The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra is one of the nation’s preeminent big bands, performing classic and original repertoire in a variety of settings. With the beautiful Kauffman Center For The Performing Arts as a home base, KCJO’s concert season puts forth engaging themed shows ranging from Duke Ellington’s early works to brand-new reimaginations of pop music, “celebrating the past, and embracing the future.” In addition to the season, the orchestra plays a variety of concerts, dances, and festivals, engaging audiences from Kansas City, Missouri to Hannover, Germany, and beyond!
History of The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra
A bit about The KCJO...
In April 2003, The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra was founded by Gene Hall, a retired attorney,
Jim Mair, Professor of Jazz Studies at Kansas City, Kansas Community College, and his wife,
Mary Mair. Seventeen of the finest professional jazz musicians from the Kansas City area were
chosen for the orchestra with Jim conducting it. The orchestra was modeled after the Columbus,
Ohio Jazz Orchestra which at the time had been performing over 30 years.
The first concert of The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra was held on November 21, 2003 at Unity
Temple on the Plaza, which was their venue for eight of the first nine years, with the 2008-09
season performances held at the Folly Theater. In 2010, the Mairs stepped down and Gene
Hall became president of the board of directors. The board is now led by a chairman, president,
treasurer and secretary. The organization is now administered by an excellent professional staff.
Following Jim Mair as Artistic Director/Conductor, the Board of Directors selected the brilliant
musician, Kerry Strayer for that position and he served in that capacity until his death on August
1, 2013. The baton was then passed to the dedicated and tireless Clint Ashlock who holds 2
masters degrees in jazz and music composition and is currently pursuing his doctor’s degree in
trumpet performance at the University of Kansas.
In 2012, The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra moved to the fabulous Helzberg Hall in Kauffman
Center for the Performing Arts for its subscription series of four concerts per season. The
Orchestra also performs regularly at other venues in Kansas City and the surrounding region,
participating in festivals, educational programs, and USO-style dance events.
The orchestra is a tax-exempt organization. It supports music education and scholarships for
students. Master classes are held for students and are conducted by the orchestra’s
outstanding visiting artists.
The organization has a strong fiscal foundation and is grateful to all the foundations, trusts and
individuals who have made The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra one of the best jazz orchestras in
Kansas City is the home of jazz and the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra is one of the finest
representatives of that heritage.