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  • Writer's pictureJAM

New on the Vine

Updated: Jul 2, 2020

By David Basse

Born and raised in St. Louis, Rashida Phillips comes to the American Jazz Museum from the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. As their Deputy Director, and Senior Director of Community Ventures, Rashida brings to Kansas City expertise gained as a well-established director of community activities.

She understands that in community, knowing both place and placement, are essential ingredients to success. In the of growing of future programs at the American Jazz Museum, we can anticipate programs, exhibits and performance that draw the entire metropolitan area to celebrate the rich history of 18th and Vine.

Tourism, on hold for the moment, was on the up-swing in Kansas City, when Rashida arrived as the new Executive Director of the American Jazz Museum. Even with the current challenges, she has already made major progress in setting the stage for the future of Jazz, and the honoring of the legacy that is Kansas City Jazz.

We are cautiously ramping-up for the Charlie Parker Celebration. We are reopening Kansas City with a watchful eye. With a myriad of challenges and setbacks, every jazz organization has been doing their very best to simply keep programs on track. With this in mind, Rashida Phillips has been doing a wonderful job of leading the American Jazz Museum to its new level of prominence.

Her education has prepared her for the many directions that she will be asked to go as the museum’s new director. She is a musician herself, performing as a jazz vocalist, and well aware of the many challenges faced by the hundreds of musicians making their living by performing professionally in the Kansas City area. Rashida has explored interdisciplinary and original musical compositions, accented by traditional roots music and jazz standards. She has received an M.A. in Jazz History and Research from Rutgers University.

She wrote her thesis at Rutgers, on vocalist and actor Herb Jefferies. Jefferies recorded and toured with Duke Ellington and starred in several Black Hollywood movies. Rashida also spent time archiving the collection of pianist Mary Lou Williams at Rutgers, giving her a solid base in the history of one of Kansas City’s most important musical artists.

It is too early to tell what advances will be made by the American Jazz Museum in the coming years. What we’ve seen so far, from Rashida Phillips is a genuine interest in the well-being of the institution and a strong leadership style. We’ve seen a clear eye for quality and a willingness to work with those who are well established in the city. Rashida Phillips understands this place we call home. Now we can hopefully give her the chance to show us how proper placement can elevate our world-class musical heritage onto the international stage.

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