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  • Writer's pictureJAM

KCJA Scholarship Winners Keeping Jazz Alive

They couldn’t be more different. He’s an alto sax player from rural Hesston, KS and she’s a home- schooled jazz guitarist from nearby Oak Grove, MO. What do Isaiah Epp and Rylee Heck have in common? A passion for jazz that will take them from high school to college this Fall, thanks to grants from the Tommy Ruskin Scholarship Fund at the KC Jazz Ambassadors.

“My dad was around 17 when he started working the K.C. jazz scene,” explained KCJA board member Brian Ruskin. “He would be proud of such young, talented jazz musicians.”

Isaiah will be attending Ottawa University this Fall; Rylee starts the UMKC Conservatory Jazz program at the same time., where she’ll be studying with Danny Embrey. Both students received $1,000 grants to cover tuition costs and fees at their respective colleges.

The Tommy Ruskin Scholarship Fund awards grants for students at the high school and college level to worthy applicants. The application is available at the KCJA website Grant Deadline is May 1 each year; scholarship awards are made prior to the next academic year.

Ruskin, who grew up in a celebrated Kansas City jazz family and continues to perform to this day, knows how important an education of this type can be. “We wish Rylee and Isaiah the very best as they pursue their own musical paths,” he added.

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