About Us

Kansas City is, perhaps, best known throughout the world for its unique contribution to music — jazz, which now has become respectable, adopted by symphonies, and taught in conservatories of music. It has taken many forms, but basically it remains the old robust music that reflects the Kansas City spirit.

The Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors, Inc., Incorporated as a 501(c)3 in 1984, was created as part of the Kansas City Jazz Commission by then mayor Richard L. Berkley, and is the city’s oldest nonprofit governed by an operating board of volunteers.

A majority of the proceeds from our fundraising efforts go directly to our Musician’s Assistance Fund (MAF) and the Tommy Ruskin Memorial Scholarship Fund, with a small portion going to help operate the all volunteer non-profit organization.

The MAF is maintained by KCJA to assist all musicians. It is a confidential resource for financial assistance in paying medical bills, housing/living expenses and funerals.

Executive Board Officers

Mark Edelman: President

MARK EDELMAN founded the Theater League, a not-for-profit performing arts organization, in 1976. Since then, the League has presented more than 4,000 performances of over 500 productions throughout the U.S. and Canada, including every major touring Broadway musical from A CHORUS LINE, ANNIE and CATS to MAMMA MIA, LES MISERABLES, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, DISNEY’S THE LION KING and WICKED. More than 40,000 season members and 350,000 patrons attended Theater League presentations each year, making the organization one of the oldest and largest touring Broadway presenters in the nation.

 

Theater League presented annual Broadway musical theater series in eleven communities around the country. An integral part of each of each series was the organization’s Theater ROcKs (Reach Out to Kids) outreach program, which provided educational opportunities for young people. As part of that program, the League supports the Folly Children’s Series in Kansas City. Though the League is no longer involved in the Broadway series presentations, it continues to provide educational outreach in these communities, as well as direct grants to local theater companies from the Coterie and Mesner Puppet Theatre to the Unicorn, KC Actors Theatre and Spinning Tree Theatre, to name a few.

 

            Edelman created and serves as Executive Producer of 12th STREET JUMP, public radio’s weekly jazz, blues and comedy jam, which is heard on fort stations around the country including KCUR, Kansas City Public Media. He is a member of the board of directors of the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, MO. Edelman is a Life Member of the Broadway League and one of the 850 American theater professionals who vote for the Tony awards each year.

 

            A graduate of Washington University in St Louis (B.A. in performing arts, 1972), the University of Missouri-Kansas City (J.D., 1975) and the University of Kansas (Masters in Journalism/Integrated Marketing Communications, 2002), Edelman was a member of A. F. of M. Local 34-627 in his younger days. He studied jazz guitar with the late Don Wensel and  played in the Shawnee Mission East big band The Blue Knights with Doug Auwarter. Mark had the honor of playing bass at the 1968 Charlie Parker Festival at old Municipal Stadium, 23rd and Brooklyn, with KC jazz veterans Tony Swisher, Jack Lightfoot and Gary Cardile.

Stephan Mann: Vice-President
 

Stephan T Mann, retired Deputy Regional Director, U.S. Census Bureau in 2005 after 35 years of federal service. He trained, managed, coordinated, and supervised staff in Washington DC, the continental US plus Alaska and Hawaii in data collection procedures and operations.

A graduate from the University of Minnesota with BS in Business/Accounting. While attending the University of Minnesota , he served on the Student Board of Governors after becoming an export on Roberts Rule of Order and received a student leadership scholarship award.

While living in Kirkland Washington, he helped develop the by-laws for the Kingsgate Condo Association after the developer turned the voting rights over to the owners and served on its first Board of Directors. His carrier with the Census Bureau resulted in six relocations. A transfer to Upper Marlboro, MD (outside of DC) again resulted in a move to a new housing area that was establishing a Homeowner’s Association. Once again Stephan, was elected to serve on the new board of directors.

The Federal Government relocations helped strengthened his parliamentarian skills. His current residence in Shawnee, KS, Hillcrest Farms development, only had 25 completed homes when he moved in.  The salesperson found out he had experience with new Homeowners association. So shortly after moving in he was elected as treasurer for the new HOA. The development now has 335 homes and Stephan served on the HOA board for six years.

Stephan currently serves as a Trustee for the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas. He was re-elected for a second three-year term last October. In addition, he is the treasurer for St Luke’s Episcopal Church Endowment Fund. He helped develop policy guidelines and by-laws in 2011 working with the National Episcopal Church, New York.

Stephan is a member of the Jazz Friends, founded in 2000 to encourage the creative artistry and talent of UMKC Conservatory students and faculty, heighten the eminence of the Conservatory’s Jazz Studies Program and celebrate the legacy of Kansas City jazz. He has been a Jazz Ambassadors member in good standing for more than six years. In addition, he has been a Folly Jazz theater season ticket holder and supporter for more than eight years.

He married Terrell Ellene Nash 44 years ago and has one son and two granddaughters. Stephan enjoys golf and serves as a volunteer at Shawnee Community Center one Saturday a month.

Email Stephan at: stephan@kcjazzambassadors.org

Leslie Maclean: Treasurer

Leslie Maclean, pianist, composer, vocalist and teacher, has been a professional musician since the age of 13. While in college, Leslie worked extensively with free jazz proponent Muhul Richard Abrams. Her imaginative and artistic performance at the Midwest Intercollegiate Jazz Festival won her the esteemed American Music Foundation Award, granted to the single outstanding instrumental soloist at the event. Leslie was deemed “the best” by judging panelist Marian McPartland, who presented the award.  

She opened for jazz legend Stan Kenton and has appeared at many top Chicago jazz clubs and on television and radio. Leslie has also performed with guitarist Mundell Lowe and drummer Roy Burns. She cites as one of her main influences the music of the Big Bands and enjoys bringing the ensemble-style articulations of the big band sound into her playing and her arrangements.  

Her piano style also owes much to her background in classical music and displays a satisfying depth of touch and sensitivity to the piano keyboard. Leslie’s original tunes reflect her wide-ranging musical interests and run the gamut from straight-ahead swing and well-crafted ballads to driving Latin rhythms and jazz fusion.  

Maclean earned a Master of Music in piano performance at the Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University.

Lynn Abrams: Director of Membership
 
David Basse: Director JAM Magazine

More than a well-known Kansas City jazz vocalist, David Basse has hosted The Jazz Scene on Kansas Public Radio since 2001. In 2010, he became a founding member of the weekly public radio show 12th Street Jump. His latest venture is his own syndicated radio show, Jazz with David Basse. 

 

For the past 25 years, David Basse has been at the forefront of the music scene in Kansas City, taking the torch from such legends as KC Jazz pioneers Charlie Parker, Count Basie and Jay McShann. HIs singing has been compared to Mel Torme, Jon Hendricks and Al Jarreau. Other reviewers have noted elements of Ray Charles and Dr. John in Basse's vocal stylings.

David and his band, The City Light Orchestra, appeared on “Wolf Trap and All That Jazz” and played at the 1997 Inaugural Gala for President Clinton. His rendition of “Strike When the Iron Is Hot” has been featured at Kansas City Chiefs home games.

David has won a Kansas Association of Broadcasters award and KPR’s jazz department won an award from JAZZWEEK for “Best Jazz Station - Small Market.”

Herschel McWilliams: Director of Digital & Social Media Strategy

 

Not only serving KCJA as Director of Digital and Social Media, as well as founder and creator or www.LiveJazzKC.com a, a local website showcasing daily live jazz in Kansas City. Herschel is also a working saxophonist in the Kansas City area, leading his own groups at several local venues and events while also managing his own jazz organizaiton at www.livejazzkc.com , Herschel is a life-long resident of the Kansas City area, born in Kansas City, KS. and eventually settling in Johnson County as a child. He currently resides in Shawnee with his wife Rebecca and their 4 children (Harrison, Benjamin, Vivian, and Christian). Herschel works as business consultant for a local software company with many years experience in automotive retail management and marketing. 

His earliest influence in jazz music was listening to albums of his parents, whom are both musicians (Weather Report, Return to Forever, and some big bands etc..) before joining his middle school jazz band. He credits his love for jazz to the incredible educators he encountered along the way such as Doug Talley, Kerry Strayer, Marlin Cooper, Chuck Jarrett and most of all Penny Snead (at Shawnee Mission North High School). Herschel looks forward to being involved with the growth of KCJA and progressing their agenda through increased awareness and building strategic relationships in the community.

Email Herschel at: hmcwilliams@kcjazzambassadors.org

Cheryl Anderson: Director at Large, Board of Directors

Staff Members

Rod McBride: JAM Magazine
 
Bob Clark: Membership
Suzanne Spencer: JAM Magazine Publisher
 
Darrell Hoffman: Membership

(c) Copyright Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors 2019