LA Phil Blog

From Cow Town to Cultural Hub: A Former KC Resident Takes Stock

From Cow Town to Cultural Hub: A Former KC Resident Takes Stock

Marion Kuszyk
in front of her old house in Kansas City.

Ahhh, Kansas City … It's not just a cow town. It is a beautiful city best known for barbecue, The Plaza (modeled after its sister city, Seville, Spain), and for its warm, friendly residents. Most importantly, it's the place I called home for five years.  
My first job was playing in the Kansas City Symphony from 1990-1995. So, I was thrilled to find out we were going to Kansas City on tour. In fact, I was so thrilled that I opted to come a day early while most of the orchestra had a lovely day off in San Francisco. 
Arriving at the airport reminded me of the very first time I came here to take the KCS audition. Not long after leaving the airport, I remember seeing - right in front of some building - a statue of a cow! I remember thinking that I had arrived in a real cow town. 
My audition was the next day and after the first round, I went to The Plaza on a beautiful warm March day. I was so taken with the beauty of this city and impressed by the hospitality of the residents. I suddenly found myself wanting to live here! 

Country Club Plaza
, Kansas City's primary entertainment district.
I got my wish before eventually moving on to Los Angeles a few years later. So, returning on this nice warm March day sure makes me nostalgic! It's wonderful to see old friends and to give a master class at the same school where I used to teach so many years ago: University of Missouri - Kansas City.  

Marion with UMKC oboe students after her master class.

Marion in front of the Kauffman Center with her friend, KCS oboist, Barb Bishop.
Tonight’s concert with my present-day orchestra, the LA Philharmonic, makes for a performance experience that is a wonderful mix of old and new.  
When I was in the Kansas City Symphony, we played in a place called the Lyric Opera in downtown Kansas City. It was quite old and run-down, and the acoustics left much to be desired. At the time, Kansas City, while having so much going for it, really needed a cultural makeover.  
It was a giant undertaking, but the Kauffman Center was finally built, and Helzberg Hall opened in 2011. Helzberg was modeled on Disney Hall to the extent that Yasuhisa Toyota, the acoustician behind Disney Hall, designed the acoustics here as well.  
In fact, the inside of the hall is also just like Disney Hall, with strikingly similar acoustics. The sound is simply breathtaking. I am absolutely stunned by this entire complex, especially with the size, the beauty and the incredible views. I am pinching myself. Could I really be in Kansas City?  

Inside Kansas City's stunning Kauffman Center.
The Kauffman Center presents itself on top of a hill just south of downtown, and it really changes the entire feel of the city. I was struck by its majestic beauty the first time I saw it, driving along Interstate 35. 
Ahhh, Kansas City … It's definitely not just a cow town now. It's a must-see cultural hub!