KCKCC Jazz Band continues to raise funds for Cuba trip

With a little more than three months to go before the Kansas City Kansas Community College Jazz Band hits the road to Cuba, fundraising has stepped into overdrive.

“Travelling to Cuba is a first for many,” said Jim Mair, professor of music and director of instrumental studies at KCKCC. “Many of our students have never left the Midwest. Going to Cuba is a bonafide ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ for most. Plus it’s a great honor to be invited to the 30th annual Havana Jazz Festival. We may be the only college band performing in the festival.”

The KCKCC Jazz Band was invited to perform at the 2014 Havana International Jazz Festival in Havana, Cuba last fall. The festival is Dec. 17 to 22. The band was invited based on its long reputation as one of the premiere community college jazz ensembles in the nation.

The Havana International Jazz Festival started in 1978 when Bobby Carcasses and other Cuban jazz musicians had a concert at the Case de la Cultura de Plaza. The following year, Chucho Valdes, now the president of the festival’s organizing committee, gave another concert. Those yearly concerts morphed into the festival as it is known today.

In addition to attending the festival, the jazz band will have the opportunity to take a guided tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Havana Historical Centre; tour Cuba’s National Museum of Fine Arts; visit the Institute Superior de Arte, the country’s top art academy; explore Finca Vigia, where Ernest Hemingway lived for more than 20 years; enjoy tap dancing and live jazz music at Pena de Santa Amalia and learn about the Cuban culture. Any U.S. citizen is allowed to travel to the small country with the appropriate license.

Among the fundraisers planned include the Tea Dance and auction (tickets are currently on sale for the Sept. 14 event), performances at area churches, Jazz Club fundraisers and donations from those in the community. In addition, there will be a Kickstarter campaign that will start soon to raise donations for the trip.

“The students are working hard and are excited, but I am not sure they know what to expect,” Mair said. “We are preparing a ten tune set list focused on mostly music associated with Kansas City and the Kansas City sound.”

Individuals interested in helping the KCKCC Jazz Band raise the approximately $60,000 in travel expenses can donate through Kansas City Jazz Alliance at www.kansascityjazz.org. Donations are tax deductible and 100 percent of the donation will go toward helping students travelling to Cuba.

For more information on the KCKCC Jazz Band’s invitation to the 2014 Havana International Jazz Festival and on the group’s fundraising efforts, contact Jim Mair at jmair@kckcc.edu or call 913-288-7149.

– Story from Kansas City Kansas Community College

South Patrol police station advances

In the end, the prospect of leaving money on the table was too great for the Unified Government Economic Development Committee to pass up.

Some UG commissioners advocated waiting until the Nov. 1 strategic planning session to discuss the project as part of the question of what improvements need to be made to public safety facilities throughout the city.

However, the final consensus of the committee today was to move the police station project forward by issuing a request for action and notice of need, and bring it back to the Sept. 29 meeting. Several residents attended the meeting to support the project.

The South Patrol station would be built on the former Structural Steel site near 24th and Metropolitan Avenue in the Argentine area of Kansas City, Kan. Near it is a new Walmart Neighborhood Market that is scheduled to open later this week.

During the discussion of the project, UG Administrator Doug Bach said the construction timeline could be next spring through summer, after the project is approved by the full commission. Some of the financing details would be worked out as the project moves forward. Bonds would not be issued until next year.

On Aug. 14, the UG commissioners heard that the state had withdrawn from the proposal to locate the parole office from the state Department of Corrections at the public safety building in Argentine. The public works committee decided to move the project forward and look at a new funding formula for the project.

The state Department of Commerce, however, will still give a $400,000 grant to this project. Commissioner Ann Murguia said she met with the governor, who then met with the Commerce Department, to get the grant for the project.

Mike Tobin of the UG Public Works Department said that the estimated cost of the South Patrol police station, a 10,000-square-foot building, would be $2.25 million, or $225 per square foot. The size of the building has been reduced from the original proposal.

He also presented figures that showed the cost of a new tactical unit facility, at a site to be determined, would be $743,000, or $225 per square foot. It would be a 3,300 square-foot structure.

UG officials said there is about a $700,000 funding gap for the police station project, about $100,000 a year for seven years.

Currently, the South Patrol station and tactical unit are located in an old house and barn in the Argentine area, away from shopping district traffic.

UG staff and Interim Police Chief Ellen Hanson did not recommend that the tactical unit be located with the South Patrol station at the Structural Steel site, because of its location in a shopping area.

One of the important elements for the tactical unit is to show up somewhere and have an unanticipated arrival, Chief Hanson said. With a strip mall, “the element of surprise is compromised,” she said. Usually, there are too many people in a shopping area who would see the tactical unit leaving, some who might take a cell phone picture and post it on social media.

Commissioner Murguia, who originated this project, said she was concerned, but not negative, that the original $6 million project now has been reduced to $2 million. “I don’t want to do something halfway,” she said. But if officers in the field supported the changes to the plans for the station, she would be in favor of it, she said.

She told the other commissioners that she had toured the current Argentine police and tactical facilities and there were many needs, including restroom needs, electrical needs, no shower, no space for police dogs, and not enough temperature control.

Murguia talked about the advantage of locating the police station next to the Walmart in order to increase safety for that development and the people who go there.

In answer to a comment from Commissioner Gayle Townsend, Chief Hanson said about the need for the police station, “If you haven’t been to the South Patrol, please go by there.” If the building had been without asbestos, in good repair and adequate, this proposal would never have moved forward, Chief Hanson said. To her, this is about a safe and adequate work place for the people who work there, she said.

After a discussion, the committee decided to move the South Patrol part of the project forward, while placing the tactical unit needs into more of a regular budget discussion, to be discussed in the strategic planning session Nov. 1 with other projects.

Commissioner Brian McKiernan, although saying he wanted an overall strategic look at all public safety building needs, also said that he didn’t want to leave money on the table. He was referring to the Commerce Department’s $400,000 grant, and also to the tax increment financing for the project that he said would together be an opportunity to take one dollar and turn it into three dollars over time.

Piper native entertains millions in Ringling Brothers circus

Dean Kelley, a Piper High School graduate, will perform with the Ringling Brothers circus this week in Kansas City, Mo. (Photo courtesy of Ringling Brothers)
Dean Kelley, a Piper High School graduate, will perform with the Ringling Brothers circus this week in Kansas City, Mo. (Photo courtesy of Ringling Brothers)

by Mary Rupert

Eric Stonestreet isn’t the only famous entertainer from Piper who makes people laugh. Dean Kelley, a Piper graduate, entertains millions of people as a clown for the Ringling Brothers circus.

Kelley will entertain the home crowd Sept. 10-14 as the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey “Built to Amaze” Circus comes to the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

People would sometimes ask Kelley about Eric Stonestreet, a comic actor from Piper now on “Modern Family” television series, who also did some clown acts.

Kelley, 34, said the two are both graduates of Piper High School, but in different eras.

Being a clown on the weekends in high school, Kelley also did theater and was in the band at Piper, he recalled in a recent interview. He was a drum major in the marching band, and played in the jazz band as well.

“My passion and my focus on my free time when I wasn’t doing school things was clowning,” he said.

“Once I got out of high school and went to college, I did professional theater in the Kansas City area,” Kelley said. He worked at the New Theater, Coterie Theater, and Theater for Young America, and that’s how he got a lot of performing experience, he added.

A graduate of Piper Elementary, Piper Middle School and Piper High School, Kelley attended KCKCC before joining the circus.

Most of his family lives in the Tonganoxie area now, and he was able to visit them just last month while traveling from one city to the next. He expects to see them again while he’s performing this week.

“I’ve traveled to 48 of the 50 states because of Ringling Brothers,” he said. “It’s been an amazing opportunity and wonderful career. I’m loving every minute of it.”

What does he like most about being a clown? Kelley said he likes the fact that he could do something that he loves to do, and not everyone can say that.

“One of the coolest things about being a clown, being in Ringling, is I get to perform for millions of people every year. To make people laugh all over the country, it’s amazing,” Kelley said.

While on the job, Kelley says he’s a magnification of himself, “very big and boisterous, making sure people want to have a good time.”

It is much harder to be a clown than people think, he acknowledges.

“I like to say it’s the hardest work you will ever love,” he said. “A lot of people think you can just throw on makeup, baggy clothes, and poof, you’re a clown. Makeup and costumes are part of it, but there is so much more to it.”

There are skills such as juggling, stilt walking, how to ride a unicycle. Routines performed by clowns are choreographed with clowns spending hours and hours on it before a routine even gets to the audience, he said.

This is Kelley’s ninth year with Ringling Brothers, and he’s been a clown for about 20 years now. He hasn’t missed attending a circus since he was 4 years old.

While in the Kansas City area, Kelley was a member of the International Clown Alley No. 92, and was vice president of the organization at one point. It is an organization that will help those who aspire to being a clown.

“A lot of people have dreams as kids, but I stuck with it,” Kelley said. “I literally ran away and joined the circus. It’s been an amazing career. If you set a goal for yourself, you can attain it. I’m living proof.”

Dean Kelley, a Piper High School graduate, will perform with the Ringling Brothers circus this week in Kansas City, Mo. (Photo courtesy of Ringling Brothers)
Dean Kelley, a Piper High School graduate, will perform with the Ringling Brothers circus this week in Kansas City, Mo. (Photo courtesy of Ringling Brothers)

Dean Kelley (Photo courtesy of Ringling Brothers)
Dean Kelley (Photo courtesy of Ringling Brothers)

Dean Kelley, a Piper High School graduate, will perform with the Ringling Brothers circus this week in Kansas City, Mo. (Photo courtesy of Ringling Brothers)
Dean Kelley, a Piper High School graduate, will perform with the Ringling Brothers circus this week in Kansas City, Mo. (Photo courtesy of Ringling Brothers)