The historic 18th and Vine District in Kansas City, MO, was crowded recently with appreciative folk who came to support our very own Heartland Men’s Chorus and the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts. The venue was the American Jazz Museum, in the geographic bull’s-eye where masters like Charlie Parker, Count Basie, Big Joe Turner, and hundreds of others defined the sounds of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s that live on today. It is, quite literally, where jazz was born.
There the Heartland Men’s Chorus hosted a reception to say thank you to patrons who donated $150 per person to meet and mingle with members of the chorus—and, of course, be enthusiastically entertained as well. The vast space of the museum’s foyer made for a spacious, relaxed atmosphere where guests could socialize, meet new friends, and catch up on chatter with those of yore. Lines for the abundant food and drink moved quickly. A significant contingent of the 300+ members of the chorus welcomed patrons personally, which added to the friendliness. All chorus members were in black tie; guests sported more casual wear given the summer weather. The vast glass walls allowed HMC supporters to see day turn to night in the comfort of air conditioning. As evening settled in and table candles were lit the ambiance became downright glamorous.
Music students from the Paseo Academy Jazz Orchestra directed by Russell Davis drew standing ovations as they played in concert and solo. Clearly, we need not worry about jazz losing favor in the music world. Conductor Joe Nadeau then led members of the Chorus in such songs as “One Voice”, and “The Awakening”, to more standing ovations. Topping off the entertainment the cheering crowd was then treated to four-time Grammy Award Winner and Internationally renowned recording artist Oleta Adams. The crowd couldn’t get enough of her.
After the evening was over the chair of the event, Sarah Strnad (Stir-nod), gave a tip of her hat to all who labored with her: “I had an amazing group of people that worked very hard to pull the evening off without a hitch. The event was about the groups we were supporting, not the personalities involved. I would much rather the committee gets the recognition for their hard work and support. I also want to mention our Honorary Chairs, Gayle and Bruce Krigel, and Mayor Pro-Tem Alvin Brooks. Dr. Juanita Hempstead, the principal at Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts Jazz Orchestra, and she helped bring the elements together on that side. Mike Sigler, John Carey, and Rick Fisher were very instrumental in providing support from the Chorus perspective.”
Q: What was the specific purpose of the event?
A: To help raise awareness of the HMC and to help Paseo raise funds for its music programs. Schools are struggling to keep their music programs and we felt that it was time for HMC to help out. This was a first-time event and we hope it builds in magnitude from here. This was the first year of many successful ones to come.
Q: Why was the American Jazz Museum selected?
A: It is such a great venue for music. The room itself is so pretty that you don’t have to spend money that can go to the charity to decorate. The people who run it are great to work with and do all they can to help make the event great.
Q: Was the space donated by the Museum?
A: They give a discount to charities to do functions there.
Q: As the event chair, what specifically was your role?
A: I coordinated the details, with a great team of people on the committee that helped pull the evening together. A special thanks to David Denefrio and Greg Wilson of David Gregory who designed a beautiful invite for the patrons; J.W. Arnold, who designed the logo and all other printed materials; Leslie Catron, who worked with Chris Sida of CSM for the liquor donation; David Dill, who worked on PR, and Mark Dreiling and Kurt Knapstein, who helped with all aspects of the event. I also want to acknowledge the entire HMC Chorus for their support.
Q: The last question. Who provided the sumptuous tables of food?
A: (Laughing) Oh yes! The food! All of it came from Salsman Catering – Robert Salsman (816-561-0266) Café Trio – Chris Youngers, Tai Nugyen (816-756-3227) and the Mixx –Jo Marie Scaglia (816-756-2300).
Total funds raised that glorious night are still to be announced.
Taylor Pero is an entertainment writer in Kansas City, formerly of Beverly Hills and author of “Always, Lana” and “The Colors of Callas.” If you have some dish about local KC events he can be reached at:

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