Grant Spotlight: American Jazz Museum

Smiling black woman wearing red glasses and gray blazer.

Dr. Deena Bennett.Photo courtesy of National Museum of African American Music

Located in the heart of Kansas City’s historic jazz district at 18th and Vine, the American Jazz Museum is a testament to the rich history and legacy of jazz. Dr. Dina Bennett, executive director of the American Jazz Museum, explained that the museum’s origin story “incorporates the 1989 announcement by then-mayor and now Congressman Emanuel Cleaver The Cleaver Plan was proposed to revitalize the historic jazz district at 18th Street and Vine. The area’s revitalization resulted in a 50,000-square-foot museum complex and performance facility, including the American Jazz Museum. Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Horace M. Peterson III Visitor Center and Gem Theater.

“The American Jazz Museum celebrates jazz music through four pillars: performance, education, exhibition and research,” Bennett said. “Each pillar allows us to explore the importance of jazz history and legacy and Kansas City’s contribution to its legacy.”

In addition to educational and public programs such as lectures and jazz poetry readings, the organization provides live jazz music performances in the Blue Room, Gem Theater and Jay McShann Pavilion. The Jazz Storytelling and Kansas City Jazz Academy programs teach young people about the history and cultural significance of the jazz tradition. “Through our rotating exhibition schedule in changing gallery spaces and our permanent exhibitions, our exhibitions are dynamic and ever-changing,” Bennett said.

On the music stage: Black (front and center) plays on the keyboard and sings, Black (left) plays guitar, and Black (right) sings backup for the lead singer.

Singer, songwriter and producer Dwele performs at the Charlie Parker In the Yard Community Celebration at the Museum of American Jazz in August 2023.

The Blue Room is named after a famous jazz nightclub inside the Street Hotel. Founded and run by Reuben Street and his wife Ella from the 1930s to 1950s, this iconic venue has hosted many artists. Today’s show at The Blue Room continues the nightclub’s tradition of showcasing the dynamic sound of Kansas City jazz three nights a week – two performance nights and one jam night. “Part of our mission is to create, develop and support jazz musicians by giving them a place to perform in the region, and that place is The Blue Room,” Bennett said. “The Blue Room is also an exhibition space that highlights Kansas City’s connection to the development of jazz, featuring a Wall of Fame featuring images of local musicians who rocked Kansas City’s style.”

In January 2023, the American Jazz Museum received an arts endowment to support the In the Yard Festival, an annual three-day event that brings the community and visitors together through film, music, and exhibitions Come celebrate the city’s jazz heritage. The festival was founded by Rashida Phillips, former executive director of the American Jazz Museum. Her vision for the festival is an outdoor community event centered around Charlie Parker’s birthday on August 29th.Bennett said of her desire for the festival: “I hope [participants] Learn more about Charlie Parker, his musical legacy, and its connection to today’s artists and music.

On the music stage: Black (front and center) plays saxophone, Black (left) plays drums, Black (right) plays guitar.

Saxophonist, composer and producer Logan Richardson performs at the Charlie Parker In the Yard Community Celebration at the American Jazz Museum in August 2023.

The American Jazz Museum continues to expand its reach into the community through programs, events, free community concerts, and partnerships with various arts and music organizations throughout Kansas City. Looking ahead, Bennett envisions a capital campaign for a new, expanded facility equipped with cutting-edge digital interactive amenities.

When asked about the importance of jazz in the United States, Bennett said, “Jazz is the foundation of our society. It represents our country’s democratic ideals where everyone can be themselves and experience creation and exploration of individualism and collaboration. freedom of.

On the music stage: a black man (center) plays trumpet, a white man (left) plays guitar, and a black man (right) plays drums.

Trumpeter performs at the Charlie Parker In the Yard Community Celebration at the American Jazz Museum in August 2023.

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