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Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts invites youthful talent to its stages

The members and sponsors of Ottawa Suzuki Strings pose in the Kauffman Lobby in front of the south view
The members and sponsors of Ottawa Suzuki Strings pose in the Kauffman Lobby in front of the south view
Floyd E. Gingrich

Sunday, June 22, 2014 was a big day for 450 or so performers, their families and friends, and those who wanted to see the inside of that graceful behemoth on the south side of downtown Kansas City. For Future Stages Festival, the Muriel Kauffman Theatre, Helzberg Hall and a temporary stage set up on the south side of the panoramic lobby were kept busy from noon to 5:00 PM by groups in thirty minute segments from all over the region.

KCK's Voices of Change Young Men's Chorus in Helzberg Hall
KCK's Voices of Change Young Men's Chorus in Helzberg Hall
Floyd E. Gingrich

The schedulers of the Kauffman Center have developed an aggressive schedule; in addition to the three resident ensembles: the Kansas City Symphony, the Kansas City Lyric Opera, and the Kansas City Ballet, the center has been open to local chorales, orchestras, church-sponsored events, traveling productions, organ concerts on the Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ, and one night stops by artist such as Tony Bennett, and John Legend: The All Of Me Tour, and the National Geographic series. Integrating community groups and events is an important part of creating a comfortable place for local residents, and not just a palace for the rich and famous. This event was advertised as free; open to all ages, and all ages were there. From the numbers of people taking selfies and posing for family pictures, it seemed obvious that many were in the facility for the first time. Hooray!

The atmosphere was set with food stands, a big outdoor stage and oversized kites greeting patrons on the approach to Kauffman's south side. Participants included (greatly abbreviated) Starlight youth, puppets, Irish dancers, youthful ballet, a jazz big band, dance ensembles, youth string orchestras and youth choirs. The overall quality level was surprisingly good.

The biggest value of the day is the empowering claim of 450 performers, "I've performed there." Not that the parents, grandparents, and neighbors of those youthful artists would miss an opportunity to humbly allude to last Sunday afternoon.

The Future Stages Festival was sponsored by dozens of community-minded business and individuals.