Festival combines music, art and family fun for a celebration of jazz in Lee’s Summit

A uniquely American style of music will be celebrated in Lee’s Summit when jazz lovers gather for a full day of live music, visual arts and food. The Jazz Festival — scheduled from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Bridge Space in downtown Lee’s Summit — will include eight live acts, artist booths and food trucks.

Ben Rao, who helped launch the new event, said the Jazz Festival will bring a new level of entertainment to eastern Jackson County, while raising money for three deserving nonprofits.

“I’m not a musician but I’m a music lover and I like organizing events. I have always thought that the epic New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival was amazing,” said Rao, Family Shepherd founder, Bridge Space president and co-founder of the Lee’s Summit Jazz Orchestra.

The Alzheimer’s Association of Kansas City, the Lee’s Summit Jazz Orchestra and Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street will benefit from the event. Rao is a board member for the Alzheimer’s Association.

Some of the proceeds of the event will go to My Longest Day efforts, Rao said.

The fundraising effort by the Alzheimer’s Association “includes somebody’s passion or something they are interested in, from a cul-de-sac barbecue bringing families together to raise a few hundred dollars, to doing larger organized events to raise thousands of dollars.”

Rao added that he has been involved in Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street for 18 years and appreciates the organization’s work within the community. The Lee’s Summit Jazz Orchestra, a featured act at the Jazz Festival, formed several years ago and was organized by Rao and a group of musicians.

“It’s another effort for us to bring music to the community as well as encourage younger musicians to take an interest in jazz,” he said.

Jazz acts scheduled throughout the day include Lee’s Summit students at noon, Kansas City Area Youth Jazz at 12:50 p.m., Eboni Fondren at 1:55 p.m., Amber Underwood at 3 p.m., Sons of Brasil at 4:05 p.m., Christopher Burnett at 5:10 p.m., Lee’s Summit Jazz Orchestra at 6:15 p.m. and the Back Alley Brass Band at 7:30 p.m.

The Jazz Festival partnered with Summit Art, giving artists the opportunity to apply for space at around 15 booths. Artists selected through the application process will be selling their original artwork throughout the day.

Tickets for the all-day event are $15 for adults and $5 for children. Go here for more information on tickets. Attendees will purchase wristbands that will allow them to come and go throughout the day.

The festival will take place outdoors in the rear parking area of Bridge Space, a facility that was once the Lee’s Summit Post Office. The historic building has been converted into shared work and office space for local businesses.

This Jazz Festival, the first the city has held, is made possible through the work of volunteers. The event is sponsored by a number of organizations, including Meyer Music, the event’s presenting sponsor. Other major sponsors are Family Shepherd, The Rob Ellerman Team, Bridge Space, Lee’s Summit Cultural Arts and the HMP Beaudoin Family Foundation.

“It’s going to be a great day, rain or shine,” Rao said, adding that people are encouraged to bring blankets and lawn chairs.