The KC Jazz Incubator

 

By Lisa Alpert

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A West view rendering of the soon-to-be KC Jazz Incubator, scheduled to open in late September. Rendering courtesy of Gould Evans

Charlie “Yardbird” Parker’s Grafton saxophone has made its return home after a six-month stay at Walt Disney World EPCOT in Orlando, Fla. While it was away, The American Jazz Museum was hard at work raising $101,000 to “best the nest” through In the Yard, a fundraising campaign with three initiatives:

  • To foster cultural equity, awareness, and a love of jazz in younger generations through the museum’s signature youth education programs: Jazz Storytelling and the Kansas City Jazz Academy;
  • Increase access and exposure to the jazz art form by digitizing and preserving special artifacts, films, and archived performances; and
  • Nurture and develop a thriving, connected musician community through the KC Jazz Incubator: a new initiative to support local musicians grounded in four fundamental elements of jazz: improvisation, collaboration, innovation, and mentorship.

The KC Jazz Incubator has been a vision of Executive Director Rashida Phillips, who believes the American Jazz Museum must lean into its identity of a hybrid institution to have greater impact on the 18th and Vine community. “We recognize that as a neighborhood anchor institution, there is greater responsibility to provide a level of special service and resource share for our community too. We stand as a connector between the music as pleasure and music as people, in the ways that ‘Jazz represents a total way of life,’ when Ralph Ellison referred to its institutional power alongside schools and churches,” said Phillips.

Scheduled to open as a pilot program in late September 2021, the Incubator will serve as a musician and community-centric hub for wellness and life skill workshops, business, finance and marketing classes, headshot clinics, health screenings and more. Through community partnerships with Truman Medical Center and others, the incubator will deliver resources from across the metro directly to the 18th and Vine neighborhood.

 

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An East view rendering of the renovated WeBop room in the American Jazz Museum. Rendering courtesy of Gould Evans

Local musicians will be critical partners in helping determine which resources are needed most. Through surveys and listening sessions, their input will shape the programming and services delivered. There will also be opportunities for musicians to help staff the incubator space.

With in-kind planning support from Gould Evans and JE Dunn, visions of the renovation of the WeBop room at the museum have been actualized, and construction begins at the end of August. The American Jazz Museum would like to share its immense gratitude for the assistance provided by these two organizations. Thanks to their support, money raised from the In the Yard campaign will be maximized to have the most impact on programs delivered through the incubator.

You can support the KC Jazz Incubator with a gift to the In the Yard campaign by texting BIRDLIVES to 44-321.