I was flabbergasted when I read the 20th item of a survey conducted on behalf of The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
20. The following is a list of performers that potentially fit within the programming vision of the Kauffman Center. Please rate your interest in attending a performance by each performer: BB King, Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Demetri Martin, Ricky Gervais, Tracy Morgan, Bill Maher, Seu Jorge, The Peking Acrobats, Mumford & Sons, Ben Folds, The Flaming Lips, Norah Jones, Regina Spektor, Janelle Monae, FELA! On Broadway, Stomp, Pat MethenySave Seu Jorge, every musical act on the list has performed at a Kansas City-area venue at least once in the past 24 months. Crossroads, Liberty Hall, the Midland Theater, the Record Bar, Sandstone, Sprint Center and the Uptown Theater served as recent hosts to these artists. The Kauffman Center, it would seem, intends to compete with existing Kansas City music venues and promoters. That's not merely disappointing- it's predatory.
I had assumed, perhaps naively, that in addition to giving the Kansas City Symphony, the Lyric Opera and the Kansas City Ballet a stylish new home, the new spaces (Muriel Kauffman Theatre- 1,800 seats and Helzberg Hall- 1,600 seats) would fill an artistic void in our community. The official line sold me:
The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts will have a dramatic and transformative impact on Kansas City, changing both the city’s skyline as well as the experience of artists and audiences throughout our region.Unless he's accompanied by the Symphony, the only "transformative" element of catching a Willie Nelson concert at the Kauffman Center promises to be the price of my ticket. Partisans of the Kauffman Center will undoubtedly reference its superior acoustics. I'm sure the new rooms will sound magnificent, but near-perfect sound is often achieved at most of the venues listed above. (The Folly Theater is also wonderful.)
Rather than booking touring acts that regularly perform in Kansas City, I'd hoped that the Kauffman Center would attract important artists that might otherwise not visit our town. Here's a set of suggestions:
Laurie Anderson, Antony & the Johnsons, Jorge Ben, Ornette Coleman, Nick Cave, Brian Eno, Cesaria Evora, Jan Garbarek, Gilberto Gil, Egberto Gismonti, Philip Glass, Charlie Haden, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Daniel Lanois, the Last Poets, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Mariza, Brad Mehldau, Joni Mitchell, Yoko Ono, Arvo Part, Steve Reich, the Residents, Terry Riley, Sonny Rollins, Oumou Sangare, Maria Schneider, Jimmy Scott, Gil Scott-Heron, Patti Smith, Henry Threadgill, Tinariwen, Caetano Veloso, Kenny Wheeler, Marva Whitney and Cassandra WilsonI would like to think that high-minded supporters of classical music would appreciatively throw their financial backing behind most of these artists.
Am I reading too much into an innocuous blog post? I hope so.
(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)