Monday, August 11, 2014

Bird Promotion

The Business Journal beat me to it.

I was ready to fill a post with accolades for the promotional work being done to spread the word – both locally and nationally – on the seventeen day Kansas City Charlie Parker Celebration, organized by KC Jazz ALIVE. But last Friday’s online Social Media Matters column of the Kansas City Business Journal (here) did it first.

The article asks and answers: “What about the nonprofits? What about citywide events? It’s…important that these entities integrate social media and online communications into their larger strategies.”

The article then tells how the Charlie Parker Celebration is doing it: “[Organizers]…created a ‘Tactical Social Media Promo Kit’ for participating organizations and venues. The kit contains suggested scripts for social media posts and includes links to any rich content like videos, websites, ticketing, etc.

“A Facebook Event was created, along with custom event-specific pages found on the KC Jazz Alive and American Jazz Museum websites. The purpose is to educate Kansas Citians about Charlie Parker and his global influence on jazz, provide useful information on the event (Where can I go to hear live Jazz?), provide a link for ticket purchases, recognize valuable sponsors and generally drum up excitement and enthusiasm for the first-time event….”

Promotion done right on this celebration extends beyond social media. Graphic artists at Boulevard Brewing contributed a poster that established a cohesive graphic look encompassing specific colors, type fonts, and a posterized image of Charlie Parker. These elements have tied together web sites, emails, posters, schedule cards and all online and printed promotional materials, bestowing a unified image and voice - unified branding - on the individual shows.

That’s especially important for an event that mostly throws an umbrella over already-scheduled jazz performances and calls them a tribute to Bird. There’s nothing wrong with that approach. That was essentially the formula used to revive the Kansas City Jazz Festival in 1983 and 1984. Done right, it can draw attention and excite.

And the promotion extends beyond Kansas City. An article on Downbeat’s web site (here) by KC writer and jazz enthusiast Rick Hellman, extols this event to the world. So does an article on the web site of Jazz Times (here). Jazz fans worldwide know that Kansas City is (finally) celebrating our most culturally significant native son.


One of the celebration’s more intriguing events is Saturday’s Stories From The Vine – Charlie Parker Historical Tour and Musical Salute.

When bloggers visited in June, the Mutual Musicians Foundation hosted a fascinating tour of what were Kansas City’s Black neighborhoods during the era when jazz flourished here. Seeing the areas today with a guide who explained what once was there, brought a deeper understanding of the culture and of the limitations segregation imposed on a Kansas City’s black community. It’s context too often acknowledged only in passing.

I anticipate similar context when Chuck Haddix hosts a tour that, according to the promotional materials, “visits special sites in Kansas City that played a significant role in the life and development of Charlie Parker.” Afterward, Kent Rausch’s outstanding big band, Vine Street Rumble, performs.

The bus leaves at 1 p.m. this Saturday, August 16th, from the American Jazz Museum. The cost is $15.


But this celebration isn’t perfect. The most glaring omission among participants is a cornerstone of Kansas City jazz: The Mutual Musicians Foundation. They were scheduled to host a luncheon following August 30th’s 21 Sax Salute at Parker’s gravesite. I don’t know whether officials at the Foundation decided to pull out or whether celebration organizers chose to move the lunch.

The event spotlights, in most promotional materials, participant logos. They range from the American Jazz Museum to the Jazz Ambassadors to eight clubs and hotels to Zona Rosa to UMKC to Johnson County Community College. Notably not there: a logo for the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

That spotlights a division in today’s Kansas City jazz community which must be overcome.


Seventeen continuous days of jazz concerts and events. Kansas City, this umbrella celebration could not have happened not too long ago. Not too long ago, you couldn’t have found seventeen continuous days of jazz in Kansas City to toss an umbrella over. Today, that’s easy.

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