Kansas City has been enriched in many ways by the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance.
Almost every Kansas City classical music organization owes its existence either to faculty or former students of the conservatory. The city has also been blessed with countless lectures, programs and free student recitals, as well as the Conservatory Artist Series, which uses Kansas City’s superb performing arts venues.
The conservatory recently announced the 2015-16 series season, and it features performances that should appeal to a variety of tastes and interests.
Peter Witte, who has been dean of the conservatory since 2008, says that a lot of thought has been put into assembling the new season.
“The faculty get together and make some decisions about what groups they think would be right for which venues and then subsequently we decide what repertoire might be great for that particular venue,” he said.
“Since the opening of the Kauffman Center, we’ve enjoyed bringing our students into that wonderful hall as often as possible. When we joined the Folly (Theater) more recently, we’ve really enjoyed those performances as well. Each year we have a little bit more experience about what would make our students and faculty shine.”
Next season, the conservatory will be showing off its wind symphony, orchestra, choirs and dancers. And two programs will be devoted to its outstanding opera department.
Fenlon Lamb, who has previously directed operas for the conservatory in a guest capacity, recently was named director of the conservatory’s opera department. For her first season she’ll be directing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” and Benjamin Britten’s chamber opera “The Turn of the Screw.”
“We ran a national search and it was crystal clear that our students and our faculty thought Fenlon was terrific,” Witte said. “So we invited her to be full time with us.
“With her appointment and now that Vinson Cole is with us in a full-time capacity, we’re continuing our commitment to opera, which has been a historic strength for the conservatory.”
The conservatory is looking to the future with big plans for a new campus across the street from the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Although it’s not a done deal, the project is moving along.
The conservatory has been pledged a parcel of land between Broadway and Central and 17th and 18th streets, and Witte says that $38 million has also been pledged for the $96 million project.
After $48 million is pledged, the conservatory will work with legislators to request Missouri cover the rest of the costs.
Currently, the conservatory’s Volker campus is 54,000-square feet, which Witte calls “a fairly small footprint” for the school’s 570 students. The proposed downtown campus would have 95,000-square feet. Witte is hoping to break ground in the next three to four years.
“The UMKC Conservatory has been one of the treasures in Kansas City for more than a century,” he said. “We have many strengths, principally the talents of our students and our faculty.
“One of our challenges, though, is that our facility isn’t quite equal to the talents of those two groups. Once we’re able to move into a larger facility, especially one nestled right in the thriving arts district, it will be a transformational change for the conservatory.”
Until that day arrives, however, the music will go on. And based on the offerings of the conservatory’s coming season, that music will be most excellent, indeed.
For those who love the music of Mozart, the Summer Singers of Kansas City is presenting a don’t-miss concert.
“Mozart and His American Contemporaries” will feature not only Mozart’s Requiem, worth the price of admission itself, but also little-heard music by American composers who were writing their works at the same time as Mozart.
William Baker, the conductor and artistic director of the 130-voice Summer Singers, has a deep and abiding affection for American choral music. A native of Georgia, Baker grew up with Southern hymns and African-American spirituals, and these are often featured on his programs.
“I have always loved the music of Colonial America,” Baker said. “Most American composers of the time were avocational musicians — Daniel Read was a tavern owner, William Billings was a tanner, and Justin Morgan is more known for a breed of horses than for his music. Still, they carved a culture in the wilderness, just as they carved a living out of the frontier.”
The Summer Singers will be accompanied by musicians from the Kansas City Symphony for this intriguing and creative concert.
7 p.m. Saturday. Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral, 415 W. 13th St. $5-$20. Tickets available at the door or at www.FestivalSingers.org.
Patrick Neas is program director for RadioBach.com. To reach him, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conservatory Artist Series 2015-16 season
▪ Oct. 4: Conservatory Wind Symphony (Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts)
▪ Nov. 3: Arianna String Quartet (White Recital Hall, 4545 Cherry St.)
▪ Nov. 6: Crescendo: New Moon Rising (Helzberg Hall)
▪ Nov. 17-20: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” (White Recital Hall)
▪ Feb. 11, 2016: Conservatory Orchestra (White Recital Hall)
▪ March 22-25: Benjamin Britten’s “The Turn of the Screw” (White Recital Hall)
▪ April 21-23: Spring Dance Concert (Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St.)
▪ April 26: UMKC Jazz Night (Folly Theater)
▪ May 5: Finale: Conservatory Orchestra and Conservatory Choirs (Helzberg Hall)