Kansas City, MO. As the new Board of Directors of the American Jazz Museum shepherd the museum into its third decade, it has harnessed the thoughtful leadership of Ralph Caro as interim executive director. For many years, Caro served as the president and chief executive officer of Swope Parkway Health Center and the chief operating officer of Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center. In his interim role, he is leading improvements at the museum, giving the future executive director a solid foundation on which to build.
“Ralph Caro is the right leader at this important juncture for the American Jazz Museum,” said Board Chairman Eugene Agee. “This community asset is very important to Kansas Citians. Our Board carries the responsibility to protect and preserve the history and artifacts of Kansas City Jazz for all time. Ralph takes that responsibility very seriously. He is an action-based leader who has hit the ground running in determining the opportunities that exist for the museum, the Gem Theater and the Blue Room. I am confident we will earn the support of donors to help the museum reach and exceed its potential.”
“We have something very special with the American Jazz Museum,” said Caro. “The Board and I feel the gravity of our assignment as stewards, educators and preservationists of Kansas City Jazz. We have an unwavering commitment to the late jazz greats, to our surrounding neighborhood and to our current and future visitors. We plan to roll out interesting collections and programming that will attract and inspire audiences from near and far for many generations to come.”
The museum’s Board plans to enlist an executive search firm to launch a nationwide search for the museum’s new Executive Director.
Caro and his team are in the process of implementing the priority recommendations from a recent independent assessment of the museum. Caro’s first order of business was to oversee an audit to ensure the museum is on firm financial footing. Updates have also been made in the museum’s galleries to further elevate the guest experience.
“The City of Kansas City has been a great partner and sustainer for the museum,” said Caro. “Our ultimate goal is a model that is more self-sustaining. We are confident that donors and partners will recognize the importance of this community asset and will lock arms with us to make the American Jazz Museum an international destination and a great source of local pride.”
The American Jazz Museum was founded 20 years ago, in the same 18th and Vine District that gave rise during the 20s, 30s and 40s to the style of jazz music now internationally recognized as Kansas City Jazz. At one time, there were more than 100 nightclubs, dance halls and vaudeville houses in Kansas City featuring live jazz music. Legends like Count Basie, Andy Kirk, Joe Turner, Charlie Parker, Hot Lips Page and Jay McShann all performed regularly in Kansas City. The American Jazz Museum is planning a number of events to encourage Kansas Citians and tourists to “come back to the Vine” to relive the magic of those historic days.
Caro was excited to learn that a recent discovery unearthed some not-heard-before compilations from Jay McShann. The museum plans a listening party on May 20, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. in the Blue Room to celebrate the release of Jay McShann Live in Tokyo, more than a decade after the artist’s death. More details about the event can be found at www.americanjazzmuseum.org.
About the American Jazz Museum
The mission of the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City is to celebrate and exhibit the experience of jazz as an original American art form through performance, exhibition, education, and research at one of the country’s jazz crossroads – 18th & Vine. As the only museum in the world solely focused on the preservation, exhibition and advancement of jazz music, the American Jazz Museum is dedicated to public service and collaborative efforts to expand the influence, awareness and appreciation of jazz among the widest demographic of people across the Kansas City region, as well as among those based in various locations worldwide. For a complete list of upcoming events and performances, visit www.americanjazzmuseum.org.