Crescendo 2020: An Event To Remember

Over $590,000 raised in this year’s fundraiser
Crescendo 2020

Dozens of UMKC Conservatory students and faculty made Crescendo 2020 an event to remember during this challenging year, and so far, the event has raised over $590,000 for student scholarships.

Due to COVID-19, Crescendo 2020 shifted from an in-person performance to a streamed event. The concert on Nov. 6 featured performances and interviews with inspiring students. Co-chairs were Amy Embry and Nicole Wang. Honorary co-chairs were Carrie and Casey McLiney.

“Since moving Crescendo to the Kauffman Center in 2012, we have raised over $3 million in scholarship funds,” said UMKC Conservatory Dean Diane Petrella.

As Crescendo has grown, organizers actively sought ways to expand the impact of this performance. Three years ago, the UMKC Conservatory hosted the first matinee performances of the Crescendo Concert, busing middle and high school students from all over the Kansas City area to the Kauffman Center.

“For many of these kids, this was the first time they’ve experienced a performance of this caliber,” Petrella said. “Last year, through grant and private funding, we expanded this outreach to two performances, with over 2,500 students attending matinees.”

As the 2020 Crescendo Concert went virtual, so did the matinees. Arrangements were made for thousands of children to view the virtual performances, which not only supported the Conservatory’s efforts in community outreach, but also helped UMKC to connect with local talent to recruit the next generation of artists to the Conservatory. The 2020 matinees were sponsored by Julie and Mike Kirk and Evergy.

“Performing artists everywhere are struggling, trying to retain a presence in a society that cannot physically come together,” Petrella said.

“Despite these challenges, artists everywhere continue to demonstrate that the arts are a critical component of our society. Artists are strong. Artists are resilient. We find ways to connect, to continue to shine and to creatively express ourselves." - UMKC Conservatory Dean Diane Petrella

"Guided by the amazing faculty of the UMKC Conservatory, UMKC students found a way to continue studying and creating art — proving over and over again that the arts can transcend all boundaries,” Petrella said.

While this year’s event was different, patrons still had the opportunity to witness the tremendous talent at the UMKC Conservatory. All of the proceeds raised provide scholarships for exceptional students. Scholarships makes pursuing a degree in the performing arts an affordable option and makes UMKC Conservatory a more attractive and competitive choice.

On show “night,” patrons saw those students who bravely accepted the challenges before them and heard from some of the students who received scholarships.

The Performances


Mas Fuerté (1992) by Stephen Rush (b. 1958), UMKC Percussion Ensemble with Professor Nick Petrella, faculty coach.


When We Love (2019) by Elaine Hagenberg, Conservatory Singers with Professor Jennaya Robison, director.

Jose Mendoza and Erin Besser

 One of the first student interviews were with Conservatory singers Jose Mendoza and Erin Besser.

“When I was searching for a grad school I was searching not only for a place that would be something I wanted academically but also in the community,” Besser said.



 “The reason that my scholarship is so important to me is that I wouldn’t be here without it." - Erin Besser

"The fact that I can be on scholarship and not have to worry about funding my education gives me the peace of mind I need to succeed in my classes,” Besser added.

For my undergrad I wanted a place where I could feel like I’m home,” Mendoza said. “I can just walk into any building and feel so comfortable and welcomed. The scholarship helps me in a big way. College these days is rigorous and stressful as it is, so having these scholarships helps alleviate that stress and that back-of-the-mind-worry about money.”


A scene from Othello (1603) by William Shakespeare (1564–1616), Meredith Johnson (M.F.A., acting and directing) with Kim Martin-Cotten, director.


After You, Mr. Gershwin! (2004) by Béla Kovács (b. 1937), Dana Sloter, clarinet (D.M.A., clarinet performance) with Professor Dan Velicer, piano.


The Dying Swan (1886) by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921), Michel Fokine, choreographer, with dancers Derrian Simone Davis (B.F.A., dance), Liat Roth (B.F.A., dance) and Ashlyn Zay (B.F.A., dance), Larry Hernandez, cello (Artist’s Certificate, cello), Mary Gossell, piano (D.M.A., piano performance), professor Ronn Tice, faculty coach.

“I think it’s a really difficult time in the world of dance because so much of dance is about connecting with each other and touching each other.” - Dance Student Liat Roth

“So missing that, it’s nice to collaborate with other types of artists, like all of the musicians we have at UMKC,” Roth said.

“I think it’s also nice to just dance with each other because it’s usually a really connected art form,” said dance student Ashlyn Zay. “Even though we can’t touch each other we can still feel each other in the music. I personally love dancing to live music. I just feel like it completely brings it to life. You feel like it’s real and it’s right there in front of you.”

“For me, this was my first time to perform with dancers, so it was really a magical experience,” said dance student Mary Gossell. “I’m also a graduate assistant in collaborative piano and I’m just so grateful to have received this scholarship not only because of the financial benefits, but also it’s giving me a lot of experiences already to work with other musicians and now dancers.”

“It was fabulous having these musicians here with us, said Dee Anna Hiett, associate professor and chair, dance. “We depend on those scholarship dollars to bring us talent to build our dance division, to have a successful career. To train these dancers, we really need scholarship money. And we appreciate all of those who donate and give.”


Danny Boy, Traditional arrangement by Martin Hackleman, UMKC Horn Choir, with Professor Martin Hackleman, faculty coach.


One O’Clock Jump (1937) by William Charles Basie (1904–1984) arr. Charles Kynard, Concert Jazz Band.

“I’ve been playing in the Kansas City jazz scene for about three years,” said Jackie Myers, BM in jazz studies. “UMKC is an integral part of that scene. Many of the players that I really enjoy playing with, many of the people I’m studying with, were involved in UMKC. Without scholarships I wouldn’t be here. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for this opportunity. And thank you so much for your support.”

Andrew Dressman, BM in jazz studies, is also studying saxophone studies. “Since I’ve been here it’s been an incredible experience and it makes me want to stay here for a very long time.”

“Because of your support and scholarship support, we’ve been able to attract and retain some of the finest talent in the country and from around the world,” said Bobby Watson, retired William D. and Mary Grant/Missouri Professor of Jazz Studies. “All of that is possible through your generous giving. And we hope that you can keep it up and continue to support our efforts and the great work of these students for many years to come. Thank you.”

Give to the Crescendo Conservatory student scholarship fund

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