New in 2024: Trailblazing Talks School Matinees!

Photo by Jillian Shoptaw

In conjunction with the Kauffman Center’s new speaker series, Trailblazing Talks, we are excited to debut a trio of student matinees that explore fascinating close encounters with adventurers and photojournalists. Trailblazing Talks is replacing the National Geographic Live series and will feature speakers curated from the Changemaker Speaker Series live and on stage at the Kauffman Center!  

Trailblazing Talks school matinees are recommended for grades 6 – 12 and the cost is just $2 per ticket! In 2024, we are proud to bring these inspiring speakers:  


Photo by Clare Jones

Evolutionary biologist and TV host, Ella Al-Shamahi illuminates the lives and stories of our earliest ancestors in her talk, Are You a Neanderthal? Al-Shamhi combines engaging history with interactive exercises to create an immersive and unique educational experience.

Ella Al-Shamahi will speak at the Kauffman Center on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, at 10:30 a.m.  






Photo by Brent Stirton/National Geographic

Hear inspiring stories and see incredible footage from adventurer and documentary filmmaker Michael Davie. This talk documents a wide variety of cultures and stories from across the globe, from tales of war zones to escapades in the mountains of Denali. Davie will leave students with a greater understanding of the world around them and shed light on the connections we all share.

Michael Davie will speak at the Kauffman Center on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, at 10:30 a.m.







Photo by Kip Evans

Dr. Sylvia Earle, renowned marine researcher and ocean advocate, has spent over 7,500 hours exploring the underwater world. Earle’s research has led to the advancement of deep-sea exploration technologies that provide important information to scientists and oceanographers. Her talk aims to demonstrate the beauty of the ocean, and how we can all play a role in its preservation. 

Sylvia Earle will speak at the Kauffman Center on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, at 10:30 a.m. 





Request tickets for any of the Trailblazing Talks speakers for your classroom today!  

The Trailblazing Talks series is not the only opportunity for students to attend a performance at the Kauffman Center. Partner organizations, including the Kansas City Symphony, Kansas City Ballet and Lyric Opera of Kansas City, offer a variety of school matinees and open rehearsals that bring world-class performing arts to young people each school year.  

To learn more about all the school matinees offerings visit 

Photo by Jillian Shoptaw

Winners of the 2023 Artful Poetry Contest Share Their Poems

Youth in the Community Share Winning Poetry

Photo by Zach Anderson-Boland. Emily Wilder performs her poem at the 2023 Future Stages Festival.

Photo by Zach Anderson-Boland. Emily Wilder performs her poem at the 2023 Future Stages Festival.

Artful Poetry, an Open Doors Spotlight on Youth Initiative, allowed students from the Kansas City area the opportunity to perform their poetry at the Kauffman Center’s Future Stages Festival on June 11, 2023. Local youth writers submitted their original poems to a panel of local professional poets, artists and writers.  

Check out the winners of our 2023 contest and links to their winning poems below: 

10 and Under Category 

  1. Maha’era Neil Aggarwal 
  2. Laura Zhekah Downum 
  3. Loren Gillette 

11 and Up Category 

  1. Emily Wilder  
  2. Abigail DuMont  
  3. Ari Shanahan 

Learn more about Maha’era Neil Aggarwal and Emily Wilder, our 2023 1st place winners:  

Maha’era Neil Aggarwal, 10 and Under 

Maha’era Neil Aggarwal | Photo submitted by Udita Neil Bharadwaj

Maha’era Neil Aggarwal, 3rd grader at Notre Dame de Sion enjoys painting, reading and poetry. Outside of the classroom, Neil Aggarwal enjoys basketball, hula-hooping and competitive swimming as a proud member of the Kansas City Blazers Swim Team.  

Read Maha’era Neil Aggarwal’s poem, “A Key Worth a Million Galaxies,” below.

A Key Worth a Million Galaxies 

by Maha’era Neil Aggarwal


Once there was a key, dropped on the sidewalk for all to see.
So, I picked it up and leapt away.
I crept inside my house, climbing the stairway like a tiny brown mouse.
I sat in the chair, staring at the key like a luscious pear.
All of a sudden, a door appeared, unexpectedly out of faint haze. It had a keyhole, and I had a key.
With all my might I shoved the enchanted door open but no longer I was in my room!
I was in a Spaceship.
I found out the moon is made of Peanut butter! The stars are cheese puffs, The galaxy is chocolate cake!
Oh my, Oh my!! How many things can space create?
Black holes are brownies, and the Sun is a bright orange jelly. Croissant asteroids zoom around the milky way.
Can I please discover more? Because this is what you call a food galore!!!!
So, as I sat on planet earth, I wondered what this key was really worth? Was it worth gold or was it as crusty as mold?
Back In the spaceship I flew watching the planets arranged in Rainbow hew and I never told anyone what I knew!
I soared above the majestic clear blue sea. Back in my bedroom holding a cup of hot chamomile tea. As I held the key in the air, I felt richer than a million millionaires.

 Emily Wilder, 11 and Up 

Emily Wilder | Photo submitted by Emily Wilder

Emily Wilder, freshman at Olathe North High School, is passionate about advocating for equity and inclusion in her community, as seen by her involvement in the feminist club at Olathe North. An active member of theatre at her high school, Wilder believes that her generation has a unique ability to share important stories and foster change. Wilder has always had an interest in poetry, but only began writing her own this year. She hopes that her poem will encourage readers to contemplate their past, present and future. Wilder has always had an interest in poetry, but only began writing her own this year.  

Read Emily Wilder’s poem, “Name Tag,” below. 

Name Tag  

by Emily Wilder


I don’t need no lock or key, or some piece of metal to set me free.
All I need is a nametag. Cause in the end,
How can we be set free, if we don’t know who we wanna be?
I am a Woman. XY chromosomes.
But I don’t know why, why I say I
When I should say we.


We are women.
We are the wives of history.
The mothers of victory.
And the daughters of misery.


We are the chorus of one whaling infant, who’s father is no longer present,
Just wait one minute. Wait for a woman.
Cause who cares if she’s long overspent?
The father was discontent. Wait for a woman.


So many labels. Circling us, surrounding us.
Overwhelming us. Deciding us.
Instead, give me a name tag.
So they can stop playing us like a game of tag.
We don’t want to play no game. Yet the same one has been enduring,
Before, after, and during.
Throughout history, sprinting, running, then hitting.


Tag, you’re it. No tag backs.


They refuse to hear me; we. We are the voiceless, the meek. The quiet-spoken, the neat.
That’s funny. Because we’re just speaking a language that they can’t speak.
Controlling a game that they can’t see. Check.


Held down by the stickiness of our society, like bubble gum to a shoe.
Blowing a bubble where they want to keep us.
Contain us. Watch us. Admire us.
Pretty, precious, pink.
Pop. There goes your bubble. Now who’s in trouble?


Remember, don’t bite off more than you chew,
Because we always pick up our shoe.


We’ve had a voice, they just weren’t quiet enough to hear us.
Us speaking the language that they can’t speak.
Some could get down with our word.
While others never understood a word.
Nowadays, the majority is able to comprehend what we’re saying
But there’s some still out there that can’t see us swaying.
Swaying to the language that never stops singing,


We are women.

 To learn more about Artful Poetry and other Kauffman Center Open Doors programs, visit


Photo recap: Future Stages Festival 2023, celebrating 10 years!

Walk through Future Stages Festival and get a glimpse at our 10th anniversary party!

We were thrilled to host nearly 3,500 visitors at our 2023 Future Stages Festival! The event featured more than 650 talented young artists (from 30 performance groups) and fun activities from 20 community partners. Whether it was your first time at the Center, or you’ve been here multiple times, thank you for attending and we hope you had a blast! Thanks to our supporters PNC Bank, Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts, Marlese and Robert Gourley Children’s Fund, Frank and Margaret G. McGee Fund, Missouri Arts Council, Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund and JE Dunn. Special thanks to our Premier Partner, Saint Luke’s Health System.

SAVE THE DATE! Future Stages Festival will return next summer on Sunday, June 9, 2024.

Photo by Starra Zweygardt. Dancers from the Kansas City Institute of Chinese Language and Culture perform on Muriel Kauffman Theatre stage during Future Stages Festival on June 11, 2023.

Photo by Sara Unrein. Audiences enjoy performances on the Kansas City Symphony’s Mobile Music Box.

Photo by Sara Unrein. A St. Joseph Arts Academy performer on the Mobile Music Box Stage.

Photo by Bernadette Hursh. Street Styles Academy performs on Saint Luke’s Outdoor Stage.

Photo by Ellie Fehlig. MSACP Orchestra on stage in Helzberg Hall.

Photo by Bernadette Hursh. Future Stages Festival performers pose for a photo in front of a balloon display courtesy of festival sponsor Saint Luke’s Health System.

Photo by Bernadette Hursh. Attendees enjoy a photo booth presented by American Theatre Guild.

Photo by Bernadette Hursh. There was lots of hometown pride with our Super Bowl champion cheerleaders, the Kansas City Chiefs.

Photo by Bernadette Hursh. Approximately 20 community partners presented activities and learning opportunities for patrons at the festival.

Photo by Bernadette Hursh. The festival concluded with a special anniversary performance on the front drive by the Pythons Drill Team.

MSACP Orchestra Returns for its 10th Year at Future Stages Festival

Above left MSACP Orchestra on Helzberg Stage in 2022. Photo by Cassandra Schmidt. Above right MSACP Orchestra backstage at Helzberg Hall in 2015. Photo by Rachel Nyhart.

On Sunday, June 11 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Future Stages Festival.

In honor of this celebration, we are excited to highlight MSA Crescendo Project Orchestra as the only performance group returning to the festival for their tenth year! This dynamic youth orchestra has been selected to perform on the Kauffman Center stages each year of the festival.

“Performing at the Future Stages Festival is always the highlight of the year for my students. It is such a magical opportunity for these young musicians, from the tiniest beginners to the seasoned high school seniors, walking out onto the stage at Kauffman feels like nothing else in the world. Each year, I tell them that being selected is a privilege and it is not a guarantee.  For ten years now they’ve been overjoyed to be selected and worked SO hard together to create something magical to share with the audience. We are so thankful for the opportunity to play again in 2023!” Natasha Kwapich said.

In addition to the loyalty of MSACP Orchestra, we are excited to welcome back 5 Star Jazz Band for their eighth year and The Kansas City Boys Choir and The Kansas City Girls Choir as well as AileyCamp: The Group for their ninth year performing at the festival.

RSVP and learn more on our website at

Photo by Zach Anderson-Boland.

Photo by Jillian Shoptaw.

Photo by Ju-Young Morimoto.


It’s Time to Appreciate Kauffman Center Volunteers

On Monday, April 10, we welcomed almost 300 volunteers and their guests to a springtime soirée. Attendees enjoyed the musical stylings of award-winning local jazz band, Hot Club KC, special creations by Executive Chef Laura Comer and the Bonterra team, and exclusive building tours.

Photos by Jenny DeFreece and Mary Maxine Luber. Hand-written notes of appreciation from Kauffman Center staff to volunteers.

Kauffman Center staff also showered volunteers with homemade treats and personalized thank-you notes.

In a typical season, volunteers welcome hundreds of thousands of patrons to more than 400 performances, concerts and events — including an incredible 51 in the month of December. These dedicated individuals fill over 16,000 shifts in a myriad of roles across the organization, including in administrative capacities. In total, they provide over 60,000 hours of service each year.

“I love my role and all the people I interact with every time I volunteer. It’s like coming home to friends and family. It’s been one of my best decisions, and I look forward to many more volunteer hours and attending functions,” Barbara A. said.

Those interested in volunteering at the Kauffman Center can email to be notified of the next recruitment period.