In 1961, a number of daughters of members of the Women’s Philharmonic Association, associated with the Kansas City Philharmonic, then the professional symphony orchestra in Kansas City, desired an organization of their own. Hence, the Junior Women’s Philharmonic Association (JWPA) was born. Its major project during those first years of existence was the sale of season tickets for the orchestra. Members could be found sitting in the windows of The Jones Store Company in downtown Kansas City making phone calls to sell season tickets to the public.
In 1964, JWPA began a fund raising project that entailed ordering, storing, transporting and selling cheese crocks at outlets throughout the City. Over its 17-year period, this successful project realized a net profit of $180,000.
JWPA also participated in many service projects for the orchestra. There are still a few members who remember dressing like Raggedy Ann or Raggedy Andy and ushering at the Lollipop Concert for school children who were bused downtown from all over the City. These Lollipop Concerts have evolved into the Youth Concerts. The group provides docents to the classrooms prior to the concerts, ushers, and funds the concerts through proceeds from its Symphony Designers’ Showhouse project.
Other service projects included greeting and transporting guest artists and conductors to and from the airport; the sale of Symphony tickets to members; a Legislative Liaison; and participation in the annual giving and season ticket campaigns.
The Symphony Designers’ Showhouse project was started in 1969 with the first Showhouse opening its doors in 1970. This project’s phenomenal success can be attributed to the dedication, commitment and hard work of members of the organization.
In 1982, after several major strikes and a lack of corporate and community funding, the Kansas City Philharmonic closed its doors after its 49th year. This was a very discouraging time for us all.
Fortunately, symphonic orchestra in Kansas City was not to die. An extremely generous contribution from the late Mr. Crosby Kemper, the chairman of United Missouri Bank (now UMB Bank) provided the funding for a new orchestra to be formed, the Kansas City Symphony. Russell Patterson, the late General Director of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, became the orchestra’s first conductor, a new orchestra was hired under a new collective bargaining agreement, and the Symphony switched its performing venue from the Music Hall (utilized by the Philharmonic) to the Lyric Theatre in downtown Kansas City. The new organization was operated out of the offices of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, which handled all marketing, publicity, ticket selling and administrative functions for the orchestra. The new organization, newly incorporated in 1982, was called the Kansas City Symphony.
The organization’s finances were aided by a small endowment fund in the hands of the Philharmonic Foundation, which became the Symphony Foundation.
In 1982, at the founding of the Kansas City Symphony, a new support organization called the Friends of the Symphony was created. This group was one of the original contributors (of $100,000 or more) to the Symphony Foundation as part of a fundraising drive which saw the endowment increase to over $10 million. With this fund raising drive, the new Kansas City Symphony was placed on a solid financial footing. Within a few years, the former Philharmonic auxiliary organizations, including the JWPA, joined with the Friends of the Symphony as auxiliary organizations of the new orchestra.
At that time, the JWPA changed its name to the Junior Women’s Symphony Alliance (JWSA) to reflect its support of the new symphony. In addition to the Friends of the Symphony, the Symphony also enjoyed (and still enjoys) the support of additional auxiliary organizations, the Symphony Guild and the Symphony League. The Symphony Guild hosts a tour of homes in the Northland of Kansas City each fall and also sponsors a Cabaret Concert fundraising event in the spring. The Symphony League hosts the Symphony Ball each September. Another organization hosts the annual Jewel Ball, half of whose proceeds benefit the Kansas City Symphony. The leaders of these organizations are members of the Kansas City Symphony Auxiliary Council.
In 1986, William McGlaughlin was hired as the full-time conductor of the Kansas City Symphony, a major step, and he was succeeded in 1998 by Anne Manson, who in turn was succeeded in 2004 by Michael Stern, the current Music Director and conductor.
In 2009, KCSA adopted a new set of Bylaws which permitted membership by men for the first time. This paved the way for a merger, in July 2010, between KCSA and the Friends of the Symphony. The Friends of the Symphony’s focus had grown over the years to include the Symphony Shop, fashion shows, other fund raising events, and social events.
The merged organization, which continued the name Kansas City Symphony Alliance (KCSA), now hosts all of the events previously hosted by both constituent organizations, and boasts a broader range of membership and a larger volunteer pool to support all of these events.
The year 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of the Symphony Designers’ Showhouse project and KCSA was thrilled to celebrate its half century of supporting classical music in Kansas City with this great project. Also, the Symphony Shop in Brandmeyer Grand Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts has become a major fund raising effort of KCSA. In addition, last year KCSA added a third fund raising project to its repertoire, the KCSA Trips Program, which sponsors international trips. The inaugural international trip was to Vienna and Salzburg and the second trip was to Paris.
KCSA is now working on its 51st Symphony Designers Showhouse and is busy running its other fund raisers and activities for the 2019-20 year.
We invite you to join KCSA to have fun with us and to assist us in our activities to benefit the Kansas City Symphony!