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Staff Lines: Ev’ry Time We Say…

Semesters are changing again in the collegiate world. A brand new batch of bright-eyed interns is already in place at the American Jazz Museum. Classes resume at KU next week, which means my last week of “freedom” is officially behind me. The end of the summer does not mean much to me aside from a general shift in focus. In fact, I will be spending my last Friday evening of summer vacation at my school trying to recruit new members to the writing club for which I am an officer. There are only a few ways in which the end of summer truly affects me. Instead of spending my days planning summertime activities for my kids or picking up extra shifts at my job, I will return to days of class lectures and homework time (and regular shifts at my job).

There is only one area I’m really going to feel the impact of back-to-school, and that’s right here. My children are still too young for school themselves. My oldest child is only 4, so I still have a year before I have to consider kindergarten. I’ve thought about that first day of school, though. I’ve thought about what it will be like to take my son to his very first real classroom, kiss him on the cheek, and let go of his little hand. I’ve imagined how it will feel to turn him over to people I don’t know (who I’m sure are perfectly nice and entirely competent, but, still, unknown) and have to walk away.  

That’s kind of how this feels.

The “control” of this blog will officially change hands after this post. It’s only been a part of my life for two short months. This will only be my 14th post (which seems like so much less work than I remember!). But even in that short amount of time, I have become rather…possessive of it. And I will miss it quite a bit.  I’m honored to have been considered part of the American Jazz Museum. I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to work on this blog. And I’m proud of the changes I’ve made and the work I leave behind. I hope to continue to be involved from time to time; perhaps do a guest post or help brainstorm content ideas for “I Never Knew” on Wednesdays. But the time has come to let go of this little hand and send it off into the care of others.

Thanks for everything, guys.


The Road to Rhythm and Ribs

On Saturday, October 13, 2012, the American Jazz Museum will present the annual Rhythm & Ribs Jazz and Blues Festival. National headliners performing on the BlueCross BlueShield Main Stage (located in front of Gregg Klice Community Center) include Blues artist Joe Louis Walker, Latin Jazz artist Auturo Sandoval, and R&B artist Angie Stone.  The festival will also showcase local artists on the Kansas City Stage in the Museum’s Atrium and on the Sprint Stage in the Blue Room.  There will be activities for young children, and, of course, the distinct delights of Kansas City barbeque. (For additional info and/or tickets, check our website.)This will be Rhythm and Ribs’ 8th year in Kansas City, and it has been a bumpy road for the festival since its first year.

The first Rhythm & Ribs Jazz and Blues Festival was held Father’s Day weekend in 2004. It was bigger, due to the collaboration of the entire 18th and Vine district, and consisted of a 3-day festival with 2 performance stages. The Jay McShann Pavilion showcased local artists of various genres, including jazz, R&B, and Latin. The main stage, located in Parade Park, featured some local and all of the national artists. Similar to the current Jazz in the Woods festival, each day featured a different kind of music (Sunday, for example, was devoted to gospel). There was also a bbq cook-off contest on that Saturday. There was a kid’s pavilion where they had face painting, rock climbing, clowns, stilt walkers and other activities. Of course there were food and crafts vendors. All activities were centered in the park.

The first year, there were over 30,000 attendees at the 3-day festival. In the second year, 2005, attendance dropped to 20,000 as the Gospel Sunday was eliminated due to a low turnout. The festival continued until 2009 when lack of funding forced the festival into a brief hiatus.  When it was revived in 2010, the event was created as a one-day festival and was significantly compressed to the parking lot attached to the Gregg Klice Community Center and grounds behind the Museum. Two additional stages were incorporated inside the Museum – the Atrium and the Blue Room – for local talent performances.

It may have had a shaky start and seen its share of alterations and cut-backs, but anyone who went to Rhythm and Ribs last year will surely tell you it’s still one heck of a party. The Museum secures top national talent for the main stage, and only the best of Kansas City restaurants are chosen as caterers. The vendors all apply to appear there, and only the ones who offer true Kansas City style barbeque are approved. Set in the birthplace of Kansas City jazz, it’s as homegrown as we can make it, and truly worth checking out.

(Many thanks to “Miss Karen” Anderson for the information she provided for this post.)



Staff Lines: Bring on the Divas

Since I’ve started this internship, I have knocked out 2 major feature articles (here and here) and one concert review (here). The concert review was actually supposed to be my first feature article, but the artist and I (mainly the artist) couldn’t seem to get that interview done.

Even though I have moved on and have met a lot more artists since then, it’s kind of strange to me that female artists are always described as the “divas” and more difficult ones to work with. In my experience I have found that to be very untrue. A lot of the female artists I have talked to have been incredibly courteous and are very forthcoming with information.  Not only that, but when I’ve met them at their shows I would go for a handshake and every single time I swear I got the long-lost relative super hug.

It’s a very rewarding feeling knowing the people I write about appreciate my words that much. I can honestly say, in all my years of writing about sports for various high school and college newspapers, that no athlete has ever hugged me. (I’ve interviewed gorgeous female soccer, softball, track, and volleyball stars…sigh…) So who knows, maybe this internship has led me to my true calling; “Ty Rushing: Professional Diva Feature Writer”.


Stylish Sounds

When a person talks about Kansas City, generally two things come to mind: barbeque and jazz. Of course, we don’t have the market cornered on those two things. There are other places in the country well known for them as well. However, we do have our own unique flavor for both, which we proudly flaunt as “Kansas City style”.  While Kansas City barbeque certainly demands attention, this is, after all, a jazz blog, so we’ll be focusing on it for now (at least until next week…).

So what is it about Kansas City style jazz that is different from other forms of jazz? Why are we at the Museum fond of saying, “jazz was born in New Orleans, but it grew up in Kansas City”? For the answers to these questions, we’ll be revisiting the era of prohibition, when KC jazz and the 18th and Vine district really got its start.

Kansas City style jazz started when jazz migrated to downtown Kansas City in the early 1900’s. As a crossroads for intercontinental travel, Kansas City was also a crossroads for different cultures. The classic sounds of Big Band jazz were therefore molded to fit the various cultures it encountered in our city. Ragtime was incorporated into the mix, and jazz became popular dance music. When prohibition hit and the 18th and Vine district became the “Paris of the Plains” under Tom Pendergast (see June 20th post), that’s when jazz hit puberty and really began to develop. The African American culture threw a bit of blues and the sounds of soul into jazz, and then Charlie Parker introduced bebop to the recipe. One of the biggest elements that really characterizes Kansas City style jazz, the extended solo, also started during this time. With speakeasies open to the wee hours and the jazz artists taking new pride in their art, solos became a form of expression and a single “song” could last for hours with several solos by each band member.

Voila! Kansas City style jazz is born.

Obviously, the art form has continued to develop since the 1930’s and 1940’s (scat, anyone?), but the roots are visible. A hint of blues, a bit of bebop, and a proud solo or two are common elements in today’s jazz scene. Mixed up right and served Kansas City style, just like we like it.


Staff Lines: The Write Way

This internship at the American Jazz Museum is the second internship I’ve had this year. My first internship was doing events and promotions for a rather large company in Shawnee, Kansas, and I enjoyed it immensely. It was a very structured internship, though, with very specific tasks, hours, and expectations. So when I got this internship and learned how…let’s say “self-propelled” the position was, I was completely thrown off (not to mention intimidated). I’ve never had any kind of job where I not only determined what hours I would be working, but also had that work geared toward my personal tastes and abilities. Now, after having worked at it for the duration of the summer, I feel differently about how this internship is structured.

I love it.

Not only is it good preparation for the workplace, but I’m also doing work I am sincerely interested in.  I’ve considered myself a writer since I wrote my first “novel” at the age of twelve, and being asked to work on this blog was thrilling for me. I mentioned in a previous post that what I knew about jazz when I first came here was limited to a few names my husband occasionally dropped (namely, Maynard Ferguson, Louis Armstrong, and Miles Davis…he likes the trumpet players), so I’ve had to learn a lot in order to present anything worth reading. It’s been fascinating! I’ve learned so much about Kansas City history and the development of jazz, and I’ve always been one to appreciate a nice peek at the past. It’s also been a point of pride for me to work on the redevelopment of this blog. I fully expect things to keep changing with it, especially when it changes hands at the end of the summer, and there are unfortunately plans I had for it that never really got off the ground. But I’ll always be able to say I got this ball rolling. Not a bad way to spend a summer, really. :)


No Dime Required

It’s the first addition to the American Jazz Museum’s permanent exhibit. It represents one life’s obsession, a significant period in American history, and a unique look at the history of jazz, in particular. It is the culmination of a decade (that’s 10 years!) of restoration and digitization.

It’s the John H. Baker Film Collection.

If you haven’t made it out to the Museum in a while, then maybe you haven’t had the chance to explore this amazing exhibit yet. Over the span of forty years, Mr. John Baker amassed a collection of jazz films, clips, and soundies (the original music video), which, at over one million feet of film, is considered one of the world’s largest.  In 1984, the collection, which contained the film and Baker’s notes on them, was sold to the University of Kansas for $200,000. Unfortunately, at the time of Mr. Baker’s death in 1998, the collection had been relegated to an underground warehouse and largely forgotten.  Until it came to the attention of the American Jazz Museum in the early 2000’s, was painstakingly restored over the course of a decade, and can now be viewed in our permanent exhibit.

Take a minute and think about all that: one man with an interest in jazz film (and only jazz film), an interest so unique that there were no clubs, swap meets, or magazines to help him track down new pieces; the slow building of that collection over forty years; all the unique history featured on those film clips that could have been lost forever in a warehouse; and finally, a restoration so careful on a collection so large that it took 10 years to complete. It’s incredible.

The collection is now on display at our museum, and features three rotating themes: "Big Bands," "Women in Jazz," and "African-American Dance and Jazz," with commentary from renowned African-American film expert Pearl Bowser. If you haven’t experienced this exhibit for yourself yet, I think it’s about time for another trip to the Museums on 18th and Vine.

(I unfortunately don’t have the space to convey a lot of the interesting information I’ve learned about soundies or John Baker himself, so please check out these links for some good, reliable information: UCLA Soundies Info, The Columbus Dispatch “Jazzed Collector”)


Singing the Blues

 If you are interested in jazz enough to be reading this page, then odds are you’ve heard of the Blue Room. Situated literally on the corner of 18th and Vine, and named for the popular Street’s Hotel jazz club of the 1930’s and 1940’s, the Blue Room has certainly gained a notoriety of its own. It was named one of Down Beat Magazine’s top 100 jazz clubs of the world; the only club in Kansas to have such an honor.

However, did you know that, in addition to being a fantastic jazz club, the Blue Room is also a part of the American Jazz Museum? Built to resemble a club from the 1930’s, the Blue Room is actually one large exhibit. The tables contain one-of-a-kind artifacts from the heyday of jazz, and the “Wall of Fame” features pictures of artists who helped make jazz the art form it is today. Of course, the Blue Room is a unique exhibit in the fact that it is a functioning jazz club. It honors the history of jazz in its décor, and showcases the present and the future of jazz with the artists, both national and local, who play on its stage four days a week.

It seems that most people consider the Blue Room and the Museum to be separate, if related, entities. In reality, they are tightly interwoven. The Blue Room is a part of our museum; the most interactive display we have, where a person can take a step into the jazz scene that is at the heart of each piece in the museum.


Guest Post: Family Memories

In Fall of 2009 my mother asked me to move in her. She was new to the town (I was born in California) so she wanted a roomie. I hesitantly obliged, packed my few item and trekked 15 miles from my apartment in Kansas City, Kansas to one in Missouri. I was amazed to see streets named after my favorite Jazz stars like Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald and Mary Lou Williams and I soon discovered that I would be calling “The 18th and Vine District” home. Near the beautiful statues and monuments, just past the bend of a narrow street the urban core and the birthplace of Jazz Music would crash together into a whirlwind of wonder. I knew there was a museum so i strolled a few blocks up one fall day, It was a monday or a wednesday (I can’t remember) because it started misting all over and I was trying to find somewhere to duck into for safety from what I was sure would be another ghastly monsoon. It lasted for seconds, nothing was open and I peered into a dimly lit corner club called the blue room. what I didn’t know was that I would spend many a monday night listening to jazz and singing a lil hear and there, but most importantly immersing myself into my roots, my blood and my culture. Familiarizing myself with all the stories my grandfather would tell about sprinting down to 18th and vine and how it was “living on the edge”, with little stories sprinkled here and there about Charlie (Parker, that is) and what growing up in small town Illinois did to them as children. It was all real and I was feeling it. I will never forget how I stumbled upon my fortune and faith, like many people who don’t realize the very thing they need is right in front of them. I needed to know these memories were real. Everyday I try to connect with the memories and stories that make us a human family.


Staff Lines: A Mommy Moment

Okay, it’s officially time for an addendum to my introduction, because I left out three very important details the first time around. They are 4 years, 2 years, and 10 months old. You see, in addition to being a nontraditional student at KU and a summer intern here at the American Jazz Museum, I am also a proud mother of three. Their daddy happens to be a trumpet player and a jazz fan, so they have all been properly introduced to this art form, and taught to appreciate it from infancy.  Mostly by their father.

This past week, though, I thought I would pitch in some, so I took my oldest (my only son) to the Museum’s Jazz Storytelling last Friday. If you are not familiar with the program, it’s a highly interactive education program the Museum hosts on the first Friday of every month, from 10-11:15 am. It introduces children to various aspects of jazz, including rhythm, lyrics, and scat. The children, mostly preschool aged, sing, dance, and try their hand at scatting along with Miss Lisa and Brother John.

Last Friday was the first time for both me and my son at Jazz Storytelling. We chanted “Hello, how are ya? Pleased to meet cha” while we shook hands with those around us. We were sleepy leaves, hot grass, and dance maniacs. We echoed drum beats, did math, and learned about time. Most importantly, though, we had a great time together. Afterward, I did a quick interview with my son to get his reaction (he was downright giddy), but, due to technical difficulties, I’ll have to post that later. However, it’s safe to say that he enjoyed himself immensely, and was excited to explore the museum further; something I look forward to doing with him again soon.


Jazzy Events

Taking a breather from the historic track this feature has been riding these past few weeks, this week’s post is an admittedly shameless plug (a fond joke among the interns around here, by the way). It will also be unusually short, since a lot of the relevant information is already available on our website. I ask you all to go with me on it, though, because it actually is a handy bit of information about our museum.

I know I’ve mentioned before on here my desire to go into events planning, and with the recent flurry of events centered around the All Star game, which took place last night, I’ve had events in general on my mind lately. Did you know the American Jazz Museum, the Gem Theater, and the Blue Room are all available for private events? I did not, before I started working around here, but it doesn’t fully surprise me. The available spaces are all beautiful, and museums are often a unique venue for everything from office meetings to wedding receptions. As I’ve worked here, I’ve seen the Museum atrium dressed up for various small events, and even watched a little prep work for a reunion that took place in the Gem Theater.

The idea of hosting an event at the Museum is brilliant, if you ask me. Aside from being beautiful, the spaces are unique, centered in the 18th and Vine district, and peppered with the flavor of Kansas City jazz. What better way to make sure your next event “goes down in history”?


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