Young New Century Jazz Band musicians learning from the best

Elite KCKCC-based band to perform Wednesday at Unity Temple on the Plaza

Former KCKCC Director of Bands Marlin Cooper was guest soloist at the first performance of the New Century Jazz Band at the Mason Jar Wednesday. The band is honoring Cooper for his legacy as one of the very first to teach jazz education at the college level in Kansas City. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC

It’s true. Old musicians don’t fade away, they just keep playing.

In many cases, such as the New Century Jazz Band, they also give direction, experience and motivation to a new wave of up-and-coming jazz musicians at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

An elite group of musicians made up of KCKCC alumni, music educators and graduates and present and future students, the New Century Jazz Band will make its formal debut in “Spirituality and All That Jazz” series Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Unity Temple on the Plaza, 707 W. 47th. Held by well-known jazz icon Tim Whitmer, it’s the longest running jazz series featuring local jazz musicians.

Organized and directed by Jim Mair, KCKCC director of instrumental music, the band made its public debut Thursday night at the Mason Jar Restaurant at 94th just south of State Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas. The debut featured guest soloist and co-director Marlin Cooper, KCKCC’s instrumental band director for 27 years (1972-1999).

Director of Instrumental Studies at KCKCC Jim Mair has founded and directed the New Century Jazz Band, so named in preparation for KCKCC’s 100th birthday in 2023. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)

“We chose the name New Century in preparation of KCKCC’s 100th birthday in 2023 and we’re featuring Marlin Cooper to honor his legacy as one of the very first educators at the college level teaching jazz education in Kansas City,” Mair said.

Mair is a veteran at organizing instrumental groups. His first community band organized shortly after his hiring at KCKCC in 1999 eventually evolved into the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, an elite orchestra he and his wife Mary headed until 2010 when they stepped aside to devote more time to their two children, Mandy and Jameson.

“With Mandy starting college at KCKCC where she’ll be singing with John Stafford’s choral groups and Jameson playing trumpet and drum set at Olathe Northwest, we figured it was time to start a community band, one that plays at the highest level possible, not one that plays just for fun,” Mair said. The response was almost overwhelming. “We have a waiting list; we started in June and have enough people for two bands. We’re trying to work out the logistics for two bands. It’s a good problem to have. It encourages everyone to get better and a great motivation for our incoming freshmen.”

Saxophonist Herschel McWilliams was one of a half-dozen KCKCC alums helping give direction and motivation to current and future KCKCC musicians as members of the New Century Jazz Band. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)

Of the 21 members of the band, four are current students at KCKCC; five are or will be incoming freshmen; and six KCKCC alums. Herschel McWilliams II, a lead saxophonist who played for Cooper in the late 1990s, is the oldest alum. His father, Herschel Sr., also played in Cooper’s first band in 1973. Trombonist Karita Carter, the sister-in-law of KCKCC grad and Kansas City jazz legend Bobby Watson, could have been an alum. “I tried to recruit her but she went to Wichita State,” Cooper remembered.

Andres Reyes, who played drums when Cooper took the KCKCC Jazz Band to the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 1985, has two sons play in the hand – Andre Jr. who plays keyboard and drummer Antonio, a current KCKCC student. Other current students include Tm Keith, guitar; Densil Malabre, congas and percussion; and saxophonist Adam Bender, who is also an apprentice at BAC Music as an instrument repair technician.

Incoming freshmen include Evan West of Shawnee Mission North and Samantha Angel of Tonganoxie, trumpets; and Henry Fears of Shawnee Mission Northwest and Lucas Porterfield of Tonganoxie, trombones. A fifth, KCKCC Jazz Camp grad Asa Martin, is a senior at Shawnee Mission North and will enroll at KCKCC in 2020.

Alums include trumpeter Jon Tobaben, a recent grad entering the home health care profession; and bass Sean Phelps, who is employed in information technology by Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools. The band will be losing two saxophone alums, Rayvon Haggerty, who is finishing his music degree at Missouri Western University, and Richard Tucker who was recently hired by the Sweetwater Corp. and will be relocating in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

Non-alums bring a wealth of talent. Saxophonist Michael Harris II is the band director at Washington High School while trombonist Sarah Braun is a UMKC grad and a substitute with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra. From the trumpet section, Joe Sisco plays with the Fountain City Brass Band; Armando Gutierrez leads a mariachi band in Kansas City; and Daniel Dissmore is a recent graduate of Kansas State.

Mair also joins in on occasion. One of Kansas City’s top saxophone and clarinet players, Mair now performs with Tim Whitmer’s host band and with his son Jameson, who recently took first place as Downbeat magazine’s No. 1 middle school trumpet soloist in the nation.

McDonald’s donates 3,000 backpacks to Back-to-School Fair Aug. 3

McDonald’s restaurants are donating 3,000 backpacks to the Back-to-School Fair to be held Saturday, Aug. 3, at Kansas City Kansas Community College, 7250 State Ave.

The 20th annual Wyandotte County Back-to-School Fair will be held from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Aug. 3, at KCKCC’s main campus. Students who live in Wyandotte County and attend public or private schools may receive items such as backpacks and supplies for free at this event. There also will be immunizations, physical exams, eye exams, haircuts and the opportunity to get information from a variety of community organizations. The Kansas City, Kansas, Public Library will distribute books to children. Parents should bring proof of residence in Wyandotte County, such as a driver’s license or a utility bill, and children must be accompanied by their parents.

Cassandra Savage, owner-operator of the McDonald’s restaurants at 7530 State Ave. and at 4101 Kansas Ave. in Kansas City, Kansas, said this tradition of donating backpacks started last year. The Back-to-School Fair went without a backpack donor for some years previously before McDonald’s Great Plains Co-op stepped forward.

“We donated over 9,000 backpacks to Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, school districts this year, in total,” Savage said.

“As an owner-operator, we’ve always felt a sense of responsibility to our community,” Savage said. “McDonald’s has been one of those franchises that has always been involved.”

The restaurant also sponsors “Coffee With a Cop” and “Teacher Nights,” as well as other community events, she said.

“Every single one of our owner-operators, all franchisees, are dedicated to supporting the communities,” she said.

Savage said she recently went school supply shopping with her grandson and noticed how many items were on the list and their cost.

“The parents are very appreciative of the backpacks,” she said.

McDonald’s employs students from local high schools and from KCKCC, and works closely with high school counselors, she added.

For more information about the Back-to-School Fair, individuals may visit www.facebook.com/WyandotteCountyBackToSchoolFair.

Hinostroza exceeds all expectations in his return to KCKCC

Eric Hinostroza made the most of a second chance playing baseball at KCKCC. A team leader, he also led the Blue Devils in hitting with a .359 batting average and earning a scholarship to Washburn University. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC

While Eric Hinostroza’s first year at Kansas City Kansas Community College wasn’t anything he wanted to write home about, he couldn’t wait to get back

“School was not a priority,” admitted Hinostroza, who was a member of the Blue Devil baseball team during most of the 2013-2014 season. “I was able to balance baseball and partying but not academics.”

Eventually he would quit baseball, return to his home in Brandon, Florida, and enlist in the U.S. Army. Fast forward four years. Honorably discharged in 2018 after serving a four-year hitch in Fort Stewart, Georgia, and married with a son, Hinostroza returned to KCKCC.

“I left but I never left KCKCC; I was always a part of it,” he said today.

He returned the spring semester of 2018, a changed man re-taking classes in the spring and summer to regain his eligibility for the fall baseball season.

“My priorities changed drastically,” he said. “In the fall I had a daughter (Elicia) and family came first, then school. I made sure I was passing all my classes so it would set me up to continue my education after KCKCC. After practice I would go straight home. I spent the whole summer and fall working out. In the fall, I stayed after class. I was on the GI Bill and if I failed a class, I was going to have to pay it back. I was not going to fail.”

He did not, compiling a cumulative grade point average over three semesters of better than 3.0. He also excelled on the baseball field, leading the Blue Devils in hitting with a .359 batting average. Playing mostly first base but some left field, he committed just four errors in a 312 total chances for a gaudy .988 fielding percentage.

“I underestimated him both on and off the field,” KCKCC head baseball coach Matt Goldbeck said. “He called and asked to come back. I wasn’t sure but I couldn’t have asked for a better leader. Our players looked up to him and he helped set a higher standard for the team. On the field he had a great season, saving countless errors at first base for our infielders with picks and his footwork.”

Goldbeck was an assistant coach when Hinostroza first arrived.

“He was a good player for us then but young and immature, trying to figure things out,” he said. “He didn’t finish the season. I was a little unsure when he came back but I believe in second chances in the right circumstances. I felt like he had unfinished business here. I also admire those who serve their county and believed that even if he wasn’t able to play for us, he could help open his teammates’ eyes to the real world and let them know it’s a privilege to play the game and should not be taken for granted.”

An all-district player in high school, Hinostroza was recommended to the KCKCC coaching staff by his high school coach who at one time had roomed with then Blue Devil assistant coach Damian Stambersky. A starter in left field, he hit .289 but played in only 43 games in what turned into a bizarre 62-game season (39-23).

“Experiencing college was different,” he said. “I was pretty much being a cool guy; cool outside of baseball and partying. But it took away from my school work. I flunked two classes and had to take two winter classes and barely passed. I just played baseball; never really went to class. It affected my play on the field.”

He got what should have been a wake-up call in a doubleheader at Highland.

“A teacher dropped me from class and I missed the whole series,” he said. He returned to the lineup in time to help the Blue Devils sweep Cowley County only to be threatened with being withdrawn by a teacher who believed Hinostroza was not returning to class.

Finally, Hinostroza was put before a vote of his teammates.

“It was about me staying on the team or being kicked off because I became a liability to the team for not taking care of school,” he said. “They voted to keep me but I had trash duty for the rest of the semester. I finally stopped playing right before the regional tournament at Wichita. I wasn’t helping the team. I stopped going to baseball and class.”

Today, Hinostroza is getting ready to attend Washburn University in Topeka where his grades and play on the field have earned him a scholarship. He’ll major in forensic science with a minor in biology.

Meanwhile, his wife, the former Emily Welsh, is a couple of semesters away from earning a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Kansas. A former softball player at KCKCC, the couple has two children, son Manny, 3; and daughter Elicia, 1.

KCKCC’s season-ending loss to Barton County was both painful and emotional for Hinostroza.

“This is home; this is where I came back to. I got a second chance for sure, especially for what I went through that first year,” he said. “It was the worst of times. I did not want to see others go through what I went through. It all worked out way better than I expected. When I talked to coach (Goldbeck), his expectations were different than mine. He told me I exceeded what he expected.”

A headlong dive into third base typified Eric Hinostroza’s efforts this past season as a team leader. A 2014 dropout, Hinostroza returned after four years in the U.S. Army. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)