Archives for February 2015

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Musings In Cb: “Why the American Jazz Museum is IMPORTANT!”

The American Jazz Museum is, at this point, a major cultural icon. It is positively one of the “jewels” in the crown of the City of Kansas City and the United States of America.  There is no other place like it in the world …

JAZZ IS MORE THAN A STYLE OF MUSIC – IT’S A CONTINUUM

I have worked here since 2011 as Marketing Communications Manager and really enjoy my job on many levels. I am also concurrently a life-long jazz artist, composer and music educator who has also completed a full 22-year career as a performing artist and bandleader with US military bands. This is very similar to the Public Affairs work that we did in the military service.  I have always worked in the music industry. Being a businessman, who is also an artist, also brings different types of insight and various other organic abilities to this position as Marketing Communications Manager.

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We have not only done great things according to our broad mission guidelines, we have also been good stewards with the resources and funding that have been allocated for us to use by the City of Kansas City. 

Our funding comes to us through various grants we submit applications for and receive, along with numerous tangible donations and in-kind sponsorships from individuals and businesses throughout the metropolitan area and at-large arts community. 

Oh, and, our funding also comes from almost 2,000 paid admissions each month and daily gift shop merchandise purchases, as well as, from operating: (1) an award-winning jazz club in the “black”, (2) a profitable 5-concert national touring act performance series and (3) a multiple stage festival each fall.

The conduct of the American Jazz Museum mission, economically touches every walk of life and every age group from pre-schoolers to senior citizens.

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THE CITY SHOULD CONTINUE TO PRIORITIZE FUNDING THIS WORK

Next year’s city budget calls for a 25% reduction to the Museum’s funding by $125,000. A reduction at any amount will result in a devastating loss of momentum to the city’s cultural attraction at 18th and Vine. 

The proposed cut is the largest reduction in the history of the museum and will result in over 70% loss of funding to support the Museum’s operations since the construction of the property at 18th and Vine. 

The City of Kansas City should restore the $125,000 amount to the American Jazz Museum’s budget. And, actually, I think returning the organization to the original funding levels it was founded upon would be greater.

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WHY JAZZ IS SO IMPORTANT

After having already worked at the museum for about two years, one day as I walked into the main atrium space, then stood about where First Lady Michelle Obama’s podium is in the above photograph, something “clicked”.

I had done that most of the days I came to work.  I always read and re-read the text in the “People’s Journey” exhibit that is behind Mrs. Obama in the above picture. I did this to simply memorize it and internalize the information so as to be articulate when conducting tours of the museum spaces to visitors.

This particular day, something struck me as to why jazz is so important.

Jazz represents everything honest and good about the human condition, especially of we Americans living in the United States.  And, the American Jazz Museum represents the essence of what makes Kansas City so special and socially light years ahead of other places in context.

Kansas City, by reclaiming the 18th & Vine District and spending millions of dollars to build the beautiful space that is the home of the American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, demonstrated the American Spirit more tangibly than anything I can think of still to this moment.

How did we do that?  Think about this …

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JAZZ IS AN HONEST DIALOG – IT IS WHAT IT IS … ALWAYS

Even though it is the middle of the second decade of the 21st Century, most people I have encountered in the United States are still not comfortable speaking about or discussing issues involving the history and current paradigm of US race relations.  Honestly.  Think about it.  You, or someone you know, may even be uncomfortable reading this part of the blog …

That’s okay. That is not what this is about.  This is about the fact that Kansas City did talk about the uncomfortable history of the pre and post Civil Rights Era United States appropriately and permanently within the context of the “People’s Journey” exhibition in the atrium of the Museums at 18th & Vine.

That’s courageous, in any era …

But, more importantly, telling the “People’s Journey” speaks to what the dream of being American is really all about in both, our times and in historical times – we will always have issues, but we will always get better.

By the fact that the American Jazz Museum was built and the 18th & Vine Jazz District was reclaimed, the people of Kansas City have shown tangibly that we are not ashamed of that gloomy historical past. And, by ensuring these facts of life in those times are known, the City of Kansas City does not want our history to be forgotten because we don’t want to repeat those same mistakes.

Jazz music significantly grew and developed in Kansas City in the 18th & Vine District.  The significant musical and cultural history that has happened here on a national (and has broadened in the modern era to reach an international level) can not be replicated or supplanted.  There is only one 18th & Vine. It is in Kansas City. Jazz has become a world music now, where most all cultures have branded their own versions of it, but Kansas City will always be widely recognized as one of the significant historical centers of the music – always.

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JAZZ TRANSFORMS

The next time you are in the Blue Room listening to the musicians play a selection and the entire group is performing, consider the complex processes that are happening in fractions of time during the course of a song. It’s genius.

#3 – Legendary saxophonist and Kansas City native, Charlie “Bird” Parker, took the jazz world by storm in the 1940s. Bearing the inscription “The Bird Lives,” the Charlie Parker Memorial in Kansas City’s 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District is a tribute to the musician, and the nearby American Jazz Museum displays his saxophone as well as other important artifacts from the genre’s history. Parker is buried in Kansas City’s Lincoln Cemetery. ~ from “FAMOUS KANSAS CITIANS” VisitKC.com

Kansas City is known the world over for Jazz and Barbecue.  Inherently, the American Jazz Museum is an integral part of contributing to that well deserved fame. We are also positively on the right track as a non-profit business organization. We have a great staff, board and volunteer corps getting it done!

So, it is logical that the appropriate levels of support from our city remain in place. If you would like to voice your positive support and opinions, go to the KC Momentum portal and speak your mind. I did.  Here’s the LINK.

Peace, Cb