An actress and singer closely identified with the role of Bess in the opera Porgy and Bess, Etta Moten Barnett was born in Texas and studied music and drama at Western University in Kansas City, Kansas.
The musician most closely associated with Kansas City jazz, pianist and bandleader William Basie was born in New Jersey and came to Kansas City in the late 1920s.
Andrew "Skip" Carter’s fascination with radio started early. Raised in Savannah, Georgia, he built his first radio set at age 14.
Ironically nicknamed “Speedy” for his slow, soft-shoe dancing style, L. C. Huggins’ roots stretched back to the city’s Golden Age of Jazz.
As a prominent big band leader, Andy Kirk popularized the Kansas City sound nationwide.
Born in Boonville, Missouri, and raised in Kansas City, Julia Lee was a singer and pianist whose work incorporated both blues and jazz.
James Columbus “Jay” McShann was a prominent and influential jazz pianist and band leader. Growing up in Muskogee, Oklahoma, he defied his parents’ disapproval of his musical inclinations and taught himself to play the piano.
Bettye Miller and Milt Abel, a husband and wife musical duo, reigned over the Kansas City jazz scene from the 1950s through the 1970s.
Benjamin “Bennie” Moten was an influential pianist and bandleader whose career was essential to the development of Kansas City-style jazz.
Musical giant Charlie Parker was a key creator of bebop, the jazz style marked by improvisation, quick tempos, and virtuosic technique. Born in Kansas City, Kansas, and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Parker attended Lincoln High School.
Maj. N. Clark Smith was a prominent musician, composer, and instructor and one of the most accomplished African American bandmasters of the early 20th century.
Singer Myra Taylor is recognized as one of the last great performers from Kansas City’s jazz heyday of the 1930s.
Lafayette Alonzo Tillman is remembered most for being one of Kansas City’s first African American police officers.
Among the great jazz musicians, Mary Lou Williams was a piano prodigy and became a professional performer while in her teens.