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From choirs to bagpipes, resolve to connect with these Kansas City community ensembles in 2024

Tuning each bagpipes as the band warms up, Griffin Hall, the band's pipe sergeant, makes certain the band sounds its best.
Julie Denesha
Tuning each bagpipes as the band warms up, Griffin Hall, the St. Andrew Pipes & Drums band pipe sergeant, makes certain the band sounds its best.

It's been a year since we published our first story featuring community music ensembles in Kansas City. To kick off 2024, we're highlighting even more groups you can join to share in the love of music and music-making.

This story was first published in Classical KC's "Take Note" newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox the first Wednesday of every month.

Classical KC champions music made in Kansas City. Much of that comes from community groups of all sorts.

Last January, CKC’s Take Note included 18 local groups for amateur music-makers of all levels to perform together and information on how to join them. The article struck a chord, with another 23 organizations reaching out about their own contributions to the performing arts scene in Kansas City.

To start off 2024, we’ve looked into a few more of these ensembles fueled by passion, a life-long love of music, and the camaraderie of performing together - each offering a little something different to the performing arts scene.

Celebrating cultural heritage

For over 60 years, the Kansas City St. Andrew Pipes & Drums has preserved Scottish tradition here in Kansas City. The ensemble’s age range spans a similar breadth, with players in their teens to those in their seventies. For many, it’s a family tradition.

KCUR’s Julie Denesha caught up with members of the band in 2023, as they were preparing for the area’s various St. Patrick’s Day parades.

"I have been with this band since I was a little boy," Tom McKee, a second generation member, told Denesha. "I am now 69 years old. It is a great group of people who have gathered in Kansas City with the love and joy of celebrating Scottish music and Scottish culture and that's what we're all about."

Never played bagpipes? The ensemble offers lessons at no cost. Rehearsals are Tuesdays from 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Episcopalian Church in Brookside.

Voces Festivas is a Spanish-language choir, founded in 2021. It’s directed by Leilani Velasco Vaughn, under the umbrella of The Choral Foundation, which saw an unmet need for this type of choir in Kansas City.

“Our mission is to share Spanish choral music with anyone both in learning and in performing. Anyone from the Hispanic community and Spanish speakers alike are invited to join in the fun!” says Velasco Vaughn.

Voces Festivas.
The Choral Foundation
Voces Festivas, conducted by Leilani Velasco Vaughn, performs choral music in Spanish.

The non-auditioned ensemble performs a few times a year, often in association with Hispanic celebrations, like their Navidad concert in December and at events during the Cinco de Mayo weekend. Follow their Facebook page for more information about their upcoming concert in April.

Just what the doctor ordered

The Medical Arts Symphony started out as an ensemble for students, faculty, and practitioners in the medical profession at the University of Kansas Medical Center in 1959: an opportunity to share a love of making music within a demanding profession.

The ensemble, conducted by Steve Lewis, rehearses Mondays 7:30-9:30 p.m. (with additional rehearsals during concert weeks) in Battenfeld Auditorium on the KU Med campus.

Though the group is still primarily physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, and health care students, they also welcome non-medical music makers to join them.

Medical Arts Symphony’s Feb. 17 concert features violist Kathryn Hilger on Carl Philip Stamitz’ Viola Concerto in D and Johannes Brahms’ “Variations on a Theme By Haydn,” All concerts are at Battenfeld Auditorium, free and open to the public.

The organization is also forming the Medical Arts Symphony Chorus, which makes its debut performing Franz Schubert’s Mass in G at the season finale on April 20. The group, led by Sarah McClure and accompanied by Melody Stroth, does not require an audition or prior experience. They will rehearse Mondays at 7:30 p.m. at Prairie Baptist Church. You can sign up to learn more.

Any music therapist would tell you that music interventions can help with a variety of ailments, from anxiety to grief to pain management.

The KC Parkinson’s Choir welcomes those living with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers to join. The group, hosted by Soundscaping Source, in partnership with Westchester Village of Lenexa and the Lenexa Senior Center, holds rehearsals at the Lenexa Senior Center and on Zoom, on Tuesdays from 10:45-11:45 a.m.

Led by a board-certified music therapist, the choir aims to help bolster various physical and mental needs, like maintaining speaking skills and improving posture, but also to have fun and connect with others, while enjoying singing (and also playing kazoo!). Visit the website to get more information and see a selection of informative videos with vocal warm ups and exercises.

Hometown pride

OUTside Voices KC perform as part of their True Colors concert.
Fountain City Performing Arts
OUTside Voices KC perform as part of their True Colors concert.

Now in its second year, OUTside Voices KC is a SATB LBTQIA+ choral ensemble, one of many ensembles with the Fountain City Performing Arts organization. Their upcoming concert on Jan. 27 features the Kansas City premiere of “Bayard Rustin: The Man Behind the Dream,” by composer Steve Milloy and librettist Vanessa German. The concert also features guest artists Lee Langston and Lisa Henry along with additional singers from the Kansas City Boys and Girls Choirs.

Rustin was an openly gay, African-American Quaker and activist who orchestrated the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom while championing the practice of non-violence throughout his career as a leader in social justice.

OUTside Voices KC is currently taking applications to participate in their summer program, “Free to Be: a Program of Trans and Nonbinary Diversity.”

Fountain City Performing Arts has also formed the Gen-Z Chorus (part of SingOUTKC) for LGBTQIA singers ages 12-18, conducted by Delano Mendoza-Holt. No previous choral singing experience necessary.

Make plans for summer

If you’re too busy during the traditional concert season to contemplate adding rehearsals to your schedule, consider a summer ensemble. The Lenexa Community Orchestra, conducted by Kansas City Symphony bassist Richard Ryan, meets starting in June for three concerts during the summer. Apply by May 1 for the upcoming season.

The Choral Foundation hosts both the Summer Singers of Kansas City and the Summer Singers of Lee’s Summit, each of which rehearses and performs a monumental work of choral music. Registration opens in March.

The Sunflower Ragtime Orchestra is a different type of group altogether, playing “authentic period orchestrations” of classic ragtime and jazz tunes for an eclectic ensemble. The group holds two sessions (each with three rehearsals and a concert) in June and July, with performances at the Mahaffie Farmstead in Olathe, Kansas.

There’s more to explore

With more than 40 community ensembles in the metro area, there’s a group near you to enjoy, whether as a participant or a concert goer, all year long. Here is a non-comprehensive list, in no particular order:

Do you belong to a community ensemble? Please tell us about your group by emailing

Originally from Indiana, Libby Hanssen is a freelance writer in Kansas City. She is the author of States of Swing: The History of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, 2003-2023. Along with degrees in trombone performance, Libby was a Fellow for the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University. Learn more at Proust Eats a Sandwich.