricity in the air to produce this season. I am directing two plays in a really great theater season.” Altman hired him with the title of associate director for production. A production of August Wilson’s Jitney set him on his journey into theater.

“In 50 years, one of the driving forces has been to create great theater made by people who live and work in Kansas City,” he says. “The expectations are still there to make great theater and to know that the best is yet to come each and every year. We will aim to continue to have the personnel and resources to bring the best works to Kansas City and the region.”

Actor Gary Neal Johnson will again play Ebenezer Scrooge for A Christmas Carol.

Actor Gary Neal Johnson will again play Ebenezer Scrooge for A Christmas Carol.

Actor Gary Neal Johnson will again play Ebenezer Scrooge this year. “This is my 14th year to play Scrooge and my 30th year in the play,” he says. Johnson stepped into the Rep during graduate school in early 1973. He played Scanlon, one of the patients in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He was away for about 10 years, but returned in 1982, being hired for A Christmas Carol and then Nicholas Nickleby’s evil schoolmaster Squeers and Manus in Translations during 1983. “I was thrown in the hopper and found myself cast in roles of every size. Some of my favorites included George in Of Mice and Men and Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Kansas City Symphony. Character highlights have been Scrooge and Willie Loman, the titular character from Death of a Salesman.”

He also has a small role in the opening show of Our Town. “I am so excited for this concept to be seen here.” He’s also thrilled that Angels in America is part of the season. “Audiences can count a well-mounted, well-staged and well-acted plays. Sure not all are homeruns, but that is what risk is … The Rep has such a great track record for picking winners. I have learned so much about honesty on stage. I have become a better actor because of the Rep.” With the season, Johnson will celebrate his 100th production with the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. “It makes my heart sing to impact so many people, especially with the student matinees. Live theater is so great and A Christmas Carol is a terrific introduction to theater with its magic.”

Melinda McCrary, director of Education and Community Programs, has been in this role for about 10 years. However, her experiences with the Rep started as a student of McIlrath. She makes sure that student audiences find an exceptional experience. “The student matinees are a great gauge for us as a regional theater. The out-of-town actors give us high marks. Our student audiences are exceptional and they come from all over the city and the two-state area including Wichita, Topeka, Jefferson City and Nevada. They are some of the most intelligent and responsive audiences. Dr. McIlrath was a mentor of mine and she taught us all to give back to the community. We certainly hope and dream that every student is a future Rep audience member.” About 10,000 to 12,000 students come to the Kansas City Repertory Theatre every season.

All the plays this season except for Santaland Diarieswill have matinees. “Over the years, Death of a Salesman resonated with kids who have seen financial problems within the family and the roles of children with parents. Kids are so sophisticated today and they do respond to even the most challenging material. I am sure Our Town will imprint on this generation. David Cromer’s involvement is beyond exciting and I am proud to share that. The Who & the What, a contemporary play about faith and family from Pakistan, is important. The Iliad is an exciting retelling of classic piece.” McCrary also agrees with Rosen that Angels in America is one of the most important plays of the 20th century. “Nathan Jackson’s Sticky Traps should resonate too. He goes into the schools and he’s a huge hit with the high school students.

Honorary Chairman Bill Nelson has been involved with the Rep for almost as long as he has been here in Kansas City. He and his wife moved to the community more than 25 years ago. “The Rep was one of the first groups I got involved in … I discovered the excellent regional theater. We still need that regional Tony Award, but despite that, I am ecstatic about what has been produced on that stage.” Now, he is glad that the Copaken Theatre is up and adding a new dimension to what can be offered. “I am proud that we opened the first entertainment venue in the Power & Light District with the Copaken. It’s that smaller theater that gives us flexibility and those who live in the Northland and downtown have a closer theater to attend. We are eager to develop a younger demographic. Bunni Copaken and I raised the money and it all worked to stage more plays.” One of his favorites was Janice, the first show at the Copaken.

Nelson says Rosen is that breath of fresh air that blew in and brought new works. “He’s also broadening the use of local actors while inviting stellar actors and directors like Moises Kauffman and David Cromer. I am thrilled that we are also being recognized nationally over the past three to four years with A Christmas Story, Venice, and Clay. We have staged plays and sent them out into the world, including New York and California.”

FUTURE

The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest

Playwright Nathan Louis Jackson may be part of the energetic future spoken of by the others. He is currently the playwright-in-residence for the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. The Washington High School graduate attended Kansas State University and then went to Julliard School for graduate school. “When I was in high school, I attended a performance of August Wilson’s Jitney at the Rep. I remember saying that I wanted to work with the Rep as I became interested in writing. It’s a dream come true to be at home in the city I love.”

Jackson is the playwright for the final show of the 2014-2015 season with Sticky Traps. His plays Broke-ology and When I Come To Diehave been produced at the Rep. “My biggest plays have gone up at the Rep and to be part of the 50th season is incredible. I know that Eric has made a great commitment to doing new shows.” Sticky Traps looks at a family that encounters an intolerant church that protests during the funeral of a family member who committed suicide. “The female lead takes actions to remove the people from in front of the church,” he says. “It’s timely with a certain church in Kansas that protests. When I Come to Die is about a botched execution.” During this 50th season, Jackson’s Sticky Traps, will run April 24 to May 24 on the Copaken Stage.

Jackson expects leadership from regional theaters to continue. “Honestly, the quality is just as good. Eric (Rosen) brings in quality artists and recruits from here. The work is truly fearless and thought-provoking. The shows speak to us and to the audiences. Our audiences are also part of the future. The feet that walk in the door are important. Theater can’t be just for the elite.” He also believes the Rep’s future will include more writers of color, more women writers and younger audiences.

For the future, Johnson suggested the addition of a “very experimental stage where new plays could gain a reading. “We have been fortunate to have leadership that is so creative. I can only imagine what creative concepts we have yet to explore.”

“In the past year, the greatest lesson I have learned is that passion and big ideas can inspire and motivate people. I am able to produce plays that entertain and enlighten an audience,” she says. “The big ideas are about moving us toward the future.” As the theater moves into the future, Gieras says she hopes for an audience development initiative. “To become a stronger theater, it takes a tremendous amount of time, analyzing the past and aiming for future growth. All of our ideas are big and passionate. The Rep continues to offer a variety of plays which challenge and entertain. We continue to be a collaborative place.”

Irma Vep

Irma Vep

When Rosen moved from Chicago, he knew his Chicago theater artists, but was unsure of Kansas City’s artists. “I didn’t know I would find passionate artists, but I found a great resource with our Kansas City artists,” he says. “When we started, I wanted to have theater that is adventurous and fearless. As we move into the future, we have to be willing to take even more risks and be willing to take on controversy. We are a theater without fear. We come to the theater and it is a communion of telling live stories without cell phones and without distraction. It has to be an adventure and we will win no matter if we see a musical, a drama or a well-executed comedy. That is what gives us our staying power. We all feel more alive.”

As the theater moves into the future, Nelson wants the theater to continue to diversify the audience in every respect including age and race. “We usually have 50 and older gray-haired audiences. I want us to put together plays that appeal to more audiences and wider audiences; I would like us to afford to do more musicals; I am a big fan of Cole Porter and I would love to do Showboat. We have the leadership on the staff with an executive director and an artistic director with incredible strength. The legacy that has been built is there. Now we have to roll up our sleeves. If younger folks want to be involved, you are welcome here,” Nelson says.

McCrary hopes the future includes an increased presence in the schools. “We have to be vital on their home turf as well as ours. I would appreciate more workshops and even more diversity in the stories. When the Rep turns 100, those kids in A Christmas Carol will be around to see the anniversary and hopefully they will be the ones who will nurture those next classics.”

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Hear, Here! Thoughts from Kansas City Symphony Executive Director on Sound, Past Season and Opening Season

By Frank Byrne, Executive Director of the Kansas City Symphony

Guest Contributing Writer

Frank Byrne, executive director

Frank Byrne, executive director

Are you intimidated by the term “acoustics?” Please don’t be! It’s not magic and, while very scientific, is a simple proposition: Excellent acoustics allow sound generated on stage to be heard clearly so the audience can appreciate every note and texture of the music.

A great concert hall functions like a camera’s lens. It takes the image (in this case, sound) and brings it into focus. It provides clarity, enhances the color and gives the audience a perspective of the music that exceeds any recording. A great concert hall enables us to experience the music rather than simply hearing it. In Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, there is an intimacy of both the visual and aural perspective that connects you to the performers. It brings the music to life.

Recently a distinguished recording producer observed, “I’ve heard this piece performed around the world, but never the level of detail and richness that I heard here with your orchestra.” This exact sentiment has been echoed by all of our distinguished guest soloists and conductors. We have a truly great concert hall and, rather uniquely, Helzberg Hall is equally superb for both chamber music and huge orchestral forces. That flexibility is especially rare.

This past season, the Kansas City Symphony had ticket purchasers from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands and numerous foreign countries. Those visitors were impressed and moved by the power of the music, and their close proximity to the musicians made them feel like part of the performance. There are very few places on the planet that can offer that experience, but we in Kansas City have this wonderful opportunity at our fingertips.

The Symphony has expanded our range of concert offerings to maximize all the opportunities of this great hall and provide new ways for our community to experience varied styles of orchestral music. Here are some examples as we begin the season:

*On Friday, September 9 at 7 p.m., we present the first of our very popular “Classics Uncorked” series with Bohemian Rhapsody — a lively orchestral program featuring music of Bohemian composers and also Queen’s rock anthem. All tickets are only $25 and with the price of your ticket you get a free drink after the concert plus an opportunity to mingle with Kansas City Symphony musicians.

20130406_KCS_Classical_042 nNEW*Our classical season opens September 12-14 with the remarkable Joyce DiDonato singing Maurice Ravel’s ravishing Shéhérazade and concluding with one of the greatest orchestral works of all time, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. Michael Stern conducts.

*September 19-20 our Pops series opens with Music of the Mad Men Era, a nostalgic tribute to the great pop singers and lounge music of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

*Sunday, September 21 opens our Family Series with an orchestral presentation of Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead, narrated by the composer of the music for this story, Nathaniel Stookey.

*Wednesday, September 24 at 6 p.m., we begin another season of Happy Hour Chamber Music concerts, all of which are free! These concerts are a wonderful opportunity to hear the range and diversity of our musicians’ talents. The program on September 24 is titled Modern Rock and showcases lively, rhythmic music including Frank Zappa’s The Black Page. Happy Hour performances are free and open to the public, but please reserve a free ticket in advance via our website kcsymphony.org

Singer Marilyn Maye

Singer Marilyn Maye

*Thursday, October 2 at 7 p.m., we present a special concert with the Kansas City musical icon, Marilyn Maye. Something of a legend in her own lifetime, Maye’s distinctive vocal interpretations have won over audiences for decades and made her a regular on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. This concert will mark her first appearance in Helzberg Hall with the Kansas City Symphony.

There is another unique series that merits notice — our Screenland at the Symphony series where we feature great films with live musical accompaniment. On October 29 (in time for Halloween), we present the 1922 silent film classic

Nosferatu

Nosferatu

Nosferatu — a Symphony of Horror with live accompaniment of the entire film on the magnificent Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant organ. Those who were present for last season’s presentation of “Phantom of the Opera” will attest that this is an incredible experience. Later in the season, we will present the great Gene Kelly film, Singin’ in the Rain, and also Walt Disney’s Fantasia with live music performed by the Kansas City Symphony. Hearing these great films with the soaring orchestral scores performed live is unlike anything you’ve ever attended before.

“Acoustics” actually defines a transaction between performers and listeners. We invite you to join us in Helzberg Hall to experience wonderful music by your Kansas City Symphony, perhaps as you’ve never heard it before. Sharing music with you is our greatest reward.

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performARTS Presents Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey

Choreographer and dancer Alvin Ailey said, “I believe that the dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people.” For the staff at Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey, this quote guides them in carrying out their various year-round educational programs, dance classes and outreach efforts.

BlockParty-1334While the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey is known for bringing the two principal Ailey dance companies to Kansas City each year, the arts organization offers up so much more than those performances. When Alvin Ailey came to Kansas City in the late 60’s, he saw potential… and when he was looking for an extension of his artistic vision, the Kansas City community rallied with their support. Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey (KCFAA) was formed in 1984 through that partnership. Executive Director Tyrone Aiken has been a strong presence in that partnership and is a wealth of information, thoughtfully sharing the 30-year history of the KCFAA organization. “What we do day in and day out provides the opportunity and experience to further dance in our community,” he says.

From its modest beginnings, the organization has significantly grown and been able to accomplish a lot in its 30 years, and is strategically looking to the future. Aiken sees this 30th anniversary to continue to expand the organizations’ offerings beyond the performances in October. In addition to the current year round programming that serves the Kansas City community, KCFAA is partnering with the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance for a Fall Symposium. The September 4 symposium is the starting point for a five-year project that will “focus attention on fostering awareness of issues of diversity at the local, regional, national and international level.  The featured speakers will share their contributions to American cultural arts and give important insights on race, diversity and success.”

The first Symposium will feature three dance legends: Cleo Parker Robinson, the director of the Denver-based cultural arts institution Cleo Parker Robison Dance; Ann Williams, the founder and artistic director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre; and Joan Myers Brown, founder of The Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO) and The Philadelphia School of Dance Arts. The three presenters will talk about African-American dance, contributions, race and ethnicity, the importance of dance, creating your own business and developing partnerships. There will also be a free community town hall meeting about Race, Place and the Importance of Diversity at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 4 at the Gem Theater.

Coming up this fall, KCFAA is presenting The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Oct. 22-25. As part of the 30th Anniversary celebration, KCFAA is partnering with local university students. Students from the Kansas City Art Institute are creating costumes, décor, centerpieces and a 30th Anniversary video for the Gala. “Several dancers from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance will audition and be selected to dance with the Company for the performance of Alvin Ailey’s Memoria”, Aiken says. The performances at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts will be a mix of the classic and traditional pieces, plus both Kansas City and World premieres.

This 30th Anniversary celebration is a platform for new programming into 2015, including a larger dance festival in June in the 18th and Vine District. This anniversary year really helps the organization sharpen the focus on the mission to be relevant, exciting and innovative with the events for the community. Aiken says, “We are also working on the ‘Ailey in Your Neighborhood’ program in 2015, where we take dancers to communities where people live and work. We want to expose people to the arts.”

Along with serving as the official second home of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, KCFAA puts significant energy into developing and delivering youth programming. Annually, about 30,000 young people are reached. In 30 years, Aiken estimates that about 1 million people have been touched by dance because of their organization. “Dance, probably more than any other art format, allows an access point that is intellectual, artistic and spiritual. For young students, they may learn they have unique gifts and they can feel an immediate sense of accomplishment.”

Aiken says with dance not being a usual subject matter in schools, KCFAA fulfills an important role in the community. “Dance has an athletic component, as well as historical and creative aspects. We can impact young people and provide the community with open access to this.” Along with dance, KCFAA works on civic leadership and engagement through health and wellness. “We want to strengthen the whole community’s well-being. Dance can be a motivator.”

AileyCamp 2014

AileyCamp 2014

Michael Joy, the Director of Artistic and Educational Programs at KCFAA, aims for integrity and joy when he is helping design educational programming. “In an administrative role, I still have the opportunity to teach and work closely with our teaching artists, and the students and families in our programs. On the administrative side, I aim to uphold the integrity and artistic merit of our year-round programs through working closely with KCFAA clients, school administrators and teachers.”

Joy sees life skills being formed through these programs. “We work on skills that help shape us as people, not just dancers. This could be honoring others, treating others with fairness, and instilling a work ethic. While I was training to be a dancer, I went to work with my father at the fish market. I learned the importance of hard work and how that applies to being successful.” Joy started dancing at 21and has danced all over the world, including with the Ailey Company in New York. “Camp is a highlight of my year. We used the theme of ‘Legacy’ at AileyCamp this year. We talked about the importance of how we want to be remembered each day, not just how you’re remembered when you’re gone. At camp we learn that each day is an opportunity to make better choices and inspire others. We set expectations, but the best part is meeting people where they are and growing together each day. Everyone sees a transformation at the end of the six weeks.”

IMG_4177 NEWBoard president Robin Royals has been involved with the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey for more than six years. “I was an athlete and I remember what organized sports did for my life, I know it is a similar structure in the summer AileyCamp. It’s all about what we able to do for the kids. We can help change their lives forever. If I drew a diagram, I would put the kids in the middle.”

For Royals, as with Aiken and Joy, the success comes with the ability to fill a void within the community as a whole. “There are a lot of passionate people. I believe in what the organization does and we can always fall back on what the kids gain. I know personally I have gained more than what I have given. The connection in the community is so rich.”

As the organization moves into its 30th year, the strategic plans have been aided by Michael Kaiser, President of the Kennedy Center. He started his arts business career as Executive Director of the Kansas City Ballet and had teamed the ballet dancers with Ailey dancers in the past. “He also served as Executive Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York. One of his goals is to get us to talk more about the good story we have. We have to ensure that we are around 30 years from now and beyond. We have to continue to share that we are an integral part of the Greater Kansas City area,” Royals says. “We honor diversity. Our audiences are diverse, as well as our Board and Co-Chairs of any event. We are part of the community fabric and the coming celebration is not just for Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey, but a celebration of greater Kansas City.”

Aiken, Royals and Joy know that the future will include growth and change. “There’s always room for improvement,” Aiken says. “We want to continue to meet the challenges and needs in the community.” Joy sees the staying power for KCFAA because all of the organization’s programmatic aspects touch people. “We will stay true to our mission and aim to touch people in emotional and intellectual ways. As we celebrate the local, national and international artists, we will help Kansas City continue that move toward being an international city.”

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Inheritance: Memories and Imaginations at Southeast Community Center

Southeast Community Center is nestled near the northwest corner of Swope Park on 63rd Street. The center opened in 2008 to replace a beloved but smaller and mostly obsolete facility.

As a city building, it required the inclusion of a one percent for art component. In collaboration with the Parks and Recreation Department, the Municipal Art Commission implemented a national call to artists and received some 60 responses from local and national artists. The selection panel carefully reviewed the submitted portfolios and accompanying information and ultimately selected local artist team Julia Cole and Leigh Rosser who proposed a conscientious, multi-faceted approach to honor the site, its history and future activities in the community center.

Inheritance consists of five artworks that connect thematically throughout the facility.

Upon entry, visitors encounter a touchable, topographical “map” of the community center site and surrounding area made from carved plywood, called Common Ground.

To the right of the reception desk, visitors see three maps mounted on glass panels titled, Mapping Community: Map of Probability, Map of Possibility and Map of Being, which explore ways of representing “community,” both as a place and a way of living.

Photos Courtesy of Municipal Art Commission and Cole+Rosser

Photos Courtesy of Municipal Art Commission and Cole+Rosser

Hanging from the ceiling in the clerestory, visitors see Ripple Effect, a 150 foot long kinetic sculpture crafted of translucent blue fins mounted on a cable spine. When visitors pass a secret sensor the sculpture reacts by sending a gentle rhythmic ripple down the length of the artwork much like a ripple in a pond or a community.

In the community area opposite the fireplace, visitors encounter Connection Web, a unique wall hanging that serves both as art and a working instrument to teach and explore webs of connection. The panel includes dozens of artist-drawn ceramic “buttons” which illustrate the relationships between living beings in Kansas City; where they live and how they eat. By moving a lever, an instructor can move the buttons, and the artists have provided blank backing pins so that community members can create their own teaching exhibitions.

The final artwork includes two video stations called Video Explorers, mounted outside the two doors of the Game Room. The artists created videos that show the discoveries they made while exploring Swope Park. They plan to work with the Parks Department staff to purchase video cameras so that students at the facility can create and exhibit their own videos about their community.

Inheritance was funded by the City of Kansas City One Percent for Art Program and implemented in collaboration with the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department. Julia Cole and Leigh Rosser are among a handful of local artists who have gained valuable experience through the city’s one percent for art program and who have gone on to compete for other, larger commissions locally and nationally.

Southeast Community Center is nestled near the northwest corner of Swope Park on 63rd Street. The center opened in 2008 to replace a beloved but smaller and mostly obsolete facility.

Photos Courtesy of Municipal Art Commission and Cole+Rosser

Photos Courtesy of Municipal Art Commission and Cole+Rosser

As a city building, it required the inclusion of a one percent for art component. In collaboration with the Parks and Recreation Department, the Municipal Art Commission implemented a national call to artists and received some 60 responses from local and national artists. The selection panel carefully reviewed the submitted portfolios and accompanying information and ultimately selected local artist team Julia Cole and Leigh Rosser who proposed a conscientious, multi-faceted approach to honor the site, its history and future activities in the community center.

Inheritance consists of five artworks that connect thematically throughout the facility.

Upon entry, visitors encounter a touchable, topographical “map” of the community center site and surrounding area made from carved plywood, called Common Ground.

To the right of the reception desk, visitors see three maps mounted on glass panels titled, Mapping Community: Map of Probability, Map of Possibility and Map of Being, which explore ways of representing “community,” both as a place and a way of living.

Hanging from the ceiling in the clerestory, visitors see Ripple Effect, a 150 foot long kinetic sculpture crafted of translucent blue fins mounted on a cable spine. When visitors pass a secret sensor the sculpture reacts by sending a gentle rhythmic ripple down the length of the artwork much like a ripple in a pond or a community.

In the community area opposite the fireplace, visitors encounter Connection Web, a unique wall hanging that serves both as art and a working instrument to teach and explore webs of connection. The panel includes dozens of artist-drawn ceramic “buttons” which illustrate the relationships between living beings in Kansas City; where they live and how they eat. By moving a lever, an instructor can move the buttons, and the artists have provided blank backing pins so that community members can create their own teaching exhibitions.

The final artwork includes two video stations called Video Explorers, mounted outside the two doors of the Game Room. The artists created videos that show the discoveries they made while exploring Swope Park. They plan to work with the Parks Department staff to purchase video cameras so that students at the facility can create and exhibit their own videos about their community.

Inheritance was funded by the City of Kansas City One Percent for Art Program and implemented in collaboration with the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department. Julia Cole and Leigh Rosser are among a handful of local artists who have gained valuable experience through the city’s one percent for art program and who have gone on to compete for other, larger commissions locally and nationally.

Posted in Porter Arneill | Leave a comment