Northeast Chamber’s International Taste and Tour Includes Sweet Treats

Dessert will be included in the Northeast International Taste and Tour event.

Dessert will be included in the Northeast International Taste and Tour event.

Google food and community … go ahead … it is an enjoyable process. Find incredible ideas such as that from Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt: “Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” Legendary master chef Emeril Lagasse says, “Cooking is so popular today because it’s the perfect mix of food and fun.” Humorist Erma Bombeck wrote, “Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

There will be no dessert passed up during the Northeast Chamber of Commerce’s

Guests in previous years found their sweet tooth amply satisfied.

Guests in previous years found their sweet tooth amply satisfied.

International Taste and Tour. 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. From images of previous events, it looks like desserts are a significant part of the menu.

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 or call 816-231-3312.

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Thursday, September 4th, 2014 – 7:30 PM Muriel Kauffman Theatre Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

kcjazzJoin the swinging 17-piece Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of Clint Ashlock, for a very special evening of great big band music, featuring an array of guest artists showcasing the vibrant, world-class Kansas City jazz scene.

You’ll know why we say Kansas City is Jazz! when young jazz lions such as Megan Birdsall, Allie Burik, Hermon Mehari, and Steve Lambert join forces with jazz veterans such as the internationally-acclaimed Bobby Watson, Dan Thomas, Matt Otto and Al Pearson!

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!

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


Visit us at

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South Pacific Still Shipshape in the Capable Hands of Musical Theater Heritage

How does a 65-year-old musical translate to today’s contemporary audiences? If you attended the opening weekend performances of Musical Theater Heritage’s take on Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific, there’s absolutely no doubt that the musical still draws a crowd.

Before I go too deep into my thoughts about this musical, I have to attach a small caveat right here. In high school, I played viola and sat in the pit orchestra. The musical my senior year happened to be South Pacific so needless to say, I have been in love with this musical forever.

Back to the review, Musical Theater Heritage is known for staging topnotch shows. This was no exception. From Music Director Jeremy Watson’s first chords on the piano, it was pretty clear that the sound would be great and Nellie’s song such as Cockeyed Optimist and Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair were in safe hands.

Writing about nurse Nellie brings me to Ashley Pankow, the fair-haired siren with enough sass to charm the socks off anyone. Her opposite comes in the form of Christopher Sanders, a tall man with a deep rolling voice that suits the role of Emile. He nailed the French accent and the charm that this older leading character needs to have.

Justin Barron plays Luther Billis and Ashley Pankow stars as nurse Nellie. Photo by Tim Scott.

Justin Barron plays Luther Billis and Ashley Pankow stars as nurse Nellie. Photo by Tim Scott.

However, I am a sucker for the supporting roles. Justin Barron took the role of Luther Billis and made it his own. He definitely understands his role as comic relief. On the flip side, there is Enjoli Gavin. According to her credits, this is her first production with MTH, but hopefully not her last. She steps into the accouterments of Bloody Mary and sings her heart out during Bali Ha’i and Happy Talk.

This is a huge cast with singers playing nurses and sailors and Artistic Director Sarah Crawford manages them well as they move around the small theater space at Crown Center’s Off Center Theatre. I have always adored the nurses who perform with Nellie. Liz Clark Golson led this group with stellar charm.

Liz Golson plays the head nurse and leads the others with Pankow in Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair. Photo by Tim Scott.

Liz Golson plays the head nurse and leads the others with Pankow in Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair. Photo by Tim Scott.

Adam Branson plays Lt. Joseph Cable who falls in love with Bloody Mary’s daughter Liat, played ever so sweetly by Megan Herrera. He sings one of my all-time favorite songs, You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught. As Executive Director and Founder George Harter told the audiences in his pre-show talk, Rodgers and Hammerstein were encouraged to remove this song about race and they faced widespread criticism, judged by some to be too controversial or downright inappropriate for the musical stage. Even today, this song still rings true in light of current local and national political issues. And almost in that ironic sense, the cast of the musical has incredible diversity which proves that now the race is not important but the talent.

Two little sweethearts, Julia and Janiel Balino play Ngana and Janette, the children of Emile. Let me just say … they are just too cute for words. Chad Gerlt serves as the executive producer for MTH and he gets giddy when a show opens. His excitement is infectious and then I get excited to see how they put together their latest masterpiece. With MTH’s version of South Pacific, it has become a masterpiece touched up and freshened up for this audience. The show closes Aug. 24. Visit for tickets and other details.

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Northeast Chamber of Commerce Presents International Taste and Tour

Billboard-TT-or-headerLooking to explore the world, but not really ready to take an international flight? The Northeast Chamber of Commerce has solved this dilemma. 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.

DSC05667Along 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

DSC056366- 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 or call 816-231-3312.

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Please join The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra as we begin our
second decade of presenting the very best of Big Band Jazz. We
promise to keep a song in your heart and a swing in your step!


Friday, October 3, 2014 – 8 PM
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).



featuring the internationally-acclaimed vocal ensemble
Tuesday, December 9, 2014 – 7 PM (early show)
Keep your yule cool and join us for exciting big band and vocal arrangements of
your favorite Christmas and holiday songs with special guests, New York Voices.



Friday, February 27, 2015 – 8 PM
A concert worthy of an Academy Award! You’ll find yourself “Over The Rainbow” in Helzberg Hall when The KCJO performs new arrangements of the best music ever written for motion pictures.



Friday, April 17, 2015 – 8 PM
When the legacy of the big band is discussed, the great Stan KentonOrchestra is
always a topic ofadmiration. Join The KCJO as we perform such Kenton classics as
“Peanut Vendor,” “Street of Dreams,” “Eager Beaver,” and “Artistry in Rhythm.”


Season Ticket renewal now thru June 16th
New Season Ticket purchases starting June 16th
Single Tickets will be available starting July 16th

For All Ticket Requests, please call the Kauffman Center
Box Office 816-994-7222 or

Any other questions, please call our office at 913-381-2711 or email

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Galactic Goodness

Meet-The-Guardians-of-the-GalaxyA film review of Guardians of the Galaxy by Alexander Morales

A while ago, (last fall to be precise) I was listening to Stan Lee, former CEO and Chairman of Marvel Comics, being interviewed by Chris Hardwick on the Nerdist podcast and the topic of film “success” came up. Specifically, Lee was asked why he thought most of the superhero-themed films developed by Marvel prior to Iron Man (2008) were not as well received by audiences. Matter-of-factly, Lee answered, “Because they were not having fun.”

Guardians of the Galaxy proves that point perfectly.

Director James Gunn (Slither, Super) blasts Marvel’s next superhero epic far into space and delivers the best experience you will have at the movies this summer.

The. Best.

Mixing a collection of unlikely (and for many, unknown) characters with snarky humor, galactic set pieces and gorgeous visuals, Guardians is the film you will want to see and very quickly own.

Building on the success of the extremely successful Avengers franchise, Guardians expands the Marvel universe and looks beyond the possibilities. While the comics have always been a haven for universal exploration, the films thus far have remained (for the most part) grounded to Earth.

No more.

Starring the hilarious and charismatic Chris Pratt, the always beautiful Zoe Zaldana, the “hulking” and over-sized Dave Bautisa and featuring the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, audiences will quickly learn that this is the team we also wanted to see, but we just didn’t know it.

Set to an epic mixed tape soundtrack that will consistently bring a nostalgic smile to your face, the film follows the misadventures of scoundrel Peter Quill (Pratt) aka Star-Lord. As in most films, Quill finds/stumbles upon “something” of great value to a host of dangerous people and quickly finds himself at odds with two daughters of the evil Titan Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin), an insane warlord named Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), the bounty hunting duo of Groot the Living Tree and Rocket Raccoon (a genetically engineered talking raccoon) and one of the most powerful objects in the Marvel Universe. Sound ridiculous? It sure is. And it is wonderful.

While the film does suffer the same issues that most original stories have (lots of exposition, time dedicated to developing/explaining characters, etc.) at one point, it becomes clear that Gunn and his co-writer Nicole Perlman just go for it and use their characters to make a unique “team” film.

Along with that, while seeing Thanos on the big screen (an all-time favorite villain of mine) made me pee a little, he mainly comes off as an incredibly stereotypical unknown evil with little depth. At the same time, while Pace as Ronan is well delivered, he too is left to be the maniacal warmonger who just wants things dead. While every hero need a heavy, they can quickly become stale. In contrast, Karen Gillian as Nebula, who is given very little, is able to make a far more interesting character out of her death-obsessed cyborg with daddy issues. The film does counteract that well, by giving the heroes a thick level of snark, and thankfully, it keeps the film from falling into the same traps audiences have seen over and over again (see Captain America: The First Avenger, Iron Man 2, Thor 2: The Dark World).

Hilarious, surprisingly heart-warming and action-packed, Guardians is a fantastic example of solid filmmaking, exceptional casting and (most of all) clear direction. From the tone of the characters to the overall look and feel of the visuals, Gunn is in firm control of everything and he is making his kind of super hero film. Are there flaws? Like any story yes. However, Gunn seems fully aware and makes sure to empower his team to overachieve in all the other places keeping this film feeling fresh.

Peppered with eater eggs, this off-kilter adventure will have fan boys and regular movie goers squealing with delight.

Unique, fun and highly engaging, you will want to see this movie. Whether you are tired of the super hero genre films or not, Guardians delivers a quality time at the movies. Pratt has moved well past his goofy, sidekick roots and is the leading man that audiences will adore. At the same time, any film that can successfully deliver a talking raccoon (that is also a weapons specialist) and a walking tree (that can only say one or two phrases) has to be one of the coolest movie experiences of the summer. There are some parts that are definitely not for kids so parents think twice about taking the little ones. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Guardians of the Galaxy are here to save the day.

4.5 out of 5 Floating Decapitated and Decaying Celestial Heads in Deep Space

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Townsend Announces Third Group for performARTS

PrintTownsend Communications in Kansas City, Mo., announces its third installment of performARTS participants.

Underwritten by the Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts, the series will be part of the next six issues of KC Studio and will include installments about some of Kansas City’s best artistic organizations. The six featured performARTS organizations were selected out of hundreds of arts organizations across this metropolitan community. In alphabetical order, the six organizations for the 2014-2015 performARTS features are Hello Art, the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey, Olathe Civic Theatre Association, Owen/Cox Dance Group, Spinning Tree Theatre and the Youth Symphony of Kansas City.

Hello Art

Hello Art unites fun and informative events that help connect artists with those who appreciate their work. The group’s mission strives to break down the barriers that keep people from exploring Kansas City’s arts scene. The unifying goal is to bring together all who want to appreciate and support the arts — including artists, gallery owners, experienced collectors, and curious beginners — through a year-round calendar of events. First Friday Trolley Tours, Artist Talks and Demonstrations, and Hello Art Member Exhibitions are just a few examples of the types of events offered. These events have opened doors and created access to the arts and lasting relationships between artists and those who appreciate their work.

Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey

A diverse community united by dance to inspire and change lives, Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey has a multi-part mission. KCFAA makes dance accessible to all people by presenting the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey II. KCFAA develops and delivers youth programming that uses the art of dance as a vehicle to improve knowledge, increase self-esteem, enhance critical thinking skills, and encourage positive role models and smart life choices. KCFAA reaches more than 30,000 young people each year through 10 year-round programs. Ailey began his relationship with Kansas City in 1968, when he first brought his groundbreaking modern dance company Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In 1984, KCFAA was born as the official second home to this remarkable company. The organization is gearing up to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

Olathe Civic Theatre Association

Olathe Civic Theatre Association began as the Olathe Community Theatre Association with a $1,000 grant from the Olathe Parks & Recreation Department in 1973. In July 1977, OCTA purchased the Reformed Presbyterian Church, built in 1870. The first production of Arsenic and Old Lace in the newly-christened Buddy Rogers Playhouse came in November 1977. After some highs and lows with codes violations and a fire, the theater reopened in 1983. In the summer of 2008, OCTA was the recipient of a grant to maintain the historical building and both the interior and exterior of the building was repainted, giving OCTA a much needed face-lift. In 2013 the group officially changed its name to the Olathe Civic Theatre Association to better reflect the breadth and caliber of the theater experience it provides. Today, the theater company plans six shows for its 2014-2015 season.

Owen/Cox Dance Group

Owen/Cox Dance Group’s mission is to create new music and dance collaborations, to present high-quality contemporary dance performances with live music, and to engage as wide an audience as possible through affordable live performance, education and outreach programs. With this mission in mind, founders Jennifer Owen and Brad Cox bring together some of Kansas City’s most talented artists, representing a variety of genres, to perform contemporary dance with live music. With diverse backgrounds ranging from the Bolshoi Ballet and the Leningrad Chamber Orchestra, to Alvin Ailey and Dave Brubeck, these dancers and musicians form a highly skilled and multi-faceted corps. The collaborative results speak for themselves: fresh and vibrant new works that are classical in form, but contemporary in expression.

Spinning Tree Theatre

Spinning Tree Theatre, founded by two theater veterans Michael Grayman and Andy Parkhurst, started their small company in April 2011 with Make Me a Song: The Music of William Finn. During the next two years, the company has added musicals and plays. The next season will include four shows. The founders aim to produce works that celebrate and reflect the diversity of Kansas City itself by exploring a variety of cultures and art forms through theater, music and dance. The theater goal is to present new, contemporary and classic pieces that are relevant, thought-provoking and entertaining. The other is to educate, challenge, stimulate and inspire audience and artist alike.

Youth Symphony of Kansas City

Youth Symphony of Kansas City is more than 55 years old and designed to educate young musicians through enhanced orchestral experiences and to build the present and future classical music community. Youth Symphony of Kansas City was founded as “Youth Symphony of the Heart of America” by conductor Leo Scheer in 1958. The organization initially consisted of one orchestra of 80 musicians and has been a musical home to more than 8,500 young musicians in Kansas City. Today, the program has more than 340 students in fifth grade through twelfth grade performing in four full orchestras each year. Ten free concerts are programmed annually throughout the metropolitan area, with the advanced ensembles performing an annual spring concert at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

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Age of Boredom

hr_Transformers__Age_of_Extinction_41A Film Review of Transformers: Age of Extinction

Well … that happened. All 165 minutes of it. All two hours and forty five minutes of low quality special effects, horrific dialogue, zero story and ridiculously lame characters of it.

To say Transformers: Age of Extinction is a colossal waste of money, resources and time, is an extreme understatement.

To be fair, I did spend quite a bit of time trying to write a review that would attempt to constructively critique this film. However, with no redeeming qualities, I can’t. Even with films that I find overall unappealing, I can usually describe aspects that I could see people enjoying – but not here. This is bad. Real bad … and not in the “Hey, let’s get together and make fun of it,” kind-of-bad. This is the kind of bad that makes you wonder “what were they thinking?” Showcasing an unbelievably large amount of product placement with a throwaway plot (if you can call it that) that, when finished, you realize has been nothing but fodder to set up another sequel. This film represents everything that is wrong with the big business of making movies. It is taking advantage of consumers. It hangs it’s hat on the nostalgia of adults and the premise of huge robots riding robot dinosaurs and it barely delivers.

This is a failure in storytelling at the highest level.

Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves. This is not entertainment. This is not even interesting. This is trash. The cost of this film could have educated countries or fed American children for years. The time it took to develop this film could have produced beautiful, inspiring works of man-made ingenuity. The wages the cast and crew earned could have been a paycheck worth being proud of it. But it isn’t. It is not. Under the leadership of director Michael Bay, this is a travesty.

Have I ever made a film? No. Is it difficult? For sure. But this. This should never have been made. Anyone and everyone who signed off on designs, script and/or direction needs to be fired and made to refund audience members for sitting through this drivel.

Do I sound angry? You bet I am. I get to watch movies and tell people what I think as part of my job and the idea of audiences supporting this digital puke has sent me into a downward spiral that clearly puts me the category of internet troll.

I do not care. Transformers: Age of Extinction is the definition of being without quality.

This film is a mess. A horrible unappealing mess. Where the first film was a decent attempt to really make something interesting, something that tried to capture the spirit of the Transformers franchise, this film is the complete opposite. Soulless and uninspired, this film is just not good.

Set after the events of part three, the Transformers are in hiding and being hunted by a special ops division of the CIA. Why? We are told because they are all considered as hostiles after the destruction of Chicago. However, even that premise is up in the air as, at one point, the Chief of Staff requests to have a photoshoot with the President and Optimus Prime. If all the Transformers are hostile – why is the President wanting meet and greet? Who knows. Moving on, just like the subsequent films, this film chooses to stupidly focus on a collection of humans that do not matter. Spouting lines of dialogue that induce mad fits of cringe, this collection of actors and actresses are underdeveloped, cliché and worst of all completely boring. All new to the franchise, they add nothing new and, at times, are nothing but carbon copies of characters seen in prior films. Poorly directed, they spend more times repeating themselves and smacking us in the face with their reasons to be in the film that, by the middle, it becomes laughable. Mark Wahlberg’s character, Cade Yeager (a not too subtle attempt at pulling the Pacific Rim fans – Yeager/Jaeger) states that he is an “inventor” so many times that either he or the writers were in denial and were trying so hard to make it true that had to keep repeating it over and over and over again. The only “fun” character that audiences would even consider caring about is T.J. Miller’s Lucas and he gets thrown away in the first act. I won’t even get into Nicola Peltz’s lame daughter/hot chick character and how obsessed this film is with trying to make her a damsel in distress. Infuriatingly disgusting.

Notice how I’ve barely mentioned the overall story yet? Yeah because it sucks. Amidst all this heavy-handed, tough-guy crap of hunting Transformers, we are made to try and relate to these garbage humans.

I don’t want to waste your time any more, but let’s just say in includes a decapitated Megatron’s evil plot to set off a bomb/tool called “The Seed,” a ton of explosions, more stupid human tricks, bad special effects, very poor editing, disturbingly bad Autobots and possibly one of the biggest product promise let downs in recent history – the Dinobots.

They couldn’t even deliver on that.

Seriously, I want to try and be more constructive but I’ve already wasted enough of my time and yours.

You should not see this movie. You should not wait for it go on DVD or digital download. You should not pay your hard earned money nor should you use your energy to sit through this over-saturated pile of rubbish. Every copy needs to be burned with a public apology issued by Michael Bay.

This film is a failure and under Bay’s leadership this film franchise has been diminished to nothing more than ephemeral idiocy.

I apologize to anyone reading for this review being nothing more than a simple rant. However, this film deserves nothing more.

1 out of 5 Boot Jets That (Spoiler Alert) Send Optimus Prime into Space Thus Showing How Unnecessary Everything That Occurred in This Film Was

Posted in Alex Morales, Cinematic, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Daylilies Dazzle and Fireworks Sizzle at Powell Gardens’ Booms & Blooms

Daylilies Dazzle and Fireworks Sizzle at Powell Gardens’ Booms & Blooms

Festival season kicks off at Powell Gardens on Thursday, July 3, with Booms & Blooms, the biggest one-day festival at the Gardens all year. Always scheduled near July 4, this event is an annual Independence Day Weekend tradition for many across the Kansas City metro.


Booms & Blooms is one of the few times guests can bring in picnics to enjoy on the lawn–and many like to bring elaborate set ups and food to savor together. Others prefer to buy treats from festival vendors. Home-made ice cream with ingredients from the Heartland Harvest Garden, hamburgers, hot dogs, salad in a cup, corn on the cob, cotton candy and shaved ice are among the options.


Daylilies star as the festival’s featured blooms, typically reaching their peak during this timeframe. A stroll through the Perennial Garden provides views of hundreds of dazzling varieties. Throughout the festival, McConnell’s Plantland offers daylilies for sale, making it easy to start a collection of favorites.


No festival is complete without music. Festival music kicks off at 4:30 p.m. with performances by students from the Lee’s Summit School of Rock. The Lee’s Summit Symphony takes the stage on the main lawn at 7:30 p.m., presenting a patriotic pops concert that leads into the festival’s grand finale: a sizzling fireworks display over the lake.


Learn more about the Booms & Blooms Festival and find tips for planning your visit at


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Youth Symphony of Kansas City

Students from more than 125 area schools comprise the four orchestras of the 56-year-old organization, dedicated to providing enhanced musical experiences and free concerts throughout the metropolitan area.

The Youth Symphony of Kansas City was incorporated on July 31, 1958 under the direction of conductor Leo Scheer. The organization initially consisted of one orchestra with 80 musicians. Five weeks later, the group presented its first concert and Mayor H. Roe Bartle proclaimed the week as “Youth Symphony Week.” In 1964, the organization added a younger orchestra, the “Junior Youth Symphony,” due to increased demand. In 1991, a third orchestra was formed. Today, there are four orchestras to accommodate talents from students in late elementary through their senior year in high school.

Executive Director Steven C. Murray has been with the organization since late 2010 and helps oversee the program’s four full orchestras which are graded progressively based on the students’ ability level as demonstrated in the annual audition process. The orchestras are: Symphony Orchestra, an advanced ensemble comprised of students in grades 9-12 conducted by Steven D. Davis; Academy Orchestra, an advanced ensemble with students in grades 8-12 conducted by Russell E. Berlin, Jr.; Philharmonic Orchestra, an intermediate orchestra with students in grades 7-11 conducted by Michelle Davis; and Symphonette Orchestra, a preparatory orchestra for students in grades 5-9 co-conducted by Scott Kuhlman and Dr. Carrie Turner.

In mid-May of this year, more than 515 students took up the chance to audition for one of the four orchestras. Each year, no matter the previous year’s placement, all student musicians must audition. About 390 students are placed among four orchestras.

The mission of the Youth Symphony of Kansas City is to educate young musicians through enhanced orchestral experiences and to build the present and future classical music community. “In our 55 years, we have estimated that about 8,500 have participated in the program,” Murray says. “The common thread is that shared fantastic experience that they take away from their involvement. It’s more than being part of a team, but a community.” To be part of one of these orchestras is to be responsible in knowing the music, how it fits in with the section and then the larger relationship across the orchestra, he explains. “In the end, we build, at present incredible orchestras and a future where these young people continually give their best and rise to the occasion in whatever they set out to accomplish.”

Berlin worked as an instrumental teacher in the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District where he taught elementary, junior high and two senior high classes in his career. Berlin has received many honors, including the Excellence in Teaching Award given by Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce, the Missouri School Music Educator of the Year Award given by the Missouri Chapter of the American String Teachers Association and the Silver Shoe Award given by Lee’s Summit North High School for significant contributions to the students and staff of Lee’s Summit North High School.

“I am pleased to be with this group. I have been conducting for fifteen years. We provide those stair steps that allow musicians to move up,” Berlin says. He also served on the board during the 1980s and has an affinity for the Youth Symphony as his daughter played in the orchestras. He recommended his high school students audition for the Youth Symphony. “When students who make the youth orchestras join, they are eager to learn,” he says. “It is a dream job for those of us who are directors. We get to be educators and more as we know these students all have the same desire to be challenged to make great music.”

Murray articulates that the orchestras are meant to be accessible. “We have financial assistance for students and families. Our concerts are free. We want this program to be available. … It is inspiring to watch the musicians challenge themselves as they receive experiences they don’t get elsewhere including performing at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, the Folly Theater, Yardley Hall and more.”

The capstone is to play at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, especially for the seniors. The spring 2015 concert will again be at the Kauffman Center and will feature both Academy and Symphony Orchestras. The Symphony Orchestra played the first concert at the Kauffman Center’s open house. “We also performed at the groundbreaking,” Murray says.

The auditions place students in orchestras. “We work to bring out the best in their playing,” Berlin says. “We see their strengths and weaknesses. As their teachers, we look at teaching tools and want to offer up a mixed repertoire. Each piece played gives them challenges. We may play Mozart or Haydn. There might be romantic pieces or even some pop tunes.”

During the 2014-2015 season, the orchestras will play across the metropolitan area including a side-by-side concert with the Kansas City Symphony Oct. 27 and an open house concert Dec. 14 where all four groups perform at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan. “We applied to perform at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago, which is an international conference. It’s an important step forward to increase the organization’s visibility on a national level,” Murray says. An estimated 17,000 will be in attendance with representatives from all 50 states and 30 countries. “We are one of four full orchestras to perform. It’s great to represent all the good that’s happening here with the thriving arts scene in Kansas City.”

Berlin figures the exposure will also exhibit the professionalism of the conductors and the musicians. “We get to share the quality of what we produce here.” Murray expects the orchestral organization to be distinctively prepared for the future. “We are uniquely poised to be a catalyst offering positive social change through music. We can provide the underserved with hands-on music education. It is incumbent on us to understand the opportunities to serve those needs.

Posted in Kellie Houx, performARTS | Leave a comment

Remembering the Great War


At the end of June 1914, the world changed dramatically. First there was the assassination of Archiduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, the Duchess of Hohenburg. The Austrian government suspects that Serbia is responsible. A month later, on July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia and World War I began. Throughout August 1914, the various European countries declared war on each other and by the middle of the month, several battles throughout France and Belgium occurred.

Now, with the centennial of the start of World War I, the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial and its staff prepare for a spotlight to be turned toward Kansas City. “During the commemoration, the citizenry of Kansas City will find a new attention as many around the world turn their eyes toward us and this incredible story housed here,” explains Dr. Matthew Naylor, president and CEO. “There will also be many opportunities to engage with the museum and the legacy.”The commemoration period is 2014 to 2019 as World War I went from 1914 to 1918 with the ensuing peace process spilling into 1919 including the Treaty of Versailles.

In 1919, Kansas City leaders and citizens raised more than $2.5 million in just 10 days. The equivalent is roughly $34 million today. Construction was completed in 1926 and was dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge in front of more than 150,000 people. The centennial commemoration of World War I seems logical, but the more paramount honors go to the many Kansas Citians who facilitated the construction of Liberty Memorial nearly 100 years ago.

Senior Curator Doran Cart has been with the museum for 24 years. He has been with museum during the highs and lows. He helped with the two recent efforts for the restoration and expansion. “The overwhelming support of the city has always pleased me. We are a landmark that has withstood many high and low tides.”

During the 1950s and 60s, despite the ongoing support of the people of Kansas City, the maintenance and running costs for the Memorial proved to be overwhelming The Memorial fell into disrepair, as did some civic landmarks such as Union Station. But once again, the people responded to revitalize and restore the Memorial, Cart says.

By 1994, the memorial was closed due to safety concerns. By 1998, a sales tax supported the restoration. In addition to revitalization, plans took shape to expand the museum to showcase the WWI-related objects and documents. Through the tax and other state and national funding, more than $102 million was raised for the restoration and expansion. In 2004, the Museum was designated by Congress as the nation’s official World War I Museum, and construction started on a new 80,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art museum and the Edward Jones Research Center underneath the Liberty Memorial’s main courtyard.

The National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial opened in 2006 to national acclaim. In more than eight years, the museum has had more than 1 million visitors including former Vice President Dick Cheney, General Colin Powell, President Barack Obama (as a presidential candidate in 2008), Senator John McCain and actor and singer Kevin Costner. Additionally, Frank Buckles, America’s last surviving WWI veteran, visited the Museum over Memorial Day weekend in 2008. 

One of Cart’s favorite special exhibitions came in the form of Man & Machine: The German Soldier in World War I. “We researched some and found that there has been no such exhibition from the viewpoint of the common German soldier. It was groundbreaking. We remember the people involved in the war and from the era. We show the things created and in that aspect, my mantra is to show the power of the object.”

Within that power, Cart wants the visitor to find some sort of experience. “We seek ways to interpret the cataclysmic event that was World War I and the aftermath. You have to learn from the past and within that past, we can learn from the economy, societies and wars. The centennial will also cover part of the Russian Revolution. That will be interesting when we get there and what we will talk about at that point.”

Cart also shares some of the “deliberate” choices made within the museum. The first exhibition that visitors see is the portrait wall. “Each photograph has the eyes straight forward. They are looking right at you and making eye contact. Sometimes you can see a reflection of yourself as the image changes. It is a strong view and a powerful compelling way to begin one’s trip through the museum.”

For 94 years the Museum has been collecting items from World War I. Of course, Cart likes each time a requested package arrives on his desk. He recently received medals bestowed on a German soldier in 1916. “When we get around to the centennial of 1916, these medals could go on exhibit, but the other exciting aspect of this donation is that I now know about this soldier’s unit. My goal is to always make exhibitions interesting to visitors. I want visitors to learn something. Education is key, whether it is from a tour or a special exhibition especially during the centennial celebration.”

Some of the first objects came into the museum from foreign governments. Maps were sent by the Japanese and fragments from the Cathedral of Reims, France. German shellfire during the early engagement on Sept. 20, 1914 devastated the cathedral. “We benefit from their foresight almost 100 years later,” Cart says. “As collections were developed, many around the world knew that this museum would be a worldwide resource.”

Cart says the French trench exhibit’s rat is an aspect that many high schoolers remember. “Like them, I still see items or exhibitions in a new light. It might be the Russian soldier’s cap or the French tank. Each item tells a story and that’s why we still collect because we can add to that story. World War I was a cataclysmic event and to keep explaining that, we continue to gather documents and aim to best capture that generation. The success comes when visitors have a moment of understanding here.” That flows into another of Cart’s favorites – Inside the Doughboy’s Pack. “It is all about humanity and what story each item tells,” he says.

Attendance in 2013 was more than 152,000 and that does not include those who visited the park surrounding the museum or spent time looking at The Great Frieze, located on the North Wall, which measures 488 feet by 48 feet and represents the progression of mankind from war to peace or the Dedication Wall, which holds the bronze busts of the five Allied leaders present during the site dedication on November 1, 1921: Gen. Baron Jacques of Belgium, Gen. Armando Diaz of Italy, Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France, Gen. John J. Pershing of the United States, and Sir Admiral Earl David Beatty of Great Britain.

As of mid-May 2014, the attendance was just shy of 50,000. However, those numbers could skyrocket as the Museum is embarking on a $5 million capital campaign to build a new 5,000 square foot exhibition gallery. “We could see traveling exhibitions that will add to our diversity,” Naylor says. Along with additional space, more than 20,000 items from the Museum’s collection have been digitized and individuals from more than 80 countries around the world have explored the online database.

The museum has 30 staff and 200 volunteers. The mission is to learn and make meaning of those who sacrificed for the greater good. “Remembering requires your heart. My grandfather had lung damage,” Naylor says. “I saw a letter from him that was dated from 1917 and I read words of fear and courage. In making meaning of this museum, we explore what makes up a healthy civic life. Who needs to be around the table?

“During the commemoration, we want to again have the metropolitan community involved. When the community came together right after World War I ended, there was almost a sense of adventure that folks wanted to be involved in activities that matter,” Naylor says.

“The community showed incredible foresight in 1919 to build a monument that not only honored those who fought, but served as a monument to peace.” When the building and museum fell into disrepair, that same sense of unity came back in the 1990s with successful votes to support the renovation. “We honor those who served. We create an environment that allows a compelling story to be told and we don’t tell a parochial story. It is an encompassing story and it can be complicated, but we do our best to be good stewards of this legacy.”

The story told at the museum is one told with reverence. “There is some exhibit space that speaks to everyone. There are women who put their shoulders to the wheel and went to work in the factories and on farms,” Naylor says. “There were nurses and others who went to the front as well.” As a matter of fact, one of his favorite images on The Great Frieze is that of the nurse with the injured. “That whole wall is an architectural wonder.” Naylor also appreciates the bunker behind the French tank. “The spotlight will turn to us for the next five years.”

Every continent was affected by World War I. By virtue of colonization, troops from India and Australia came to fight. The other changes still ripple into today with the advances in medicine, aeronautics, energy and geopolitics. “Even Civil Rights moved to the forefront as Harry S. Truman served as a lieutenant in World War I,” Naylor says. “What he saw with segregated troops spurred his decision to work toward the armed forces integration that came around in 1948.”

The centennial will mark a chance to remember courage and for the community to engage, pause and converse. “We can help with that reflection. So often, people leave here and talk. The idea is to look at our civic life and how we work toward a world of peace,” Naylor says. “During these five years, people will have a chance to look at medals, images, stories in a new light. We have the obligation to tell stories that engage. Look at the current exhibit, Over By Christmas: August-December 1914 has a romanticism that many thought the war would be over in a few days or at least a few months.”

The exhibit is open now through March 29, 2015. Another exhibit that looks at the early impetus called On the Brink: A Month That Changed the World is open through Sept. 14 of this year. The exhibition looks at the underground organizations, diplomatic communications and international newspaper reporting of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and its political aftershock.

The museum and the park grounds are Kansas City’s front porch, Naylor explains. “It’s a place to make family memories. The park is part of presenting experiences, especially as families talk and remember.”

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