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Kansas City Jazz Academy - Summer Registration Now Open!

The American Jazz Museum is proud to present the Kansas City Jazz Academy. This program provides excellent jazz instruction for middle and high school students interested in improving their skills beyond what they’d normally receive in a traditional public/private school music program. Its instrumental, piano and vocal classes are lead by a faculty of esteemed artist and educators with a focus on style, history, theory, ear training, song forms, repertoire, and musicianship. Additional clinics and masterclasses are presented by national and international jazz musicians and educators.

For $60, students receive 12 hours of class of instruction. These registration costs help sustain the Jazz Academy program and allow us to support our dedicated instructors!

See below for class offerings, combo specifications, the academy staff, and other helpful information. Do you have specific inquiries or want to learn how to get involved? Email Clarance, Manager of Kansas City Jazz Academy, at

COMBOS: Ensemble selection is based on a placement audition which will match students of similar playing ability. Combos generally consist of several horns and a rhythm section consisting of piano, guitar, band and drums. Other instruments can be considered. Students will study songs from The Great American Songbook. Styles include swing, Latin, blues, waltz, etc.




12th Street Combo

June 5 - July 24, 2021, Saturdays from 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

For band students with at least one year of experience. This class helps students secure a basic foundation of instrumental playing. Note reading, tone, rhythm, basic swing style, are some of the concepts learned. Improvisation is not the primary focus but is introduced. Registration is $60. Placement audition information is below.




Vine Street Combo

June 5 - July 24, 2021, Saturdays from 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Placement audition will determine assignment in to this combo. Students will continue to explore the fundamentals of ensemble play while also studying improvisation in common jazz song forms and chord progressions. Registration is $60. Placement audition information is below.




18th Street Combo

June 5 - July 24, 2021, Saturdays from 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

This ensemble represents the highest level of musicianship and includes students who have achieved beyond an elementary and intermediate understanding of jazz styles, reading and improvisation. This group has the honor of representing the American Jazz Museum and the City of Kansas City in many performance opportunities. As with the others, placement audition will determine ensemble assignment. Registration is $60. Placement audition information is below.




Vocal Jazz

June 5 - July 24, 2021, Saturdays from 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Do you want to be a jazz vocalist? Have you always wanted to learn the basics of songwriting? Are you ready to learn about the rich legacy of jazz, blues and R&B music? If you answered "yes" to these questions, then you are ready for Vocal Jazz classes. This class for middle and high school age students allows young singers an opportunity to hone their vocal ability while learning the specifics of the jazz style. Max Capacity: 10 students. Registration is $60.



Piano Class

June 5 - July 24, 2021, Saturdays from 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Piano class offers experienced and beginner students an opportunity to learn and explore jazz styles, theory, and technique. This class is open to elementary, middle, and high school students. Max Capacity: 6 students. Registration is $60.



Placement Requirements for Combos

Wind Instruments (saxophones, trumpets, trombones)

1. One prepared piece of choice that may or may not include improvisation

2. Sight-reading

3. Improvisation over F or Bb blues changes (optional)

Rhythm Section Instruments (piano, guitar, vibes and bass)

1. One prepared piece of choice that may or may not include improvisation

2. Sight-reading

3. Comping and improvisation over F or Bb blues changes

Drum Set

1. One prepared piece of choice that may or may not include improvisation

2. Sight-reading

3. Trading 4’s

4. Be required to play the following grooves - Swing, Funk/Rock, Latin 


                You may register and pay online, or if you prefer, register in the museum gift store, The Swing Shop, at the museum.

                For more information about the academy, contact Clarence Smith, Manager of Kansas City Jazz Academy, at







Clarence Smith- Director of KCJA

Clarence Smith is a Kansas City-based professional musician and music educator. He is coordinator/instructor of music at Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley campus, with specific expertise in jazz education, percussion, and music appreciation. Smith is a frequent guest director of honors jazz ensembles, and is in demand as a jazz/percussion clinician and adjudicator. He is director of the annual three-day 18th and Vine Student Jazz Festival.

As a drummer, Smith is an active participant in the Kansas City music scene where he can be heard performing in a variety of genres including jazz, classical, musical theatre, and R&B and other pop styles. 



Stan Kessler- Advanced Combo Co-Director

Stan Kessler is a Trumpet/Flugelhorn player, band leader, clinician, and educator in the Kansas City area. He also does extensive writing and arranging for small groups. Stan plays drums and hand percussion. He has maintained adjunct positions at UMKC and Missouri Western State University in jazz trumpet, theory and improvisation, and music business classes. For 7 years, Stan has been a faculty member of Kansas City Youth Jazz, now Kansas City Jazz Academy. He has been teaching jazz improvisation and theory privately for 29 years. 



Charles Williams - Advanced Combo Co-Director

Charles D. Williams is a Kansas City musician, pianist, former trombonist, band leader, private piano instructor, producer, writer, and clinician/educator. Charles is current pianist for the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra and has been since its beginning in 2003. As a performer, Charles plays at many local venues with his own trio, and has accompanied many local vocalist. Mr. Williams is very dedicated to supporting the American Jazz Museum & Blue Room, and was recently added to the AJM Board.

Artist Mr. Williams has backed include, Ernie Andrews, Houston Person, Harold Jones, Clark Terry, Randy Brecker, Bobby Watson, Deborah Brown, Ann Hampton Callaway, New York Voices, Wycliffe Gordon, The Four Freshmen, Cannonball & Nat Adderley, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Benny Golsen, and many more. Charles has an Associate in Arts Degree (Penn Valley CC, and also studied at the UMKC Conservatory. 



Matt Baldwin- Intermediate Combo Director

Baldwin graduated summa cum laude as a member of the Honors College from the University of Missouri - Kansas City, where he earned his Master's in Jazz Studies and his Bachelor's in Jazz Performance. Throughout the years, he has had the privilege of studying with music mentors Bobby Watson (UMKC Co-Chair of Jazz Studies), Dan Thomas (UMKC Co-Chair of Jazz Studies), Matt Otto (KU Professor of Saxophone), Hugh Jones (High School Band Director in St. Louis), John Brewer (New Orleans Musician/Worship Pastor in Kansas City), and James Ward (Gospel Musician/Worship Pastor in Chattanooga).

As a performer, Baldwin captivates audiences with his lively playing on all saxophones and other woodwind instruments. In addition to leading the Matt Baldwin Saxophone Quartet, Baldwin Soul Septet, and co-leading the Westport Jazz Orchestra, he has performed with numerous Kansas City ensembles including the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, the New Jazz Order Big Band, the 627 Foundation Big Band, Boogaloo 7, the Chris Hazelton Quartet, the Diles Mavis Group, and Julian Vaughn. Besides performing at jazz venues, festivals, and weddings, he has been the Reed 1 player for musical theater shows at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, the New Theatre Restaurant, Quality Hill Playhouse, and Musical Theater Heritage. Among others, Baldwin has shared the stage with the New York Voices, the Four Tops, and Michael Feinstein.



Osmond Fisher- Beginning Combo Director

Osmond Fisher has over twenty years experience teaching and building successful high school band programs. He started his career at John F. Kennedy High School in Cleveland, Ohio from 1996 – 2005, starting a program that grew to over 100 members in just a couple of years. Mr. Fisher relocated to the Kansas City Area and has continued to teach at various schools in the district since 2007. Mr. Fisher has a Bachelor of Music degree from Central State University in Ohio and a Masters of Arts in Music Education from the University of Central Missouri.  He has been acknowledged by the National Association for Music Education (MENC) as one of Kansas City’s most dedicated teachers.



CharCarol Fisher - Academy Instructor

CharCarol is a board certified music therapist working primarily with children and adolescents at Cornerstones of Care. She has a Bachelor of Music degree in saxophone performance from Central State University, and a Master of Arts in Music from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.  Her clinical work experience includes: Ozanam and Gillis residential treatment facilities; Truman Behavioral Health Center; Operation Breakthrough; Synergy, and several other community organizations that serve youth. CharCarol currently serves as the president of the Mid-Western region of the American Music Therapy Association, a member of the Commission on the Education and Clinical Training of the 21st Century Music Therapist, and serves as a member on the Executive Steering Committee of the Black Music Therapy Network. She is an active presenter at national and regional music therapy conferences, guest lecturer at Universities and researcher.


CharCarol’s career as a music therapist also combines with her love of Jazz music and is a strong advocate for the continued education of Jazz in the Kansas City  community. She brings the unique experience of working as a therapist full-time while combining that with her love for teaching young people music. She co-founded The Young Jazz Masters, an early jazz preparatory program here in KC from 2010 – 2017 with her husband Osmond Fisher, and has volunteered as a in-kind teacher for the Jazz Academy since its inception. CharCarol is excited to continue to work as a member of the Jazz Academy faculty.



Lisa Henry- Director of Vocal Jazz

International jazz vocalist, jazz educator, clinician, program developer and artistic director, Lisa Henry, is a combination of swingin’ cool and down home class. Her professional jazz career began in the nightclubs of Kansas City, MO at age 17. She was mentored by the great Hammond B-3 player, Everette DeVan, and cut her big band “teeth” performing with the Vince Bilardo Big Band and Steve Miller Orchestra. As a jazz educator, Lisa Henry takes the legacy and brilliance of jazz into classrooms and onto college campuses across the globe. Through interactive classroom and assembly programs, vocal clinics, music business workshops and performance adjudications, her teaching reaches students from preschool age to university level students.


Brian Ward - Piano Teacher

Brian Ward is a keyboardist, educator, composer, and arranger from Portland, Oregon. Brian has performed with the Oregon Symphony, Bobby Torres, Shirley Nanette, Curtis Salgado, Obo Addy, Will Matthews, Bobby Watson, and many others. “City of Roses,” one of the arrangements Ward helped create for Esperanza Spalding's album Radio Music Society, won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement for Vocal Performance. Ward has taught jazz band and jazz piano at Portland State University, Washington State University, University of Idaho, Eastern Washington University, University of Kansas, and Benedictine College. Currently, Brian is is a candidate for a doctor of musical arts in composition at KU Lawrence and is enjoying performing jazz and blues in the Kansas City area.