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Celebrating 20 Years

For 20 years, the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra has been in existence, and that’s pretty incredible. If you think about things that have come and gone during that time period, it puts things in perspective:

  • Facebook and YouTube were launched in 2004 and 2005, respectively

  • The iPhone came out in 2007

  • When the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra started, it would be another 8 years before the Kansas City Wizards would become Sporting Kansas City, Patrick Mahomes was attending elementary school, Zack Greinke was still in the minor leagues, and the careers of Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Drake, and Adele hadn’t been launched yet

But we’ve been out here, swinging and representing Kansas City jazz for two decades, with many more to come.

As we overlook the precipice of a new season, things are shaping up to be pretty outstanding. Jazz legends Sean Jones and Deborah Brown will be joining us, and the inimitable virtuosity of artists such as Lonnie and Chloe McFadden, Lee Langston, Eboni Fondren and the members of our Big Band will be charging ahead into the future of Kansas City jazz music. We have grown our educational and community outreach programming exponentially, and launched a new ensemble–Riff Generation–that is providing a generative energy to our regional musical style. A new recording is in the works and many more exciting prospects are on our doorstep. It’s a great time to be part of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra!

Guest artists Deborah Brown and Sean Jones

I’ve been part of this organization for almost ten years, and I’m currently taking a moment to look both back and forward. Looking back, I see the growth and shape this group has taken; we have put on some fantastic concerts, reimagining a variety of music through the lens of a big band. Some concepts were pretty brazen, but they ended up being exciting and entertaining. I'm looking forward to see where we can, will, and should go. Personally, the idea of twenty years hit me like a ton of bricks.

Jazz in Kansas City started being played during the 1920s, which gives us about one hundred years of this music’s history here. The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra has been present for 20% of that history (and we aren’t planning on stopping), which blows my mind a bit, and reinforces our need to really dig in to what it means to be good stewards of the legacy. This means pushing forward to keep it alive and moving ahead. I’m constantly asking myself “what does it mean to be a big band from Kansas City, and how can we really hone that identity?” “How can we make absolutely certain that our city, our citizens, know this music like it’s a part of them?” “What work do we need to do to help Kansas City be the jazz town it says it is?” It’s a challenging and daunting, but wholly exciting set of questions, and together we’re going to find the answers.

So here’s to another 20 years. And another 20 years on top of that. And so on. We certainly hope what we have in store for you this season makes you excited to get out and hear some great music! I know for sure it’s going to be swinging, so won’t you come join us?

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