Building to a Crescendo

Dean Peter Willis and The UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance 2012…

Dean Peter Willis, in his four years leading the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, has worked to create more opportunities to let music and dance students shine. Photo by Brad Austin.
Dean Peter Willis, in his four years leading the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, has worked to create more opportunities to let music and dance students shine. Photo by Brad Austin.

For many around town, the image of dancer Danielle Glynn, a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance, holding what appears to be a shell to her ear, deserves a second glance. The shell is half of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The Save the Date card has generated some buzz for Crescendo 2012, says event chairwoman Lisa Hickok. The concert and Friends of the Conservatory dinner is Nov. 2.

Beyond the buzz that the striking image created will be the prism concert. About 250 students and faculty will perform in a seamless fashion with no applause between the acts. Dean Peter Witte says, “The intent is surprise as there is unexpected music and movement at every turn. We juxtapose different music at each turn. The contrasting styles of music against each other start a real energy that accrues and at the transition of each piece is a new surprise. The concentrated and diverse way the concert is planned means we will be able to highlight dance, jazz, voice and instrumental students. Plus they get the spotlight in one of the great concert halls of the world which is energizing, if not breath taking.”

Witte and Hickok want the students to shine. “It is a concert to celebrate student achievement,” Hickok says. Witte says he is excited to take the students to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts on November’s First Friday in the Crossroads. Hickok says she is excited to be part of the Creative Crossroads. “We need to shout the good word and
fill Helzberg Hall’s 1,600 seats. We need to shout that we are the Jewel of the Prairie.”

The UMKC Conservatory jazz ensemble plays in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Photo by James Allison.

“In many ways, we are opening the evening and allowing folks to come through and experience the future of the arts. We want to tell the world what the students can do and what our faculty has done. As we talk about the possibility of a downtown campus, we have the opportunity to bring the best and brightest into one of the great new halls. Lisa, the board and I have been talking about this for two years now,” Witte says. “We are upping the ante and this emerged. Think about this … we helped launch the Kansas City Symphony, the Kansas City Ballet, the Lyric Opera and the Kansas City Chorale. Now we have Bobby Watson capitalizing on Kansas City’s jazz tradition.”

Hickok, who has a background in dance and performed with the Kansas City Ballet, looks forward to inviting the community into the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts as well as the funders who support the Conservatory. “Sure the logistics have changed, but we have the chance to bring in folks from all over to hear and see the good things going on in their own backyard.” Of course, Hickok also extols the teachers as she trained with Tatiana Dokoudovska, the faculty member who founded the Kansas City Ballet. Her affiliation with the Conservatory also includes piano lessons through the academy program. She joined the Friends of the Conservatory board four years ago.

Conservatory patrons will have cocktails first. The performance is 7:30 and then dinner for the patrons is after the prism concert. The prism concert includes brass, strings, dance, the UMKC Orchestra, Wind Symphony Brass, voice, organ, piano and the UMKC Conservatory Choirs. Witte expects heartfelt songs, equal parts toe-tapping. “At the Conservatory and around town, arts patrons get what we do. It’s about the musicians and the artists in the building. During the inaugural year, we had 300 students who performed at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The Gates BBQ Suite received a standing ovation there.”

The Conservatory enrolls about 500 students in a comprehensive array of liberal arts and professional degree programs in Composition, Music Theory and Musicology; Dance; Instrumental Studies, Keyboard Studies; Music Education/Music Therapy; Jazz Studies; and Vocal Studies.

Glynn, the dancer, studies modern dance and ballet. Originally from Florida, she came up to visit her grandmother and attend a Kansas City Ballet summer intensive. She ended up auditioning for Paula Weber, chair of the Dance Division and a professor of dance with UMKC’s Conservatory of Music and Dance.

“I am glad to have an opportunity to show those who support the Conservatory how the great professors have trained us. The professors know their disciplines,” she says. “This is a cool city that treasures art. Being in the Conservatory has allowed me to be fully immersed in the arts and that immersion opens up opportunities as we collaborate with the orchestra and band students. The performances are rich because of this. More in the community are learning about the Conservatory, but we need even more interested in what we do. I was pleased to model for Crescendo and I would encourage people to check out the Conservatory. It’s a great school.”

Kellie Houx

Kellie Houx is a writer and photographer. A graduate of Park University, she has 20 years of experience as a journalist. As a writer, wife and mom, she values education, arts, family and togetherness.

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