Q&A with Kelley Gant, Producer of Spine Showcases, Kansas City's newest jazz series

Q&A with Kelley Gant, Producer of Spine Showcases, Kansas City’s newest jazz series:

Spine Showcases is a monthly jazz performance series produced in partnership with the Charlotte Street Foundation. For more information about the series and upcoming performances, check www.facebook.com/spineshowcases or @spineshowcases on instagram. The series has lauched a Kickstarter with full schedule details at:



What is the Spine Showcases?

In plain terms, Spine Showcases is a series of performances that spotlights the music from local KC jazz composers.  Each showcase has two sets, each set featuring the work of one individual songwriter with their own ensemble.

How often are Spine Showcases?

In 2019, we are hosting one Spine Showcase per month, with the exclusion of November 2019, when we'll have two Showcases.


How did you get the job producing it?

I pitched the idea for the Showcases to the Charlotte Street Foundation during one of their open calls. They reviewed my application and awarded me the opportunity to hold the monthly series. It's not really a job, it's an award.


How much do you pay musicians?

Each musician is paid between $100 - $150, depending on the size of the ensemble. So far, the series has hired 37 musicians (a handful of musicians have played the series more than once), who have been paid a total of $5,700.00. In the upcoming second half of the series, another $5,350 is budgeted for musician wages. Total, local musicians will be earning $11,050.00.


How much money does the Charlotte Street Foundation pay you?

The Charlotte Street Foundation awarded me a $250 stipend per event, $3000 total for one year of the series.


Why don’t you charge a cover/ticket price?

The Charlotte Street Foundation preferred that I not charge a cover for this series.  Since it’s held in their location and they provide a stipend, I agreed.


What happens if the kickstarter isn’t funded?

I will hustle for charitable donations or sponsorships from local corporations. If that fails, I will pay for the series out of pocket, and move on a different (read: less expensive) version of the Spine Showcases. Performers in the second half of the series have agreed to hire smaller bands if the kickstarter fails, in order to keep costs down.


When do you sing?

I performed a set of improvised music during the April showcase with Aaron Osborne, using hand percussion, bass, vocals, whistling, and an array of effect pedals. Ian Corbett joined as a special guest. I performed a set of my original songs with Seth Lee (bass and guitar) and Ryan Lee (drums and keys) during the June showcase. If we’re able to raise enough funds, I may return for the live taping that we’ve scheduled on December 30th, when most of the participating ensembles will have a chance to tape one or two of their favorite songs from the 2019 showcase.


Are there opportunities for young/student players to play in the series?

If this series continues, there will be definitely be more opportunities!  The jazz departments at UMKC, KU, and KCKCC all have good programs with plenty of talented students. I hope that Spine Showcases can continue so we can see many of these talents grow and develop.


Do you require musicians to wear suits and ties?

No. The creative freedom this series allows includes wardrobe choices. Good question!


What surprised you most about the process of producing a series?

This has been a completely new experience.  I’m surprised at how much I enjoy creating the artwork to accompany this series, surprised at how long it takes me to write grant application materials, surprised at what kind of programs and projects actually win grant money, and surprised by how consistently pleased our audience has been, even though the music we’ve presented often is vastly different from set to set.


Why the Spine Showcases important to Kansas City?

Thank you for thinking Spine Showcases is important! Many local fans of jazz are frustrated that their best options to hear their favorite musicians are in noisy clubs and restaurants, and likewise, many of Kansas City’s musicians are frustrated with the lack of opportunities to play for an engaged audience. Kansas City needs more stages where we can play original music to an audience who is there to listen. I hope Spine will be one of many opportunities created for musicians, as we continue to drive demand within our community for more original work.