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Joyce DiDonato’s home town gets $20m for an arts campus

The celebrated mezzo is a Kansas City girl and still calls it home. I only ever visited once, but I loved every minute of it and was blown away by the calibre of its faculty and the intensity of music teaching at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance.

Yesterday, the Conservatory received a $20 million challenge gift from Julia Irene Kauffman, a former pianist student, to build a downtown arts centre. Way to go… but I can’t wait to see Joyce cutting the ribbon.

julia irene kauffmanjoyce

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  1. That is some philanthropy!

  2. James Brinton says:

    And don’t overlook the new Kaufman Center for the performing arts, privately funded to the tune of more than $400 million. Helzberg Hall is one of the best halls in the USA–great acoustic and an organ to die for. Finally the KC Symphony, Ballet, and Lyric Opera have world class performance space.
    And to think, when I grew up there, almost the only music on the radio was country.
    NB: KC is still home to some of the best steaks in the world, bar none, so you can have your music and eat well too.

  3. I think this post needs to be a bit more clear. As noted by James Brinton above, the news is of the a new downtown arts center campus for UMKC and the Conservatory, and not just one in general. Kaufman has already given so much to build the beautiful Kaufman Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in the last two years.

  4. THANK YOU for the shout-out! Indeed what is happening in Kansas City is an incredible story right now. The Symphony is thriving, the opera – where I’ll happily return to as Romeo this fall – is growing by leaps and bounds, and the new Kaufmann Center for the Performing Arts has captured the hearts of the city. Taxi drivers there now speak about “Our new concert hall” instead of the Chiefs’ chances at the playoffs! It truly has revolutionized my hometown and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. Bringing the campus of UMKC to join it will make it a mini “Lincoln Center” and give a heartbeat to the now revived downtown. It has been a THRILLING thing to witness, and firm fodder for my fight that the arts CAN thrive with great leadership and commitment from the community. So proud of my hometown, and so grateful for the plug from you!! CHEERS!!

    • So much to be proud of there! See you soon, I hope…

    • OK that seals the deal – got to go to the KC opera this fall! While I am at it, I will visit the museums, the memorials, and eat lots of barbeque!

      And Joyce, thank you SO MUCH for advocating for your hometown arts and for arts worldwide and being so generous in sharing your time and your enthusiasm and your knowledge. I learned SO MUCH from your blog when you were writing huge entries, and for an opera newbie it made a huge difference. You seriously ROCK!

  5. We used to say that we didn’t want the Twin Cities to become a “cold Omaha”. Well, Omaha is HOT. And Kansas City – whew! Where has this advocacy gone????

  6. James Brinton says:

    There’s something different about Kansas City, something that other US cities seem to lack, a quiet, determined, dependable respect for the arts.
    While orchestras in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Honolulu, Indianapolis, Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and San Francisco have been problem plagued, Kansas City has been strengthening an already solid foundation for music, the arts, and urban beauty.
    Kansas City’s star is rising while those of many US cities decline.
    Part of it is tradition; it used to be said that KC had more boulevards than Paris, and more Fountains than Rome, and if that was an exaggeration, it was a small one. It’s still known as the City of Fountains, due to the work begun by J. C. Nichols.
    Meanwhile, the Nelson-Atkins Museum has some of the best collections in the nation, though it curates them with little fanfare. The museum’s architecture alone would do credit to a European capital.
    KC also gave us Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and a bpat-load of other jazz greats, and just might be the piano-bar capital of the world.
    Much of KC’s current cultural support comes through the ongoing generosity of families like the Kauffmans, the Helzbergs, and others, but I have a sense that Joyce’s continuing pride in, and public identification with the city, and her personal advocacy have much to do with the vigor of the Kansas City arts scene.

  7. Brava to Joyce for the inspiring artistry and to Ms. Kaufmann for her continued generosity to the Arts in KC.


    • Marguerite Foxon says:

      I second that. I heard Joyce there last year and was blown away by the Kauffman Center. Architecture is fabulous and aspects reminded me of the Sydney Opera house. Acoustics are superb.

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