farewell reflections on 15 years in kansas city

I wrote a retrospective of my time in Kansas City for my last issue (June 29, 2016) with KCMetropolis.org, for which I’ve been a writer and editor since 2010. I will always hold Kansas City and my dear friends there close in my heart!


_mg_9277_595 - CopyAs I look back on the countless performances and events I’ve attended in Kansas City as a KCMetropolis.org writer over the past six-and-a-half years, I’m a bit in awe at how fortunate I’ve been to see the distinguished Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson, Buddy Guy, Aaron Neville, Bobby McFerrin, Regina Carter, Dr. John, and more. I discovered a new favorite in Danú, experienced a breathtakingly moving Jordi Savall performance, and witnessed intimate recitals by Yo-Yo Ma, Gil Shaham, Ana Vidović, Joshua Bell, Audra McDonald, and the Takács, Harlem, Jasper, Chiara, and Artemis Quartets, among others. I’ve had the chance to see inspiring symphony orchestras, notable world music bands Los Lobos and The Chieftains, and jazz icons Ellis and Wynton Marsalis, Christian McBride, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Arturo Sandoval, and Esperanza Spalding, to name a few. The quality that our local arts organizations present is truly astonishing. But beyond being a critical observer of this unbelievable roster and many excellent local acts for KCM, more than anything, I’m humbled and honored to have been a part of the Kansas City music scene as a bassist, composer, and advocate of the arts for fifteen years.

When I think about my time in Kansas City, my mind automatically goes back to when I was a college student at the UMKC Conservatory. I remember the endless hours spent in the PAC practice rooms, learning my parts for the Conservatory Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra concerts (and enjoying “chair time” in the lobby). I remember playing Pärt’s Fratres and Stravinsky’s L’histoire du soldat with the Conservatory Wind Symphony after learning my grandfather had had a heart attack earlier that day up in Wisconsin. kristin mafb concert 6.27.16Tagging along on the Concert Jazz Band’s European tour in 2006. Powering through Andriessen’s Workers Union on bass with Musica Nova, the group I co-directed, during a random fire alarm in White Recital Hall. I remember meeting Nick Omiccioli, now my husband, when we were master’s students in the composition program. I remember him conducting my thesis during our last Musica Nova concert, and having profound feelings of elation, pride, and accomplishment as a composer. I knew I wasn’t ready to leave Kansas City after graduation. To keep up with playing bass, I joined the Kansas City Civic Orchestra. Our metro is lousy with community groups, and I had the pleasure to serve as principal bassist not only for Civic, but also for Heritage Philharmonic (the oldest such ensemble in the area, based in Independence) and Kinnor Philharmonic (the “youngest” at five seasons, based in Overland Park).

The local scene has really blossomed since I moved here in 2001, and I must admit it’s hard to leave the city at this moment in its artistic and cultural evolution, a moment in which many groups I love and friends of mine are flourishing. Fountain City Brass Band consistently takes home international prizes. Clint Ashlock has done an outstanding job at the helm of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra. Check out Mrs. Jones perform alongside her fellow immensely entertaining drag queens at Hamburger Mary’s. Pianists Jeremy Watson and Angie Fullerton Benson, usually in the role of musical director, make any theatre production they’re in exceptional beyond measure. Victor and Penny, fine purveyors of Prohibition Era-style jazz, always put on a great show, and Ensemble Ibérica has filled a global music niche that we were missing here in town. New music still has some growing to do, but Mnemosyne Quartet is doing its part with its rare instrumentation, live electronics, and performances in novel venues. If you have the chance to catch Narong Prangcharoen’s Phenomenon performed by Kansas City Symphony next June or Nick Omiccioli’s newly commissioned heavy metal guitar concerto with the Conservatory Wind Ensemble next spring, take it. And if one of Kansas City’s premier bassists Brian Wilson, Rick Willoughby, Jeff Harshbarger, or Johnny Hamil are involved—in anything—don’t miss it. Trust me.

kansas city loveMy final performance of my fifteen-year tenure in Kansas City was on Monday night while sitting in with the Mid America Freedom Band, led by my esteemed colleague and beloved friend Lee Hartman, in a benefit concert for the survivors of the Orlando massacre. We finished our set with the Arlen/Harburg classic “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz. It brought me full circle and was simply the most perfect last piece for me to play here, as I was obsessed with the film as a child. Although the concert was a response to a tragedy, I couldn’t have wished for a more appropriate way to conclude this chapter of my life, in the city where I musically “grew up,” than making music alongside my friends for an event that aptly illustrated the elements so prevalent in Kansas City’s music scene that I will always cherish—harmony, community, and a lot of heart.

Top photo by Richard Leaf; Middle photo by Andrew Schwartz; Bottom photo by Kristin Shafel Omiccioli
Reprinted with permission from KCMetropolis.org, © 2016 [Original article link]

 

a day in the life: 11 march 2016

A-Day-in-the-Life Trish at Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity is hosting her 2nd annual “A Day in the Life” series, where bloggers share a normal day outside of writing about books on their blogs. This is my Friday, March 11, 2016.

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First up, I had a normal workday. Here’s (one side) of my office—two screens means business, people! I keep it pretty colorful and busy on the walls, though. I have original art mixed with concert posters, painting poster-size prints, calendars, and a photo collage of family and my babies (niece and nephew) to get me through the day. Most of my job in the marketing department consists of making the printed programs for our music school’s recitals and concerts, and managing the social media. My office is adjacent to the large ensemble rehearsal room, so on Friday I would have heard conducting class, Wind Ensemble, Orchestra, and one of the jazz bands have class and rehearsal all day. It’s a normal soundtrack to my days. People seem to be split—either they don’t know how I get any work done with the constant action and “noise,” others think it’s super cool to hear live music all day long. It’s a little bit of both for me, but by and large I like the students being around and hearing rehearsals. I’m so used it that when I try to work at home I usually need to put on records or TV in the background!

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I had a couple of errands to run after work. First, I submitted my completed challenge form to the KC Library, which has an adult reading program at the beginning of each year: read five books between January and March. There’s always a theme with suggested books on that theme, but you can read any five books and it counts. If you complete the challenge, you get a piece of awesome glassware (coffee mugs and an old fashioned glass in the past). This year I got a beer stein! Pic on the left above is the book circle sculpture at the entrance to the Plaza Branch.

After the library I swung by our favorite local vinyl shop, Mills Record Company in Westport, to pick up a record that I had on order that came in (Galactic’s Into the Deep). Of course while I was there I picked up another couple of records… Esperanza Spalding’s new one and The Band’s The Band.
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After these errands, I went over to P. Ott’s, a dive bar on the Plaza, where my husband and our friends were already celebrating one of our friend’s passing his dissertation defense that afternoon. We’re not a picture-taking group really, but I remembered to snap this one pic of a poster on the wall of the bar on my way out.

I left the party early because I was assigned to review the Alicia Olatuja Quintet at the historic Folly Theater in downtown Kansas City on its Folly Jazz Series. I love the Folly, it’s one of my favorite Kansas City venues.

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Olatuja was fantastic—she has a beautiful voice and a way of blending genres that’s both memorable and accessible to fans of all styles of music. I spent the weekend after the show writing up my review for KCMetropolis.org, Kansas City’s online journal of the arts, for which I’m also executive editor. Heres the review: Olatuja transcends the Spotlight

After the concert, I went BACK to P. Ott’s to rejoin the party! Nick and I were there until… I’m not even sure. After midnight, I think. I didn’t even read anything all day. Pretty typical!

IMG_1073This happened the next day (Saturday, March 12), but I thought I’d sneak it in this post since it’s a normal thing in my life! Saturday night I played a gig with one of my orchestras, Heritage Philharmonic, out in Blue Springs. We played Vaughan Williams’s Five Variants of “Dives and Lazarus” and Holst’s St. Paul’s Suite for String Orchestra. (There was more on the concert, played by other sections of the orchestra.) This is a selfie I snapped backstage waiting to go on. Fun times!

set this world on fire

Slash (© mylittleheartmelodies), 10/16/15, Fillmore Auditorium, DenverNick and I celebrated our 5-year wedding anniversary on October 16. Concerts were a big part of our anniversary always, starting on our actual wedding DAY; after the courthouse ceremony and dinner with family and friends who were in town, I played a concert with Civic Orchestra. The second year… I played a concert with Civic! The third and fourth years we were apart—I was at a funeral one year and he was away at a composer residency the next (and I went to a Yo-Yo Ma concert in KC). So THIS year, for our fifth, we decided we needed to do something awesome, and seeing SLASH live in concert was absolutely the most perfect way to celebrate.

Nick got World on Fire last summer, Slash’s latest CD featuring his new band, Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. Nick was a composer fellow at a music festival for the month of July, and for some reason I just felt like giving this CD a spin. I fell in LOVE. Seriously just went crazy for it and could not stop listening. I had it in the car on repeat for weeks. I played it at least once a day in full at my desk during work. I watched all the YouTube videos I could find. It’d been a long time since I was so obsessed with an album—years. I couldn’t help look up Slash online and saw he was still touring World on Fire, but sadly he wasn’t coming through KC (of course we missed him at the Voodoo Lounge here in summer 2014! We didn’t know about the album then, though). The closest options were Louisville (midweek, not good), Minneapolis (weekend, but sold out and we had a conflict in KC anyway), and Denver… ON OUR ANNIVERSARY, Friday, October 16. We looked at our calendars and saw no conflicts, so we went for it.

That Friday night, we got to the Fillmore Auditorium at 5 pm and got in line. We were among the first people there—the doors didn’t open until more than two hours later. First things first, as soon as we got in there we bought matching tour shirts, then found a spot close to the stage. The opening band, Raven Eye, was decent but we were just so pumped for Slash we could barely hold onto our patience.

The Conspirators set was SO AMAZING. Again it’d been years since I’d been to a concert like this, getting as close as possible to the stage; this was a much-needed night of rocking out. The band played a lot of tracks off World on Fire, of course, but also mixed in songs from Apocalyptic LoveSlash, and several Guns N’ Roses tunes and even a Velvet Revolver tune, too. Here’s the set list:

1. You’re a Lie | 2. Nighttrain | 3. Avalon | 4. Standing in the Sun | 5. Back from Cali | 6. Wicked Stone | 7. Too Far Gone | 8. You Could Be Mine | 9. Doctor Alibi | 10. Welcome to the Jungle | 11. Beneath the Savage Sun | 12. Mr. Brownstone | 13. The Dissident | 14. Rocket Queen | 15. Bent to Fly | 16. Word on Fire | 17. Anastasia | 18. Sweet Child O’ Mine | 19. Slither (with Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love”) | Encore: Paradise City

One major thing I loved about this show was that Slash didn’t play everything just exactly as you hear on the albums. He would start off a solo with the familiar strains we all know, but soon would expand on those ideas in epic improvisations that I could have watched and listened to all night. It’s hard to put into words! He really let loose the most during a several minutes-long solo on “Rocket Queen,” which was just incredible.

Not only was Slash super awesome, the whole band was fun to watch as well. Myles Kennedy has just the right type of voice for this music—versatile, melodic, emotionally charged—and it’s clear that he and Slash have an indelible musical chemistry that I hope lasts for many more years. The other members of the Conspirators were equally cool. Bassist Todd Kerns stood out, though, singing lead on “Doctor Alibi” and “Welcome to the Jungle.” I really wish we had been able to catch one of his picks he tossed out to the crowd!

It was a night to remember—I was still buzzing about it for days after (still now, even!). I almost can’t believe I finally got to see Slash, a living guitar legend that, as a musician and guitar nerd, I’ve admired for years. It was such a thrill. And I couldn’t have imagined a better way to mark our fifth anniversary; there’s no one else I would have rather experienced it with than my rock star husband. 🙂

it’s monday! what are you reading?

WELL. How is it possibly the end of October already?? So much has happened and IS happening. This time of year is always busy. I have been reading a bunch, but hardly finishing anything. One thing I did finish that I’ve been working on the past month is this drawing, a gift for my husband for our 5-year anniversary on October 16:

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Not bad for my first drawing in like six years, eh? Just pencil and paper, nothing fancy. I think it took me about 30 hours. This is a portrait of Werner Herzog, an influential, esoteric filmmaker whose work we enjoy. Nick was at a composer residency the whole month of September, and he said he drew something for me, so I was inspired. It was a great way to pass the time while he was gone, very cathartic and fun to draw again. I realized I had never done a drawing for him, it was about time! I want to draw more!

Rehearsals have started in full, taking me out of the house a few nights a week after work. I’ve also had two family visits and a few concerts these recent weekends… either playing in them myself or ones I’m working for my “day job.” And LAST weekend, my husband and I went to Denver to celebrate our anniversary… with a SLASH concert. It was epic! I have forthcoming posts about the concert and trip planned for this week, stay tuned!

Watching…

ROYALS! It’s so exciting to see them back in the World Series again! Game 1 is tomorrow night herein KC. While I was working on that drawing, I “rewatched” (had on in the background) almost all of The Sopranos on DVD. Damn, that was a great show. Nick and I also recently saw The Martian in 3D at the cinema—better than the book, and the book was great! We’re also getting back into The Walking DeadAmerican Horror Story, and The Last Man on Earth. Happy to see Tandy’s beard is back this season! I have EverestSelma, and Black Mass (even though I didn’t finish the book yet) on my list.

Reading…

Speaking of Slash, I’m still reading his autobiography, Slash. About halfway through at the moment. It’s a bit of a chunkster! I’ve also dabbled a bit in Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot (I don’t kid myself that I’ll be anywhere near finished by the end of the #SalemAlong), and I have a copy of Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last from the library that I’m going to have to renew here soon since I’m only a few pages in so far. Nick and I also listened to the audiobook version of Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari during our Denver road trip.

Listening…

Still really enjoying our turntable. I have a bunch of classic rock records, and Nick is building a decent collection of all sorts of metal on vinyl. Stuff by Slash, of course, with his new band Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators (Apocalyptic LoveWord on Fire), his eponymous first solo album, and revisiting Guns N’ Roses albums like Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion.

This past weekend I dug out my copy of the Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and gave it a listen, after seeing that Friday (October 23) was the 20th anniversary of its original release. I still remembered all the lyrics! My dad took me to see them on this tour in October 1996, their stop at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. What a great show, great memories!

I wanted to jump in on this week’s It’s Monday, what are you reading? despite my not exactly reading (or rather, finishing) much lately. What are you reading this week?

manhattan transfer + take 6

KCMetropolis.orgI feel like it’s been a long time since I’ve posted a KCMetropolis review here. Summers are always slow (except for Fringe Festival, which I did cover and shared my complete list of coverage here), so I supposed this is my first solid review of the new season!

I had the pleasure of seeing two revered vocal groups at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts on last week: The Manhattan Transfer and Take 6. I’d only heard recordings and seen YouTube clips—they were fantastic live! There’s not much more to say about such well-known, respected singers. It was just a really energized, engaging, fun show; both groups did a bunch of memorable hits in really interesting arrangements. The Manhattan Transfer kept it classic with more vocalese jazz standards, and Take 6 went for more pop, gospel, and R&B. Seeing them together felt like a once-in-a-lifetime sort of event. I enjoyed it a lot, despite the monsoon I had to drive home in!

Read my full review on KCMetropolis.org:

my top picks 2014–15

KCMetropolis.orgIt’s that time again! I was worried I’d have trouble putting together my list, but it turns out despite having another kind of crap year personally, I did end up seeing some fantastic concerts. Here is my top picks list on KCMetropolis.org (in chronological order):

Rag Swing Bop! by Paul Mesner Puppets at the Gem Theater as part of the American Jazz Museum’s annual Charlie Parker Celebration. A great, fun way for young Kansas Citians to learn about important parts of our city’s history. (August 2014)

• Buddy Guy on the Performing Arts Series at Johnson County Community College. I loved seeing Buddy last fall as much as I loved seeing him live 15 years ago—he hasn’t lost his edge one bit! (September 2014)

• Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott on the Harriman-Jewell Series. I’d never seen Yo-Yo Ma play live before, and it was a thrilling experience. (October 2014)

San Francisco Symphony, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas,on the Harriman-Jewell Series. Its performance of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center was simply breathtaking. (November 2014)

• Hozier at Liberty Hall in Lawrence. I hadn’t been to a rock concert in a long time, and Hozier lived up to and exceeded my expectations. Click here for my blog post. (February 2015)

• The Book of Mormon, presented by Theater League/Broadway Across America, at the Music Hall. My husband and I were having a really bad week when we went to see this, but Mormon let us just enjoy a bit of raunchy, ridiculous humor for an evening and forget about our troubles. (February 2015)

• Jonathan Harvey’s String Trio and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies, performed by newEar Contemporary Chamber Ensemble. Harvey’s String Trio was exactly the kind of complex new music I love hearing, and Kenn Kumpf from Chicago was intense and mesmerizing as the insane George III in the rarely performed Eight Songs. (April 2015)

• Ensemble Ibérica on the Performing Arts Series at Johnson County Community College. Led by Beau Bledsoe, Ensemble Ibérica took its enraptured audience on a tour of Mexican regions through captivating, authentic traditional music. (May 2015)

• Musical sweethearts Victor and Penny performed a work-in-progress on Central Standard Theatre Kansas City‘s The Invasion series, but they are just so genuine and talented they captured my heart. I’m looking forward to seeking out more of their shows in the future. (July 2015)

• Emerging bluegrass duo The Matchsellers had a killer set on the Kansas City Fringe Festival, with a great mix of old standards and idiomatic new originals. I’m going to keep my eye out for these two around town as well (July 2015).

Read my list of top picks with more thoughts and direct links to individual reviews at KCMetropolis.org: Editor’s Picks 2014–15 season: Kristin