No snub intended in leaving Blue Knights off Jazz Fest lineup, say organizers

SM East's Jazz Band playing at the Prairie Village Jazz Festival in 2011. (Photo via KCJazzLark.blogspot.com).
SM East’s Jazz Band playing at the Prairie Village Jazz Festival in 2011. (Photo via KCJazzLark.blogspot.com).

This year’s Prairie Village Jazz Fest lineup didn’t have everyone singing a happy tune.

A number of parents with students in SM East’s Blue Knights jazz band expressed dismay in the days leading up to and following this year’s festival that the award-winning group was left off the performance schedule this year. The Blue Knights were one of just two acts to take the stage in 2011 before an intense storm led organizers to call off the rest of the day’s performances. But the group did not perform in either 2012 or 2013.

But no snub was intended, says Jazz Festival organizer Jack Shearer, and he’s extremely hopeful that the Blue Knights will play at next year’s event, noting he thinks the group has a “phenomenal reputation.”

“My own kids were in the jazz band at East, and I know what kind of caliber these kids have,” Shearer said. “They definitely are at the level to play at the Jazz Festival.”

The issues that led to the omission of the Blue Knights from this year’s festival were primarily logistical, Shearer said, with the future of the SM East jazz program in a state of flux and the Jazz Festival committee trying to decide whether to expand programming from one day to two. Initially, Shearer said, he had been trying to arrange for the Blue Knights to be part of a Friday night performance, but, ultimately, the committee decided against adding a second night to this year’s festival.

“The momentum we have from this year will probably take us to having two nights next year,” Shearer said. “And I hope that we’ll be able to get someone associated with the Blue Knights to be part of the organizing committee for the next year to help ensure we get the group included.”

It’s welcome news to Paul Giffin, whose son is a sophomore trombone player in the group, and who was upset by their absence from this year’s lineup.

“It seems like it should have been a fairly straightforward negotiation to get them included,” Giffin said. “But it’s good to hear they respect the reputation of the group and are open to having them perform.”