Kauffman Center’s free festival spotlights young artists

06/22/2014 4:54 PM

06/22/2014 9:43 PM

The Wells sisters could have been cooling off at a pool party on a sultry Sunday.

Instead, they had a mission to ride the glass elevator at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, looking for downtown landmarks such as the Liberty Memorial as they went. On the center’s south lawn, Riley Wells, 7, headed to an “instrument petting zoo” where she tried out a trombone as long as she is tall, while her sister, Carly, 10, managed to play “Hot Cross Buns” on an oboe just like she once did on a recorder.

Next on the agenda was watching their peers perform on one of three stages in front of hundreds of people.

The Kauffman Center has drawn more than 1 million people since it opened nearly three years ago. On Sunday, the center thanked the community for its “tremendous success” with a free public event for youth and families called the Future Stages Festival.

Paul Schofer, president and chief executive officer of the Kauffman Center, said the event also was an opportunity to put the spotlight on young artists in the community.

More than 130 performing arts organizations were nominated to perform at the festival, and 24 groups, with a total of more than 500 performers, were selected, including the Heart of America Youth Ballet in Lee’s Summit, the Global Rhythm Project of the Music/Arts Institute in Independence, the StoneLion Puppet Theatre, Voices of Change and the Lawrence Children’s Choir.

Drummer Jackson Huwe, 9, of Olathe pounded away on the outdoor stage as part of a performance by the students of the Rock School KC in Olathe.

“I just like playing in front of people. I want to be a drummer or basketball player,” he said.

The center’s resident companies — the Kansas City Ballet, the Kansas City Symphony and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City — also took part in the event.

Between seeing performances by their friends, Rachel Franklin and Alexx Graham, both 18 and of Overland Park, headed to the Lyric Opera’s booth. There they quizzed prop master Debbi Morgan on the best ways to create a bloody death scene for a play they are working on for the KC Fringe Festival. Morgan showed them different sponges they could use, and even a turkey baster and plastic sandwich bag that they could stuff with fake blood.

Morgan’s favorite prop? Some golf balls topped with glue to resemble caramel dripping down a bite of dessert.

The festival also offered interactive arts and crafts activities throughout the afternoon, including a kite-making activity by the Kansas City Kite Club and a design arts drawing project by the American Institute of Architects Kansas City.

Madison Rentor, 12, of Gladstone helped her 2-year-old brother, Mackley, make a towering green paper crown. But she was most excited about the 5 Star Jazz Band, giving it a thumbs up.

“It was awesome,” she said before running off to check out some youth summer music programs.

To reach Joyce Smith, call 816-234-4692 or send email to jsmith@kcstar.com.

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