They really lucked out, I mused, those people behind the medallions.
Kansas City’s Charlie Parker Celebration included a few original, generally educational, events. A trolley touring Kansas City sites associated with Parker sold out. The 21-Sax Salute at Parker’s gravesite, a lapsed tradition recognizing his birthday, was revived and welcome. There was a Charlie Parker puppet show at the Gem Theater for kids. But mostly the Celebration threw a unifying theme over already scheduled jazz acts in clubs, restaurants and a shopping center, and declared them two weeks of performances honoring Charlie Parker.
The Celebration was officially sponsored by a new organization, KC Jazz ALIVE. But to its credit, and to the credit of CEO Greg Carroll, the American Jazz Museum threw its full weight and staff behind the effort. Don’t underestimate the value of having paid staff available to smartly and relentlessly promote. This was public relations-style marketing through social media including Facebook, through scheduling appearances on TV and radio talk shows, through preparing schedules and posters. This kind of promotion doesn’t require a huge budget. But it requires a tremendous commitment of time, and that’s a resource few volunteer organizations can muster.
You shake it by building bridges into multiple Kansas City communities. You shake it with a fundraising effort that brings in $120,000 in donations to fund general operations from individuals in Kansas City. You shake it by reaching out to the business community for sponsorships. You shake it by hiring people who know how to write grant proposals and build admiration in the foundation community. You shake it by replacing woeful promotional efforts with an expert in utilizing 21st century media. You shake it by not letting your admired successes – The Blue Room and The Gem – at all slip.
Then you put the full weight of those successes behind a 17 day promotional effort that is mostly branding a bunch of already scheduled shows, and you play a key role in making that Celebration an unexpected success.
The 1980s visions of what a jazz museum should be – I've posted the specifics before – will never be realized. But in 2014, I see the museum that was realized earning good will, increased respect, increased trust and increased prominence in Kansas City.
Heck, it doesn’t even get the blame for how sloppily those medallions were embedded in its sidewalk.
That’s on the medallion people.