Category Archives: Young at ART

Summertime Rocks


It’s never too early to think about fun in the sun. In the Kansas City metropolitan area, consider exploring new venues, seeking outdoors games and adventures,  stepping into the community backyard for some fun or trying a new art project keep boredom at bay.

Christian Youth Theatre:
Act. Sing. Dance. Live!
At a CYT summer camp, including: Pirates & Princesses (ages 4-5), Epic Disney (5-12) and Follow the Yellow Brick Road (5-12). Xtreme camps for ages 10-15 include: Dr. Who, Star Warz, Superman v. Batman and Star Trekkies.

There’s also Camp Willy (Shakespeare, 12-18) and two overnight camps: Unusually Green for middle school (12-14) and high school master camp Crazy for You (14-19), which concludes with three full-length performances July 25-27. CYT is offering 20 weeks of camps this summer at locations across Kansas City, and their HEART program provides opportunity for children with special needs. Call 913-681-3318 or go to for more information.

Kansas City Young Audiences:
Kansas City Young Audiences continues its crowd favorites like Art Sampler, Let’s Put on a Show and Improv Adventure. New programs will include a creative writing camp for teens, a circus arts camp for tweens and an afternoon camp for our littlest campers called Creative Playground, which will dramatize popular children’s stories through Movement, Theatre, or Visual Arts. A three-week theater intensive for 8-18 year olds will perform The Little Mermaid at 7 p.m., July 31.

Creative Dramatics and Arts Sampler Camps for ages 5-7 year olds feature a variety of themes and arts disciplines to introduce younger children to the performing and visual arts. Children eight and up have the choice of camps such as Improv Adventure, Playground Art, Musical Theatre, Puppet Play, Dance Camps and more. Extended day programs and scholarships are available.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
The Henry Doorly Zoo offers summer day camps ranging from a day to five days. The single day camps include junior zookeepers, junior vet, big cats, sharks and sea turtles. The two-day camps include photography at the zoo, ocean commotion, and animal training. The four-day camps include top predators and buggin’ around. The five-day camp is called Dirty Jobs where campers explore keep the Lauritzen Gardens and Omaha’s Zoo and Aquarium and the various operations required in working with nature. Other activities include family classes, small group and family campouts and scout outings.

Leawood Cultural Arts
Summer is a busy time in Leawood. The Leawood Oxford House includes an annual reading club during the months of June and July, says April Bishop, the cultural arts coordinator. This year, the focus will be on Little House on the Prairie. “While it may seem like more of a girl’s story, this is a classic for a reason,” she says. “We have had families ask about reading this book in the past and we are going to tackle this during the summer.”

There will also be three American Girl doll events, which is similar to the book club as young participants can learn about a specific time period. June will be focused on Caroline, a story of 1812. Josefina is a young girl in 1824 Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Santa Fe Trail ran by the school house so it is an appropriate story for July. Bishop says. The August story will be Rebecca, a Jewish immigrant in 1914. “Grinnin’ and Groovin’ will be in the lodge this year and the free Tuesday morning events will be morning entertainment for families including Funky Mama, StoneLion Puppets and the Wings of Love bird show.”

The Will’s Players for Camp Shakespeare will be again in Leawood. “We are always happy to have them,” she says. “Plus the Leawood Stage Company will offer Hello Dolly. It’s a great thing for families to do to have a free evening under the stars. This is a great chance to continue to educate the community about the arts. You can come here at no risk and enjoy the show.”

Kansas City Ballet School:
The Kansas City Ballet School with an Academy is aimed at developing young dancers; Summer Intensives take burgeoning dancers and propel them to new heights; and the Studio program, which provides adults a chance to experience ballet, yoga and other movement-based activities. And that unification is created at the Todd Bolender Center for Creativity & Dance, a building designed with ample space and classrooms with proper flooring for dance.

Kansas City Ballet School offers courses designed for age appropriateness from the youngest dancers at 3 years old to pre-professionals at the age of 18. The Studio presents dance and fitness classes for those 12 and up, with most being adult students. The Summer Intensives offer teens from all over the nation who audition and are accepted the chance to work with nationally renowned faculty. This program is aimed to increase a student’s technique and artistry. There are four levels and 25 students per level.

Kansas City Art Institute:
Youth summer camps and high school intensives are part of the summer landscape at the North campus of the Kansas City Art Institute. Youth classes for students from 6 to 14 include a variety of two-dimensional and three-dimensional art projects including large scale sculpture, drawing, print making, photography, fiber arts, illustration and animation.

High schools courses are offered year round. During the summer, high school classes are scheduled as one- or two-week camps. Need-based scholarships are available for these camps. There is also a pre-college art lab that occurs at the main campus. However, at the north campus, find classes in the areas including portfolio preparation, the art of the sketchbook, painting, and photo documentation.

Mid-Continent Public Library:
Libraries are magical places during the summer. Public Relations Coordinator Jessica Ford says this year’s theme is “Fizz, Boom, READ,” and runs from May 19 to July 31. Listeners (0-6) earn a free book for every 24 books they hear aloud, Readers (6-11) can earn a free book for every 360 minutes they read. Up to 3 books can be earned over the summer. Teens earn a Teen Buck for every book review submitted of a book completed. Teen Bucks can be used to pay library fines, make copies, get a replacement card, or choose from a variety of prizes including books, hats, or messenger bags.

“We are also having some special performances this summer with WildHeart, Dino O’Dell and some mad scientists,” she says.  Begin with a bowlful of nature, add a backpack, and a walking stick, stir in a summer day and Boom! Join the musical adventure “exploding” with encouragement to get outside and discover nature.  WildHeart is the Parent’s Choice and Emmy Award winning family group, conservation educators and entertainers, who have performed at the St. Louis Arch, Silver Dollar City, Missouri State Capitol, and schools and libraries throughout the Midwest. O’Dell provides an interactive music and storytelling adventure that features a pond filled with peanut butter, a plate of pancakes, and a surprise visit from a space alien. WildHeart and Dino O’Dell are shows aimed at all ages. Mad Science is for ages 6 and up. The show is about shocks, states and spectra. Learn about the science of electricity, matter, light, and color. Find dates and register at

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Growing Artists

YoungRembrandts1-KCS-OnlineHow are budding artists developed?

How do they cultivate skills and enjoy the process of creating artists? One after-school program may be the tool to help germinate that creativity. Young Rembrandts has been around for 25 years and can be found in 30 states. In the Kansas City area, husband and wife team Susan and Tim Draftz are two organizers, leading a mission to improve the passion and sheer magnitude of art for children in elementary school. Susan carries the official title of program director at Young Rembrandts – Kansas City Northland.

Ironically neither is a professional artist. Susan worked as an attorney in the juvenile court system while Tim works as the comptroller for Goodyear Tires. The two started deliberating on a second career and even spent time with a career coach. The two, who are parents to 8 children of their own, discovered that they had a passion for children.

“We have always been involved in the performing arts,” Tim says. “That came from being involved with our children. However, my background resurfaced. I used to take art classes once a week at the Lincoln Park Conservatory in Chicago. My father was blue collar, but he made sure that my brother and I had our $2 for class. A dollar would have purchased three gallons of gas. I never missed a class from third grade to eighth grade. I learned to paint and draw. It really helped mold me. Even as an accountant, the art has allowed me to see the whole situation as a right-brained person while in a left-brained job.”

The answer came in the form of Young Rembrandts, a program that has been around for more than 20 years in 30 states. For Susan, who leads as facilitator, six years of lessons are at her disposal. Tim has also taught some of the classes as the memories of his own youthful art classes flood back. “I remembered that I could be a right-brained person. I even have a white board that I draw on and all those memories of drawing techniques, styles, and those basics come flooding back,” he says.

Right now, Susan has after-school programs in Kansas and Missouri, but still seeks more coordinators who would share this love of art. They are in schools in Atchison, Kansas to Shawnee almost to Independence, Mo.

“It’s really about lines and shapes. It’s a program that comforts left-brained and right-brained students. There are instructions for the left-brained learning style, but also creativity for the right-brained. As an example, in drawing, the decision is to move from big objects and shapes while in coloring, we reverse that and have the students go from small to big. It’s simply a different way to think about teaching art. We give the teachers the tools that they can share with students,” she says. By February, she hopes to have 7 schools on the Kansas side and 10 schools in Missouri with Young Rembrandts’ after-school programs, with tuition paid for by parents. “They do need to love kids.”

Susan says one of the biggest positives is to get children in those elementary years to find success in art. “When a child looks at a blank page, they have to have the fortitude to dig in and try. There is a certain amount of patience and persistence that comes with doing art.” Tim also believes young students can gain additional problem-solving skills in art. “Say you are drawing an apple and an orange where one fruit is in front of the other. The child has to figure up how to draw both pieces of fruit, but then erase the portion that is hidden behind the other. It takes some thought to make these decisions.”

Tim considers the other side benefit to be the combination of art history and art appreciation that also is part of the program. “We want to contribute to raising a generation that can go to a museum or art gallery and appreciate what they see.”

Recent successes have included workshops at the Leavenworth and Tonganoxie libraries. “Kids get excited to complete a work in one hour. They see the results and are proud of themselves. We don’t want mirror copies,” Susan says. “If students participate in Young Rembrandts, they find success. It’s a real self-confidence booster.” Tim calls the program “concrete creativeness.”

In the near future, the Draftzes want to see the program expand into more schools with more teachers. Susan wants art enrichment in daycares, preschools and other community centers. “The vision is to cultivate a can-do attitude.” They also happily appreciate the guiding principles of a safe environment that is both physical and psychological. There is respect for the students and teachers. There’s also integrity and patience. The teachers and Susan meet monthly. “It is simply about reinforcing the student spirit in all that we do. The kids get that during their regular class work and now we can do that too.”

“We do strive for passion,” Tim describes. “We see are proponents of the STEM idea where science, technology, engineering and math are exalted, but I wanted to make it STEAM and add art to the mix. The humanities have to be included to help develop the whole person.”

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Twas the Night Before Christmas

Images by Jackie Littman

Image by Jackie Littman

Theatre for Young America will wrap up its first show of the 40th season, How I Became A Pirate Nov. 9 and in just a couple of weeks, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas opens with all the adventure and fun that a TYA show is known to bring.

Theatre for Young America began in 1974 at the Waldo Astoria Dinner Playhouse under the watchful eyes of co-founders and spouses Gene Mackey and Cheryl Bryant. In 1977, the troupe became an independent organization and moved to old Overland Park, Kansas, where it performed for 17 years in a converted cinema theater. During this time the organization grew from 4 productions to 7 or 8 per season, added drama classes, summer workshops and summer productions, and outreach workshops in schools. TYA operated in the Mission Center Mall from 1994 to 2003.

“In 1974, we moved here from New Jersey when my father was working for the Dinner Playhouse Inc. There were the two locations then, Waldo Astoria and Tiffany’s Attic During my childhood, my dad had started several theaters and he had a dream that came from my youth to start a children’s theater,” Mackey says. “So he asked artistic directors Dennis Hennessy and Richard Carrothers to use the stage to produce a children’s show during the day. We started with Pinocchio in the Commedia Dell Arte style. It was such a success; the next show was Babes in Toyland.” Mackey remembers when they moved into a space in Waldo to offer acting classes. “We started getting such large audiences –and Dennis and Richard suggested my dad consider getting his own building. That’s when we settled in old Overland Park.”

Mackey says she grew up along with the theater. “When I look back at the history of Theatre for Young America, so many actors have come through, working for us, gaining their Equity card. I was always in acting classes and loved theater. Even today, one of my daughters is 10 and is in Christmas Carol.”

Mackey, though, thought she was going to be a dancer or a math teacher. “My aunt and uncle were in the theater as actors and directors. Then there were my parents. It’s in my blood, so I attended the Webster Conservatory of Theatre Arts and got a degree in it. I had a small break and worked in the hotel business, but even then I would be theatrical during my presentations. I love what I do and I believe in what we do.”

Today TYA performs in the City Stage at Union Station. They have produced more than 200 productions, including dozens of new and commissioned plays, plus many of the most acclaimed plays for young audiences by established playwrights. TYA has developed dozens of new plays and musical plays based on classic children’s literature, historical figures and current social issues, such as child sexual abuse, child care, and conflict resolution. With a full-time educational director, TYA offers a wide range of educational components: after school enrichment  classes in drama, summer drama workshops, outreach lesson plans taught in area schools and youth centers, and study guides to augment every production.

The holiday show takes the beloved poem and crafts an adventure of a mouse, an elf, and a spunky little girl on their quest to find out why Santa missed their house last year. This joyful tribute to the holiday season was created by renowned playwright Ken Ludwig, noted for three Tony Award nominations for his plays on Broadway.

The world premiere of Ludwig’s first play for children, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, played at The Adventure Theatre in November 2011. “It’s a sweet Christmas story. This piece is a lot of fun and I was very excited when I read it. I jumped at it when the script was made available. Ken is a great writer. There are elements of adventure as the characters sing and skateboard. It’s a fun show and we are one of the first to do the show outside of New York. It’s fresh and new.”

Mackey expects at least a cast of five for ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. “It’s a fun ride with something everyone in the family to enjoy and that really helps the holiday spirit. During the holidays, we don’t get to enjoy time together. I always make sure the shows are entertaining and told honestly.” The curriculum connections for the holiday play include poetry, holiday traditions, European folk tales and mythology and American culture.

Mackey says she is surprised at how many people want to see a show multiple times. “They come back and bring other friends. It happens with Junie B. Jones shows. It gives me great joy. The Coterie and TYA have their specific niches.  I love the younger audiencegoers. Both of us have our place. We are both trying to get young people addicted to theater. We have never felt like we are competitive. Even in Union Station now, essentially across the street from the Coterie, we both have unique audiences. I told Kyle Hatley at the Rep that I am going to build your audience of tomorrow.”

Every January, TYA stages a play about conflict resolution. This year, it’s The Toughest Kid in the World. “We also try to do a history show each year. In February, it’s Harriet Tubman in the Footprints of Freedom. As we plan the season, we look for a mix of female and male roles. We also want strong children’s roles and an animal show too. It’s a broad swath for an audience,” she says.

The Toughest Kid in the World has changed an entire school, she says, “We usually offer a talkback for a few minutes after the play. We ended up staying for more than an hour; it has happened several times. It can open hearts and open minds.” Mackey says theater can be funny and silly, plus make a lasting impression. “We produce a Junie B. Jones play almost every year. I fell in love with her and kids can learn and identify with her as she makes big mistakes. By the end of the play, she has learned a big lesson and so has the audience.”

The theater group will offer up Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business in March, No Dogs Allowed in late April and Cinderella in mid-June.

In 40 years, the Mackey family has seen third and fourth generations coming as season ticket holders. “We have families who were bringing their children early on and now they their own children and grandchildren. They come because they know that we will tell the stories in an honest way. We want to represent positive ideals and educational  components. We know what mothers, fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers want to share. We are trying to teach and reach children through a dramatic means. Children retain more when they have an emotional response and it becomes something they remember. We can hook kids on a subject through a fun theatrical experience.”•

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Variations of War

RedBadgeVariationsPoster-KCSOnlineThe Coterie Theatre Opens New Season with Contemporary Playwight’s World Premiere

Stephen Crane’s Civil War novel, The Red Badge of Courage, captured the fear of war and the reaction of just a few soldiers, demonstrating the anxiety and distress that most likely permeated thousands. For Red Badge Variations, written by Melissa Cooper, five actors will portray the experiences of young American combat soldiers today. The play opens the Coterie Theatre’s 2013-2014 season on Sept. 17 and runs to Oct. 5.

Kyle Hatley, associate artistic director at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, journeys into the theater community in town and directs at other venues. This is his second time to direct at the Coterie. “Playwright Melissa Cooper intrigues me. First, she clearly gained inspiration from Crane’s novel. Noticeably, the modern take and the old novel hold the same ideas. There are the universal themes of what it means to be a soldier: to serve your country; to serve your fellow man; and the possibility of sacrifice. It’s not a play that says war is bad or good, but it looks at five young men who are in an outpost in an area of conflict in Afghanistan. As an audience, we get to see the psychology of waiting,” Hatley says.

While the play never examines a fire fight, the audience sees the in-between, the sometimes long stretches of time. “It’s a lot of hurry up and wait. And remember these guys are supposed to be 22 years old or younger. They either enlisted or they joined because they had no alternative. Melissa is such an honest writer and the way she tells the story, you know she has been in contact with veterans,” Hatley says. For their research and expertise, third-year UMKC MFA student Logan Black, who served in the military, is aiding the team. They will also join in a mini boot camp. “It’s rare to do a war play in this way, but it’s a great opportunity to tell this story. We get to see service, sacrifice and honor. The guys fight for the person next to them, but it’s that metaphor for fighting for the whole country.”

A play brings an immediacy of truth and action as the story is played out in front of an audience, Hatley says. “It’s not catching 10 minutes of the story on the news or going to see a film, but for 70 to 80 minutes, the audience is so close to these actors as we are going to stage the play in the round so audiences can see the whites of the actors’ teeth or the tears in their eyes. It’s more profound than just what is on the news. I knew war plays existed, but my first experience at reading this script, I had never read a play like this or experienced a play that moved so quickly to my heart. This play has tragedy and humor. It’s definitely a heavy hitter for the Coterie and of course, it’s a world premiere.”

Red Badge Variations is part of the Coterie Sparks series, which is for adults, teens, and preteens, says Coterie Producing Artistic Director Jeff Church. “What’s fascinating about this play is that it takes the key soldier personalities found in Red Badge of Courage and instead of the Civil War, the playwright imagines them in Afghanistan today. I’m excited because it’s very rare to see a contemporary play set in today’s war … and of course it is right for the Coterie because soldiers today are so young. Our job is to feature young people in compelling stories. Plus we are thrilled that the National Endowment for the Arts awarded us such lovely grant underwriting to allow this world premiere to happen.”

Two of the actors discuss the play’s impact. Jacob Aaron Cullum plays Henry Fleming, the young man who also happens to carry the same name as the lead character in Red Badge of Courage. The new recruit feels like the odd-man-out after being ordered to fill a vacancy. Cullum’s character essentially talks to the audience through soliloquies and reading from his journal. “The fourth wall is flexible as Henry steps away and gives his thoughts.”

Cullum believes the play is going to be a perfect opener for the Coterie. “It’s a real and relevant story. The Coterie’s mission is to challenge audiences and artists. Red Badge Variations will do that with such a deep story.”

Jake Walker plays Doc Bird, a medic who happens to be a devoted bird watcher who sketches the birds he sees in a journal, hence the nickname. Walker says the bonding through an abbreviated boot camp should foster a connection among the five actors that an audience can see.

“Since we ended the draft and men and women decided to volunteer, we, as private citizens, are very removed from the warriors we send to battle. We can watch the news or not; it is up to us if we engage with what is going on,” Walker says. “This play presents a human face. We are boys putting everything on the line. There are elements of universality where the mirror can be held up. It’s also great that the play is written by a woman. She offers a feminine perspective and guidance to a show filled with testosterone.” He says his friends who have served in the military have come home and he wants to honor them with his performance. “I want to portray that bond that you have my back and I have yours and all the petty differences are set aside.”

Walker, who enjoys the educational and entertainment goals of the Coterie, hopes audience members will read Red Badge of Courage. “There is joy when one form of art inspires a different sort of art.”

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Curious George: Let’s Get Curious! arrives May 25

Curious George, PBS Local image

Curious George, PBS Local image

The insatiable curiosity of Curious George – the little monkey who has captured the imagination and hearts of millions of children and grown-ups for 65 years – comes to life May 25 to September 8 at Crown Center. The complimentary exhibit, Curious George: Let’s Get Curious! will introduce young children to Curious George’s world and lead visitors on a fun, meaningful interactive math, science and engineering-based adventure. The exhibit will be open in the Crown Center Shops Showplace, located on Level 1 of the Crown Center Shops at 2450 Grand Boulevard.

Based on the familiar characters in H.A. and Margret Rey’s classic stories published by Houghton Mifflin, the immersive exhibit environment takes place in the neighborhood where Curious George lives with his friend, The Man with the Yellow Hat. It is most appreciated by children ages 3 to 7. Visitors will recognize familiar characters and places featured in the classic stories and the PBS KIDS television series.

The exhibit was designed and built by Minnesota Children’s Museum in partnership with Universal Studios Consumer Products Group. Content is based on educational standards developed by Minnesota Children’s Museum and an expert advisory panel to the PBS KIDS series, as well as national science and math standards for young children.

Visitors can operate wheels to help George climb a building, sort and weigh fruits and vegetables at the produce stand, use science skills to putt a hole of mini golf, have their picture taken with the rocket from George’s space adventure, building a whirligig in the country, and much more.

The exhibit will be open to the public during Crown Center’s regular shopping hours:  Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The exhibit is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.

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Martin City Melodrama offers up Dracula, or Love Bites!

Dracula (Patrick Reynolds) threatens Mina Harker (Mindy Moritz) and her fiancee Jonathan Harker (Cody Goeppner).

Dracula (Patrick Reynolds) threatens Mina Harker (Mindy Moritz) and her fiancee Jonathan Harker (Cody Goeppner).

The Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Company’s latest production, Dracula, or, Love Bites!©  runs through May 5. A “Fang-In-Cheek” look at the wackiest overbite in the history of the English countryside, Dracula conjures up all the fast-paced shenanigans, side-splitting laughter, and never-ending good times you always see on the Martin City stage.  Directed by Artistic Director Jeanne Beechwood, Dracula features veteran Martin City performers Jeanne Beechwood, Patrick Reynolds, and Dianne Brown, along with Martin City newcomers Mindy Moritz and Cody Goeppner.  Following the melodrama is another brand new original vaudeville revue, Rollickin’ Romance!, a tribute to falling in love—all kinds!

In Martin City’s always creative spin on the vampire story, Count Dracula is the artistic director of the Lugosi Performing Arts Center.  The Count has a leading lady, Mina Harker, ready to star in his newest production, but it seems all of the community theater actors who audition for the male lead keep on disappearing, right after a closed rehearsal with their toothy director!  It is up to Mina’s fiancé, Jonathan Harker, paralegal and garlic salesman extraordinaire, to put a stop to the Count’s backstage antics!  Following the melodrama, spring is in the air with the original vaudeville revue, Rollickin’ Romance!  Whether you are young or old, why not take a chance on love again?  If the love of your life is birds, or bees, educated fleas, tap dancing, a piano or even Charlie the Wonder Dog, this vaudeville revue will capture your heart with song and dance parodies and puns.  With original lyrics by Jeff Behan lighting up the stage, you don’t want to miss Martin  City’s latest send-up of all things romantic in Rollickin’ Romance!

Dracula, or, Love Bites! and Rollickin’ Romance!© will be presented in Martin City Melodrama’s theatre space at 9601 Metcalf, in the Metcalf South Shopping Center in Overland Park, Kansas. The theater is located on the lower level of the mall, with a convenient mall entrance facing Metcalf Avenue.

For more information on performance dates or ticket prices, call the theater box office at (913) 642-7576.

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Allegro KC Choirs Create Harmony Around the Community

DSC_0228In a brightly lit studio off of Front Street in Bonner Springs, young singers congregate. Some scurry in with a few minutes to spare before rehearsal while others wait and do homework. Whichever student, all are welcome at the Allegro KC space. More than 220 students from third grade through high school populate five choirs and the program is getting ready to expand to a chamber orchestra and summer camps.

Founder and Artistic Director Christy Elsner started a small choir of 38 voices in 2000 and just last fall, she and her ever-growing artistic staff and students moved into a dedicated space in Bonner Springs, Kan. Don’t worry about the drive or location. Students and parents from all over the metropolitan area find Elsner and the other directors. Students come from Kansas City-North to Olathe and many are homeschooled as well as students at private and public elementary, middle and high schools.

“The opportunity to work on power and strength of the voice draws students here,” Elsner says. “Growing up provides challenges and a different dynamic is found here. We have fabulous challenges with treble voices. The variety of music also appeals to the singers. We do everything from Baroque to contemporary music. It’s not uncommon for singers to sing in at least four to five languages.”

Elsner wanted her own choirs, her own space and her freedom to unite these even while student teaching. Her next goal, to unite students singing with an orchestra, will be fulfilled with the creation of a chamber orchestra. And now she also has introduced an all-male choir for changed voices that joins the rich women’s choirs. “Success for me continues when I get to pull these voices together and strive for excellence in everything we do,” she says. “We encourage the singers to take this idea with them in all things. Every choice can be excellent from the decision to make their beds in the morning to how they study for school.”  Elsner directs Allegro con Brio and Allegro con Moto choirs.

Allegro offers numerous community concerts each season as well as four major concert performances. Allegro singers have performed in Canterbury Cathedral, England; St.Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City; Meyerson Symphony Hall in Dallas; Carnegie Hall in NYC and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City. They even had the chance to perform at the White House last late fall. The group’s spring show returns to the Kauffman Center April 14.

Composer-in-Residence Andrea Ramsey works with Elsner and creates annual themes. This year, Woven Together, looks at folk music and spirituals. The five choirs sing separately, but also join forces for several songs. “We aim for overall character development. The students who participate with us have an understanding about the commitment they make. If they don’t practice, it impacts their neighbors. They also learn poise and grace. It’s also about how to stand and how to shake a hand. The Midwestern values we possess are crucial. They will carry these values into their adult lives.”

The students also participate in community service hours. The HALO Foundation has benefited from various drives by Allegro KC.  HALO provides food, water, shelter, clothing, education, art therapy, caretakers, medical services, and vocational training to orphans and at-risk children worldwide. HALO has recently opened learning centers for at-risk, homeless, and foster care youth in Kansas City and Denver. Parents also perform service hours too.

DSC_0238Poco choir director Briana Swift works with students from second grade to fourth grade. She is also an alumna of Allegro, having sung with Moto and Brio from the eighth grade through her senior year in high school. Swift is currently a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, studying music education. “Not many choirs are like Allegro,” she says. “There’s something so great about teaching kids three French songs while talking about the importance of showing up and studying their music. I am helping to create the foundation.”

Like Swift, Maia Schoenberg, 17, a Blue Valley High School junior, has sung in Moto and is now in Brio. “This is my fifth year. It’s beyond the singing; the atmosphere is like family. Allegro is good company. I want to be an opera singer so I like to be exposed to as much music as I can. Musical theater also appeals to me.”

The White House trip in December sticks with Schoenberg. “We were able to go based on seniority. The DC singers are staying together and rehearsing as well.” She hopes to attend the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

Catie Tucker is a senior at Staley High School in Kansas City-North. “I have been a part of Allegro since eighth grade too. The level of beauty and professionalism we can achieve keeps me coming back each year. I participate in the choirs at school too, but I learned years ago about responsibility and dedication. It’s more work than you expect, but when you get to sing a world premiere, it’s a beautiful moment for all of us.”

Auditions for the 2013-2014 concert season will be held in mid-April for the choirs. Allegro con Fuoco (lively with fire), new high school string orchestra for grades 9-12, will hold auditions April 29 and 30. The openings include violin, viola, cello, bass and keyboard. There are also plans to hopefully create summer camps as well. For details, visit

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Pipe Organ Live! with Chelsea Chen

The Greater Kansas City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists is pleased to invite Junior and Senior high school age piano and organ students to meet, hear, and play for internationally acclaimed organist and composer Chelsea Chen.

Organ students, perform a favorite organ work and receive helpful advice from an internationally acclaimed organist. She will speak from 10 to 10:30 a.m. and students will perform from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Pizza will be at noon and Chen will leave around 1 p.m.

Practice time on the organ before May 18 may be reserved by calling the church office at 913-.648-2131. The event will be held at Leawood United Methodist Church, 2915 W 95th St., Leawood, Kansas (between Chadwick and Belinder).

Piano students, discover unimagined soundscapes as we explore the possibility of playing piano works on the pipe organ. Particularly appropriate are piano pieces composed between 1600 and 1800 (e.g., preludes/fugues; partita movements; clavichord/harpsichord pieces).

Performance time in the master class will be reserved for students as registrations are received. The class is limited to 90 minutes; time will be divided among as many students as is practical, in consideration of the repertoire to be played.

Participants are cordially invited to stay for a pizza lunch immediately following Pipe Organ Live!.

For further information and registration forms, contact 913-895-0682. Registration is due April 3.

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Young Arts Patron: Young Friends of Art Know How to Have Fun

Young at Art

Young Friends of Art (YFA) is a group of Nelson-Atkins members in their 20s and 30s who are passionate about supporting the arts and culture in Kansas City. The group began 26 years ago and accounts for more than 300 members.

Like many of our members, I was introduced to the organization through a friend. I was new to Kansas City and an old college buddy, who volunteered with YFA’s Steering Committee, invited me to Poetry Pileup (think Magnetic Poetry with cocktails and prizes). After that evening, I was hooked. A year and three fridge-worthy poems later, I joined the Steering Committee myself.

Now that I’m behind the scenes, I appreciate the programming we offer even more. Our monthly Second Friday Happy Hours are a unique opportunity to catch up with old friends, engage with new contacts, and see the latest and greatest at the museum. They’re casual, free, and open to all. We also host artist meet and greets, and annual events like Art Trivia Smackdown in February and White Party, our big summer bash, in July.

But we’re best known for Party Arty, a glamorous celebration held every January. Planned over the course of 10 months this signature event raises more than $100,000 each year, funds which go keep the Nelson-Atkins a free and stunning attraction for the entire region.

This year’s theme was Eternal Spring, a nod to the museum’s upcoming exhibition, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Masterpieces of Modern Mexico from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, which runs from May 25 through August 18. For one night only, party-goers basked in the aura and allure of a lush indoor paradise complete with white orchids, the sultry sounds of marimba music, a live muralist, and even a peacock or two. Everyone enjoyed fabulous food and premiere cocktails while DJs kept the dance floor going all night long.

From poetry to parties and everything in between, Young Friends of Art is the ideal way to connect with other young professionals. And joining is easy! Simply become a member of the Nelson-Atkins Museum, and select YFA as your special interest group. Members receive free parking, free admission to special exhibitions, discounted tickets to events like Party Arty, and even 10 percent off at KC Originals restaurants. The benefits are endless, but none is greater than supporting a place so vital to Kansas City.

So make plans to join us at an upcoming event! Stop in for one of our Second Friday Happy Hours, or reserve your spot for Pinot & Pottery, a night to learn about sculpture, enjoy a cocktail or two, and create your own ceramic piece in the Nelson-Atkins Education Center. Find all the details and more on our Facebook page,

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Ingrid Stölzel Appointed Director of Park University’s International Center for Music

Park University announces the appointment of Ingrid Stölzel, D.M.A., as director of the University’s International Center for Music. Stölzel began her duties at Park Feb. 25.

Stölzel previously served as the program manager for the Youth Symphony of Kansas City for the past 12 years. She has been a member of newEar Contemporary Chamber Ensemble since 1998, most recently serving as the president of its board of directors. From 1997 to 2001, she was the associate director of research and development for Tempo Music Publications/American Institute of Musicology. Stölzel continues to serve as associate editor for the International Journal of Contemporary Composition, as well as an adjunct instructor of music theory at Park.

Described as a “composer of considerable gifts” and “musically confident and bold” by National Public Radio classical music critic Tom Manoff, Stölzel has earned a number of honors and awards, and her compositions are performed worldwide. In 2011, she was a finalist for the International Music Prize for Excellence in Composition and she received a Meet the Composer – MetLife Creative Connections Grant for a residency at the Festival of New American Music in Sacramento, Calif. In 2010, Stölzel was the first prize winner in the New Music@ECU (East Carolina University) Festival’s Orchestra Composition Competition for Genius Loci – Spirit of Place for full orchestra. A year earlier, she won the Cheryl A. Spector Prize in Composition by the Third Millennium Ensemble for The Road is All for piano trio.

“Dr. Stölzel is familiar with the music community in Kansas City. Her presence as the director of the International Center for Music will add a new dimension to our programs,” said J. Mark Noe, Ph.D., chair of Park’s ICM and Department of Arts and Communications, and director of the Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership program.

Stölzel, a native of Germany who has lived in the United States since 1991, earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in music composition from the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance in 2009. She also received a Bachelor of Music degree in music theory from UMKC, and a Master of Music in composition from the University of Hartford (Conn.).

The International Center for Music at Park University was established to foster the exchange of master teacher/performers, renowned young musicians and programs from countries across the globe. The education of emerging musicians is at the philosophical core of the Center’s mission and the quality of that training crucial to great artistry. The focus of the Center is on piano and strings performance. For more information about the International Center for Music, visit

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Blue Springs Choirs Join Forces for Heritage Philharmonic Concert Feb. 23

The Heritage Philharmonic, Eastern Jackson County’s civic orchestra, is pleased to welcome the combined A Cappella Choirs from Blue Springs and Blue Springs South High Schools for a classical concert at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 23.  The concert will be held at the Blue Springs High School Performing Arts Center.  According to the two choir directors, this will be the first time the choirs have performed together in more than 10 years.  While they may be competitors on the football field, they welcome the opportunity to perform beautiful music together.

“We are delighted to be working with Nathan Rudolph, the A Cappella choir director from Blue Springs High School and Blue Springs South’s A Cappella choir director, Jason Bean,” explained James Murray, director of the Heritage Philharmonic.  The choirs will perform John Rutter’s beautiful and energetic Magnificat with guest soprano soloist Nicole Murray.  The orchestra will also be performing Wagner’s dramatic Meistersinger Prelude and Faure’s ethereal Pelleas and Melisande Suite.

The Heritage Philharmonic, formerly known as the Independence Symphony, is dedicated to providing the Eastern Jackson County community with excellent, affordable and convenient orchestral music programs by using both professional and volunteer musicians. All concerts are free and open to the public.  However, donations are requested to support the mission of the orchestra.

For the past 68 years, the Heritage Philharmonic has proven to be a valuable community resource in Jackson County.  Under the direction of James Murray the orchestra performs four unique concerts each year in the Independence, Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs area.

For more details, visit

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