First Chair Fiddlers' founder, Rachel Gaither, leads a team of professional musicians and songwriters who teach students of all ages how to make beautiful music using pianos, guitars, violins, and the sound of their own voice. The team's collective résumé includes gigs playing in Celtic folk bands, opera performances across the country, and stints on New York City's singer-songwriter circuit. Under the team's guidance, kids and adults alike study the finer points of singing and playing various instruments, and later show off their newfound talents during summertime open-mic concerts, recitals, and impromptu 3 a.m. performances on their neighbors' front lawns. The teachers at First Chair Fiddlers also offer aspiring musicians advice on topics such as crafting a moving song or keeping a band together through lineup changes.
Communiversity developed out of the freethinking student movements in Berkeley, California in the '60s, when All Student Association President Steve Eimer campaigned on a platform of providing accessible education to the entire community. UMKC Communiversity carries on an honorable tradition of shared experience and ideas, offering nearly 1,000 nonacademic, noncredit, pandisciplinary classes each year, suggested and taught by volunteer experts. Courses on parenting, arts and crafts, martial arts, cooking, and social development are all represented on the everchanging course roster, which reverses traditional dynamics by making leaders of students and demanding that essays be written on the sides of pencils. Now helmed by program director and official jazz guitarist Rick Mareske, Communiversity is a part of the UMKC Office of Student Involvement, and remains ever committed to, in the words of Mark Twain, not letting school get in the way of education.
In 1988, potter Michael Smith invited a small group of peers to his home to share ideas and further explore the art of clay manipulation. After just a few meetings, the group quickly grew to include around 70 craftspeople, who started meeting at the Kansas City Art Institute instead of inside Smith's giant conch shell. These regular get-togethers laid the groundwork for the initial incarnation of KC Clay Guild, a place where artists could socialize, buy materials in bulk, and learn from one another.
Now, the volunteer-run co-op is even larger. It occupies its own facility and has vastly expanded the number of services it provides. Amidst the changes, KC Clay Guild has remained true to its initial goals, guided by a mission statement to support the clay community. Artists of all skill levels enroll in classes that cover an array of techniques, such as wheel throwing, hand building, and slip casting. Members take part in regular meetings, open-studio time, and monthly shows, and visiting artists stop by to lead workshops and repair their ceramic automobiles. The guild even offers a scholarship to high-school seniors and hosts birthday parties, team-building exercises, and family-fun nights for casual potters.
Spurred by a drive to instill children with a love for the arts and to build their self-esteem, professional actor Miles McMahon helms an array of educational programs at Theatre of the Imagination. He and his staff of local theater lovers build on more than 2,000 successful children's theatrical productions through creative summer camps, acting and performance classes, special workshops, and birthday parties for performers in prekindergarten through ninth grade. Miles writes a completely new work for each class and camp, using the script to immerse students in a cooperative, creative environment while freeing them from the pressures of lead roles, auditions, and autographer's elbow. Staff members can also conduct Movie Star Acting birthday parties, where they shoot a short film with the birthday child as the star.
The teaching staff of the Toon Shop, a former Kansas City fixture founded in 1948, now helms the newly inaugurated Village Music Academy. More than 40 independent instructors harness their combined 400 years of experience to immerse students of all levels in rock, classical, jazz, pop, and country techniques. 48 studio spaces—enough for each member of the Partridge Family to practice individually at once—nurture instruction in strings, woodwinds, and horns, and an auditorium showcases the results with appropriate reverence. The staff also helps prepare students for school band or orchestra. Sunny days might find an open-air audience gathered to watch the school's musicians performing in the plaza of the Prairie Village Shopping Center.
Emily of Creative Enterprises masters a range of art forms, from photography and graphic design to music and marketing. She specializes in photo sessions for weddings, couples, kids, and commercial ventures, imbuing each with crisp compositions through her fine art approach to photography. Through graphic design she can craft business cards, letterheads, and yard signs, and her marketing skills extend to maintaining company blogs and social media. Website designing, branding, and print marketing are also within her realm of expertise.