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Five UMKC jazz study musicians to watch

The connection between sin, drinking, jazz music and the blues in a party atmosphere is legendary. And here in Kansas City, along with New York, New Orleans and Chicago, the party has been going on for 100 years.

The music sets the mood, and that music is often created by graduates of UMKC’s Department of Music and Dance. The many nightclubs and cafes with live music these days offer a steady stream of new and exciting jazz artists gainfully employed as Kansas City’s musical party rolls into its second century.

What follows are five musicians you might want to check out.

Stephen Martin – tenor saxophone

Stephen Martin has held the premier spot for the past two years. At 10:30 p.m. each Saturday, Steven’s quartet launches into four hours of intense jazz at the Green Lady Lounge. Martin went through Bobby Watson’s jazz program at UMKC to get his bachelor’s degree. Wanting more, and still focusing on performance, Martin returned to St. Louis, his hometown. After receiving his master’s from Washington University, he returned to Kansas City, stating, “It’s hipper here.” “Vision”, the first album from Stephen Martin, came out this summer.

Sam Copeland – upright bass

It’s 6 p.m. on a Friday and Sam Copeland is caught in traffic, halfway between his 8-to-5 for the Blue Valley School District and a 7 p.m. restaurant gig in Liberty, Missouri. After receiving his master’s from UMKC in May, Copeland landed a good gig teaching strings at four different Blue Valley schools. He spends a lot of time on the road. His pedagogy skills learned at UMKC, put Sam in the position to “make a decent living teaching” while making the scene at night.

Sam received his B. A. from MU in classical strings. Since moving to Kansas City, he has gotten pretty busy.

“I try to hold the playing down to three nights a week,” Copeland said. He’s often called to perform five or more nights a week, now with a day gig Copeland simply has to turn them down.

Nate Nall – trumpet

Nate and Kristen Nall married last summer. They met while attending UMKC music programs. Kristen teaches in the Shawnee Mission School District. Nall teaches privately. He is an accomplished songwriter and trumpeter, originally from Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

“Studying with Bobby Watson is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me,” said Nall.

His quintet released “Places to Go” this summer. His short and meaningful career is well documented at

Steve Caporale – tenor saxophone

Steve Caporale is a recent arrival from Litchfield, New Hampshire. He studied jazz at William Paterson University, in Paterson, New Jersey. Now in the jazz studies program at UMKC, Caporale’s talent and rapid proliferation of the musical scene around town is proof he is a tenor saxophonist with a mission.

Matt Kane – drums

Matt Kane is the granddaddy of this new school of UMKC graduates. Kane arrived in Kansas City from Hannibal, Missouri in the 1990s. Kane pre-dates Watson at UMKC, but it doesn’t diminish Kane’s respect for the jazz master. On Kane’s album “Acknowledgement,” he performs with UMKC graduates Steve Lambert, Ben Leifer, Hermon Mehari, Andrew Oullette and Michael Shults. The album features the music of Ahmad Alaadeen, Pat Metheny and Bobby Watson.

Kane who makes his home in NYC, has taught at Christian McBride’s music academy and released his latest album, “The Other Side of the Story,” at the Black Dolphin Oct. 26-27.

These are just a few of the talented musicians completing their studies at UMKC. Many credit Bobby Watson with their success. On Oct. 14, at the annual UMKC Jazz and BBQ, Bobby Watson offered what this sort of interaction does for KC’s rich musical scene.

“Simply put, it elevates it,” Watson said, “It gives the scene validity and starts a conversation about the richness of our history and our future.”

The Jazz Studies Program is thriving at UMKC. You can find it nightly around town—as the party continues.


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