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Stanton Kessler – “Being on the scene” and making it in the music biz

Davide Basse

Music has many categories, and each genre has its own long-standing guidelines for creating the perfect sound. When it comes to the business side of things, however, it seems that musicians are left to forge their own path.

Luckily for students in UMKC’s Applied Jazz Studies program, they have Stanton Kressler.

An expert at making a living in music, Stanton first came to UMKC in 1972 as a student of music at Wichita State University, where he was a member of the school’s jazz ensemble. The band received high honors for their on-campus performance, and soon after Stanton entered the ranks of Kansas City’s exceptional collective of jazz musicians.

Rather than heading to the coasts seeking fame and fortune, Kessler created his own success right here in his hometown. He’s performed and recorded with countless musicians, some of whom left the Midwest and subsequently gained worldwide acclaim.

Kessler’s success comes from performing in a collection of as many as ten bands at a time, many of which he founded himself and continues to lead. He books his bands at various nightclubs and restaurants throughout the week. His most beloved group is the band “Sons of Brasil.”

An original member of S.O.B., Guitarist Danny Embrey went on to tour with Latin Jazz favorites Clare Fischer, Sergio Mendez and Karrin Allyson. After several years of touring, working and living on both coasts, Danny returned home and is again performing several nights a week with Kessler and others.

A key to Kessler’s success is keeping the music fresh and continually seeking out opportunities to perform. Jazz musicians call it “being on the scene”—playing as many nights a week as possible, and performing with younger musicians.

Kessler wrote all the music on his latest release, “Skywatcher”, which features three of Kessler’s bands playing three songs each. He’s been performing with some of his bandmates since 1972, while others are are recent UMKC grads.

Kessler can be heard all around Kansas City. He e-mails out details and information about his gig each week, uses social media and maintains his own website. His discography includes two albums from Sons of Brasil, one from Jazz and Chant, in addition to “Stan Kessler’s Television”, “Passport”, and another album of originals,“Open.” He records for his own record label, Standing Bear, in addition to booking bands and recording voice-overs for radio commercials.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. How do you make a living in music? Now that can be tricky.

Luckily, there’s a good chance Stanton Kessler can point you in the right direction.

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