The building blocks for a successful musical career were laid in Great Bend, according to Linda Richter Brady with Kansas City Youth Jazz. Brady will return to her hometown this weekend for the 17th Great Bend Jazz Festival.
The festival will feature the KCYJ’s Reno Band, the Friends University Jazz Ensemble and the FU Vocal Jazz Ensemble. It all takes place at 7:30 p.m. at the Crest Theater, 1905 Lakin Ave. Tickets are $10 at the door for adults, $5 for students. Doors open at 7 p.m., and while people are being seated from 7-7:30, KCYJ’s "11:30 Combo" will perform.
"I am a product of Great Bend public schools," Brady said. "Joe Boley was my band director. It’s fun to see he’s still working with kids and music."
Boley and Robert Feldt from the Great Bend Noon Kiwanis help organize the Jazz Festival, and the Kiwanis sponsors the annual event.
Brady also went to high school with Marc Webster, who now directs the Larned High School band, and Webster’s father, JB Webster, was her band director when Brady attended Barton Community College.
"I was also in the Argonne Rebels (Drum and Bugle Corps) for seven years," she said. "That was life changing for me. That’s where I really learned what the power of music education could do."
Members of the Argonne Rebels started working in March or April, practicing every day leading up to one show in August. They would march for three hours and rehearse their music for two hours. The hard work paid off; Brady was in the corps when it won a national championship in 1971.
"That was really influential for me," she said. "The whole city was behind the program." Today, thanks to social networking on the Internet, drum corps members are still connected.
Ten years ago, Brady and her husband Leon Brady started the nonprofit Kansas City Youth Jazz program. Their goals were to pass a love of jazz on to young people and to supplement the school music programs. Students in grades 5-12 in the metropolitan Kansas City area attend KCYJ classes and often get to rehearse with professional musicians. There are several groups, named after legendary KC jazz nightclubs. The 21-piece Reno band is their premiere band. The 11:30 Combo takes its name from the time its members meet to rehearse.
While Brady is excited to bring her band to Great Bend, she said the students are also excited. They’ll arrive on Friday and plan to visit the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo prior to the Jazz Festival. "I haven’t seen the Crest Theater since it’s been redone, and I can’t wait," Brady added.
With the Reno Band and the KCYZ’s 11:30 Combo, as well as the groups from Friends University, there will be a variety of jazz styles represented during the 45-minute sets on Saturday, Boley said. So, while live jazz music may be a new venture for some people, "there’s something there that will fit everybody."