A Shining Light

Photo by James Allison

Crescendo showcases UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance talent

Crescendo: Dawn of a New Stage trained a shining light on student and faculty talent at the Nov. 10 benefit for scholarships at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance.

Crescendo is one of Kansas City’s premier arts events, hosted by the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance and held at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The concert has raised more than $1 million for student scholarships in the past four years. The 2017 honorary co-chairs were Peggy and Terry Dunn, and co-chairs were Dalene Bradford and Nancy Thiessen.

The one-hour concert opened with a performance of Taps to honor Veterans on the day before Veterans Day. The Conservatory Wind Symphony then performed Intrada 1631 by Stephen Montague, with Conservatory Professor Steven D. Davis as conductor and Kurt Knecht playing the organ. Following the Symphony was a piano solo, Alborada del gracioso, by Conservatory Professor Henry Kramer.

The fast-paced concert quickly moved to Conservatory Choirs singing O Clap Your Hands by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Accompanying the singers were trumpet, trombone, tuba and percussion performances.

UMKC Percussion Ensemble played the booming Trio per Uno Molto which then flowed to the first dance performance of the night, Pièce en forme de Habanera. It featured the dazzling performance of two dance students accompanied by graduate students playing the trumpet and piano.

From high above the stage, the UMKC Tuba Ensemble performed the William Tell Overture, with the UMKC Opera swiftly moving into Act II, scene 2 from Hänsel und Gretel.

Jazz was on the program with the UMKC Conservatory Concert Jazz Band playing Take the “A” Train. Conservatory Professors Bobby Watson and Dan Thomas wowed the audience with their solo performances.

The cello solo, Arioso, was performed by Conservatory Professor Michael Mermagen, followed by the next dance performance. Two dancers were accompanied by the Conservatory Singers performing A Boy and A Girl. The UMKC Saxophone Quartet entertained with Barr Institute Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jennifer Higdon’s Bop.

From there, the audience was treated to the beautiful voice of UMKC Artist’s Certificate Student Laurel Weir. She sang “Pace, pace mio Dio” from La Forza del Destino.

The final performance of the night featured the Conservatory Orchestra and Conservatory Dancers performing Zhou Long and Chen Yi’s Humen 1839. UMKC Professor Robert Olson conducted.

Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, UMKC Interim Chancellor and Provost, addressed the audience at the end of the concert.

“For more than a century, the faculty and alumni of the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance have had a lasting impact on the performing arts in Kansas City, the nation and the world,” Bichelmeyer said. “The renowned artistic vibrancy of the Kansas City community would not exist without the historic legacy, and ongoing influence, of the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance.”

Founded, and still fueled, by Conservatory alumni, the Kansas City Chorale has established itself as one of the Nation’s finest vocal groups and has won two Grammy Awards.

“Don’t let that light go dark.”

As the stage went completely dark with only a ghost light illuminating the center of the stage, a spotlight glowed on Bichelmeyer as she continued to list the accolades.

UMKC faculty and alumni founded the Kansas City Ballet, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and the Kansas City Philharmonic, predecessor to the Kansas City Symphony. These companies perform as Resident Arts Organizations of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, and play a fundamental role in establishing Kansas City as America’s Creative Crossroads.

“Don’t let that light go dark,” Bichelmeyer repeated.

Today’s Conservatory faculty and students continue to win awards from Fulbright, the Rome Prize, Guggenheim and Wurlitzer foundations, Grammys, as well as numerous competitions.

“We must preserve this vital asset,” Bichelmeyer said. “Without your continued support, our lights will go dark.

“Your support has, and will continue, to play a major role in the success of the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance. Without your support, our shining light goes dark, and our next steps are uncertain. The consequences for our Conservatory, our university, and our community, would be profound.”

While speaking to the audience, Kansas City Mayor Sly James joined Bichelmeyer at the podium with the spotlight also on him.

“Everyone recognizes the vital importance of maintaining a world class Conservatory in Kansas City,” Bichelmeyer said. “The people here tonight for this event recognize it. It is recognized across the city, the region and really all across the state of Missouri. The state legislature certainly demonstrated that last year by supporting the Conservatory with an overwhelming bipartisan vote.”

Bichelmeyer thanked James and the citizens of Kansas City, Missouri for their support. “You’ve been there for us, just as so many of your predecessors in the Mayor’s office, and on the city council, have been for the past hundred years. It really is a part of Kansas City’s legacy.”

In addressing Kansas City’s legacy, James said, “It’s the attitude, the spirit, being demonstrated in this room tonight – not up here on the stage, but out there in the audience. The donors who have supported the Conservatory – throughout its history, and especially in the last five years or so – are demonstrating what the Kansas City Spirit is all about.”

“The reason we have an internationally recognized artistic community here, with a world-class Conservatory at its foundation, is because the people of Kansas City simply refused to settle for anything less,” Bichelmeyer said.

“Don’t let the light go out,” James said. “I am absolutely confident that the best days for Kansas City, and for its Conservatory, are yet to come.”

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