Power People of Kansas City 2017
Super powers, dynamic duos and wonder women of KC
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Bobby Watson (Saxophonist, composer, arranger and UMKC Conservatory’s Director of Jazz Studies)
Considered one of the best alto saxophonists in the world, Watson is Kansas City’s jazz powerhouse. His illustrious career spans more than 40 years and includes more than 100 recorded compositions, an Emmy nomination and a stint as musical director of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Our recommendation? The Gates BBQ Suite, an ode to all things KC which Watson produced, composed, arranged, conducted and performed with the UMKC Conservatory Concert Jazz Orchestra in 2011.
Joyce DiDonato (Mezzo-soprano opera singer)
Proclaimed “perhaps the most potent female singer of her generation” by the New Yorker, DiDonato has entranced audiences around the world. The Grammy Award-winning singer has held residency at Carnegie Hall and has toured extensively in South America, Europe and Asia. Celebrate DiDonato’s first 10 years of recording with ReJoyce! The Best of Joyce DiDonato, which includes 31 tracks ranging from Baroque opera to The Sound of Music.
Hermon Mehari (Jazz trumpeter)
Hermon Mehari’s resume reads like a legend in the making: winner of the 2008 National Trumpet Competition, second place in the 2010 International Trumpet Guild competition, semifinalist in the 2014 Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition (only the biggest jazz competition in the world), winner of the 2015 Carmine Caruso International Trumpet Competition. Mehari, a 2010 graduate of UMKC’s Conservatory of Music and Dance, travels the world to participate in clinics and panels. His debut album as a leader, Bleu, debuted at No. 1 on iTunes’ jazz charts and features fellow jazz greats Aaron Parks (piano), Logan Richardson (alto saxophone), Peter Schlamb (vibraphone), Ryan J. Lee (drums) and Rick Rosato (bass).
Angelus Matthew Changho Roxas (Pianist)
At 16, most teenagers only hope to drive a car; Roxas already had four solo piano performances — the first of which was at age 13 — at Carnegie Hall under his belt. The Leawood native, now 18, has been taking piano lessons since he was just 3 years old, and he has consistently placed in the American Protégé International competition series. Roxas also sang in his church and school choirs at Rockhurst High School, and he is a gold medalist second-degree black belt in karate with the U.S. National Sport Karate Team. What can’t Roxas do?
Chen Yi (Left) and Zhou Long (Right)
Chen Yi and Zhou Long
One of classical music's great power couples, Chen Yi was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2006, while her husband, Zhou Long, won the Pulitzer in 2011. Both professors at UMKC, their works for various ensembles have been recorded by such venerable labels as Naxos and Albany Records.
Writing music that draws upon their Chinese heritage and Western influences comes easily to this couple. During their 34 years of marriage, their individual musical outputs have been diverse and prolific, but they’ve also composed a major orchestral work together.
In 2009, Dr. Chen and Dr. Zhou co-wrote Symphony ‘Humen 1839’, a musical depiction of events that were a prelude to the First Opium War between Great Britain and China from 1839 to 1842. It would later be recorded by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra with two of Zhou’s other orchestral pieces, The Rhyme of Taigu and The Enlightened, the latter of which was commissioned by the Kansas City Symphony in 2005.
The album was released in 2015 to widespread critical acclaim and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance.
Like her husband, Chen has also composed music for the Kansas City Symphony. Her piece Fountains of Kansas City made its world premiere in September 2011 alongside such heavy hitters as Stravinsky, Beethoven and Respighi on the program. Another nod to Kansas City can be found in her KC Capriccio for wind ensemble, inspired by a tune she heard a bagpiper play on the lawn at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Chen and Zhou embrace Chinese instrumentation such as the erhu, a “Chinese violin” with only two strings, and the pipa, commonly known as a Chinese lute. Their chamber music repertoire especially employs these traditional instruments strongly. But it’s an opera that won Zhou his Pulitzer Prize (Madame White Snake) and a piece for orchestra that made Chen a Pulitzer finalist (Si Ji – Four Seasons), solidifying their reputation as influential voices in the world of classical music while educating the best and brightest composition students at the UMKC Conservatory.