It’s here! We are so pleased to present our work to you! It has been an unexpected journey, full of hiccups and pivots, and strings of little miracles. We made it.
When Phyllis mentioned that she “always [thought] of [Barney] in a bow tie” we decided that donning bow ties of our own would be a fun way to honor him.
Phyllis said something in our interview with her that has added a surprising sense of poignancy to this project.
“…Right away after his stroke I bought a Sony Walkman—it was this thing that you plugged into your ears that you put a cassette in—and I played his own recordings to him from the day he had his stroke. I don’t know how I even thought to do that but I knew how much he loved to listen to himself and I knew it would connect to him the songs, the chords, whatever.”
Listening to his music and savoring the memories he had of playing, performing, traveling, and teaching kept Barney tethered to his own identity, despite the immobility caused by his stroke.
So explore the website. Read his words, listen to his music, connect with Barney and feel enlightened, illuminated, and inspired by the man and the musician. Preserve his legacy through your own curiosity and appreciation.
Training on various functions of Omeka S commenced this week. This means that the final site is starting to take shape! We are uploading and cataloging items and beginning to organize the different aspects of the site. From splash pages to search engines, our goal is to make this site as accessible, inviting, and informative as possible.
We wanted to share a sneak peek of this process with you. Here is our label that will be featured prominently on our site. Please feast your eyes on the before and after. We cannot praise Buddy, Sean, and Garth (our UMKC tech and design team) enough for the design of this label and their general skills and support.
The absolute highlight of our week was the time we got to spend on a conference call with the fabulous Phyllis Kessel. She had us laughing, crying, and absolutely inspired. In the words of Alec, Phyllis “is made of carbon fiber and reinforced steel.”
Phyllis told us that her relationship with Barney really began in California. She won all of our hearts when she said that “getting to know [Barney] beyond the music was amazing.”
Many of the insights garnered from the interview will be available on the completed site.
The poignancy of having created a new primary source document when our access to source documents was cut short due to COVID-19 is not lost on us.
We have all felt keenly the absence of the “hands on” component to this project. Yet, in spite of this time of academic complexity, through technology connecting us across 5 states, we have come closer to understanding Barney Kessel than ever before. It seems to be a vibrant fusion of classic scholarly approaches and individual and communal ingenuity in light of unprecedented world events.
This is the miracle of The Barney Kessel Project.
We are grateful that you are sharing this journey with us.
Well…the investigative landscape of our project has changed drastically, as our terrain has been limited to our living rooms…literally.
But, we will go the (social) distance and persevere the best we can. As Barney might say, we won’t let it ruin our day. While we will have to manage our expectations, we still plan on creating something to honor the life and music of Barney Kessel.
We have an official title for our project: Illuminating a Musical Legacy: The Barney Kessel Project
As we have no access to our primary source documents beyond what we had collected before campus closed, we have realized that it is possible to make *NEW* primary sources. We hope to explore this concept through the avenue of interviews. More to come!
The prolific variety in Barney’s life has been made clearer as each of us realized that we focused on aspects of his life that are entirely different from each other. And this poses a challenge as we attempt to synthesize, connect, and organize our findings – but it is a satisfying challenge.
A good “Barneyism” to remember is that the only way to get through COVID-19 is through self-care: “3. Do 10 BX Program 4. Watch Diet 5. Take Vitamins 6. Breathe!”
We owe the team at UMKC LaBudde Special Collections and the UMKC WordPress folks a debt of gratitude for continuing to make this project possible, in any of its forms.
Our hearts go out to our friends, colleagues, and fellow humans who are struggling during this time. And while “there are moments that the words don’t reach” (thank you, Hamilton), we borrow our stance from Leonard Bernstein: “This will be our reply to [confusion and despair]: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
Welcome to the Barney Kessel Project. To borrow a descriptor from one of Barney’s fans, we are “gassed” about sharing our research with you. We have been surprised and delighted by what we have found so far. Not only was Barney Kessel an inspiring and influential guitarist, arranger, teacher, and jazz performer, he was also a profoundly wonderful human with a great sense of humor and a grounded outlook on life.
Meet the Team:
Bryanna Beasley: MM in flute performance and MM in musicology, soccer star, savorer of dramatic symphonies, and sushi aficionado
Lacie Eades: MM in musicology, mother of two, aspiring home chef, and appreciator of all things mid-century modern
Nick Gillock: MM in musicology, reformed public school teacher, fan and comprehender of sports statistics, and minimalism connoisseur
Riley Kurre: MM in musicology, member of The Kansas City Symphony Chorus, resident opera geek, and snappy dresser
Alec Radecki: DMA in composition, language nerd, home chef, and video game enthusiast
Gabbi Roderer: DMA in flute performance and MM in musicology, gluten-free baker, pickleball lover, and self-proclaimed pun expert
Daniel Shineberg: DMA in flute performance and MA-MT in music therapy, doggy dad, old movie lover, and gin-and-whisky-drinking cross stitcher
#1 When it’s the “other guy” that makes you sound bad in a performance:
July 8, 1989: …His setting of my tone controls were all wrong. I played but didn’t enjoy it musically…But I didn’t let this incident spoil my day.
#2 The cathartic one-star Yelp review:
Lunch break – ate at Italian restaurant near NBC
Waitress rude –
#3 When someone thinks you’re talking about them but it’s all one big misunderstanding:
Melbourne, Australia February 11, 1992: As I was coming out of a radio station (after an interview) with an associate…I saw a particularly offensive green car parked right outside the front door of the station. As I opened the door and was outside I pointed to the car and said to my associate, rather loudly, “I think that is an ugly green” just as a lady walked by between the car and me wearing a bright green blouse and she really frowned.
#4 Kodak Moments…that we hope no one noticed:
New Zealand February 17, 1992 This morning in the coffee shop: the table w/breakfast buffet. Also, the milk pitcher was made to look like a chicken with its beak open (milk pours through the beak). In pouring milk for my cereal, I spilled it.
Words for a song:
I have to let you go, girl
I have to get you out of my sight,
I have to let you go, girl
‘Cause keepin’ you around
Is making me uptight
#6 Words to live by:
April 12, 1990 Don’t study music to learn about music. Study music to learn how to express that which is your thoughts and feelings through the medium of music.
If you have stories or memories about Barney Kessel or his music, we would love to hear them!