Our Teaching Artists

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Every year, Kansas City Young Audiences recruits new programs and talent for its roster. Our current roster features over 166 artists and presents 165 programs in creative writing, dance, drama, music, and the visual arts. These programs include performances, workshops, and professional development seminars for teachers.

Dr. Tom Aber

Thomas Aber, a founding member of newEar Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, is also the bass clarinetist with the Omaha Symphony. His studies of the bass clarinet took him to Juilliard ...

Paige Ahlenius

Paige Ahlenius holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Scene Design from the University of Virginia and has been investing in the Kansas City arts community since 1999 . . . 

Lisa Albright - Picadilly Productions

Lisa Albright, founder and Artistic Director of Piccadilly Productions, ha s been a puppeteer since 1989. Lisa holds a BA from Kansas State University. She was an Artist-in-Residence on the Missouri Arts Council’s 2003-2004 touring roster and has also been chosen as a professional development workshop leader under Kansas City Young Audiences...

Samarpita Bajpai


Samarpita Bajpai started training in dance at the age of seven. She trained in seven styles of Indian dance for three years. She went on to specialize in two of the most popular forms Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam.

Erika Baker

Erika Lynnette Baker is a local teacher, actress and puppeteer. 

Cathy Barton-Para, Dave Para, & Mike Fraser

Dave Para and Cathy Barton-Para are vocal and instrumental musicians, storytellers, song writers and folklorists ...

Michael Fraser has worked in education since 1977. The first seven years were in public schools, however the majority of his teaching experiences have been as an education consultant in the Ozark Region for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Lauren Braton

Miss Braton trained at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.  She holds Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Voice Performance. She is also certified to teach K-12 Vocal Music. She has performed professionally for 8 years, and is a proud member of the Actor's Equity Association. 

Carla Buchheit

 Carla Buchheit earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wichita State University. She has studied weaving and fiber art in Finland and has participated in various juried art shows in Kansas, Missouri, and Colorado... 

Richard Buswell

Richard Buswell is an actor, director and fight choreographer. He holds a BFA in Drama from the University of Oklahoma, and is a member of several arts and training organizations, including the Society of American Fight Directors and Fight Directors Canada, and was a founding member of such organizations as Actors for Actors, the DST Arts Council, and KC Stage Magazine. 


Jay & Leslie Laughing Matters

Jay and Leslie Cady have been full-time performing artists since 1980.  They have given over 6000 performances in 34 states and seven countries including shows at the National Theater of Guatemala and at U.S. military bases overseas.  They have trained extensively in circus and vaudeville arts, and in 1984 they studied with legendary mime Marcel Marceau.  Jay and Leslie have twice been nominated for "Best Original Work" by the Kansas City Theater Awards.


Jane Christison

Janie Next Door® is also known as accordionist, singer, songwriter, Jane Christison.  Jane’s newest musical venture is writing children’s songs and performing as Janie Next Door® in upbeat, entertaining, interactive, live musical programs for children at preschools, elementary school concerts, festivals, libraries, birthday parties and other special occasions.  Kids, teachers and parents are encouraged to sing along, march, clap hands in time to the music, dance and take part in the fun of a live musical performance.

City In Motion Dance Theatre, Inc.

City in Motion Dance Theater has been part of the cultural fabric of Kansas City for over 25 years. Incorporated as a Missouri not-for-profit institution in 1985, its mission is to foster the development of high-quality, contemporary dance programming, and expand the dance audience in the Kansas City metropolitan region through its  professional dance company, dance productions, and school of dance. ..

Jean Cook

A native Kansan, Jean Cook grew up on the family farm helping with harvests and caring for the family cows, sheep and horses. Her artwork is inspired by her real-life experiences showing horses, working cattle drives and traveling to unusual locations around the world.

Culture Through Ballroom Dancing

William Jewell College dance instructors, Dr. Will Adams and Paula Marie Daub, began the program by teaching 5th graders to dance in four of the district's public schools .  After only 10 lessons, some 70 student dancers had the rewarding experience of performing...

Rebecca Dempsey

Rebecca has acted in more than 50 productions since 1993 and has directed youth in five musicals. Rebecca also worked with a group that played improv games with children for many years. Her love for children and theatre, have lead her to work with many groups as well performing solo. Her latest endeavor, Character Education through Classic Fables, with Jay & Leslie’s Laughing Matters, reaches out to children in a new light and offers them a new outlet for character building...

Kevin Dolan

Kevin has worked as a professional actor on stage and TV. As a musician he has worked professionally in reggae, punk, folk rock 'n' roll and dixieland bands.

His music groups have opened for Angelique Kidjo, the great West African singer, and for Richard Thompson, the legendary British singer/songwriter that led Fairport Convention...

Karen Engebretson

Karen Engebretson, a Kansas City native, holds a Master of Music degree in Organ Performance and has spent over 40 years as a director of music, organist, pianist, vocalist and accompanist in churches and venues in the greater Kansas City area.

Program Offered:

Private Instruction: Voice

Bird Fleming

Bird Fleming developed his interest in music and drumming in his fifth grade band class. Since his parents could not afford a drum set, he played the bongos. By the age of 20, Bird was proficient in a variety of African and Afro-Cuban instruments. His career then led him to San Francisco where he performed and studied traditional hand drumming.

Vanessa & Rodney Gibbs

  Since 1987, Vanessa Gibbs has taught West African dance. Working with Bird Fleming, she helped found The Traditional Music Society. In 2000, Vanessa traveled to West Africa to continue her studies in West African cultures. Vanessa also teaches dance camps and workshops for Alvin Ailey and City in Motion Dance Theater...

Fax Gilbert

Fax Gilbert is a performance artist and educator who uses mime, masks, magic, physical comedy and audience interaction to create programs that connect with his audience.

Fax began performing with the National Mime Theater Company in Boston following his graduation from Brandeis University. ..

Jane Gotch

Jane Gotch has been teaching movement to children since the age of 10. She has taught ballet, modern, tap, jazz, and creative movement to children of all ages locally and in Omaha, NE, Philadelphia, and the New York area... 

Milton Gray

Actor and Storyteller Milton Gray has been sharing his talent with children through his work with Kansas City Young Audiences for many years...

Larry Greer

Larry Greer is a theatre artist who has worked as an actor, director, and instructor in the Kansas City area since 1987. Larry has performed on every professional stage in Kansas City, including The Missouri Rep, The Unicorn, Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, and The New Theatre...

Roberta Gumbel

Roberta Gumbel has been heard internationally in opera, concert, and musical theater.  A graduate of Indiana University, Ms. Gumbel’s credits include: Opera Memphis, Opera Festival of New Jersey, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Opera Philadelphia, Indianapolis Opera, Michigan Opera Theater and Houston Grand Opera. 

Bill Hargraves

 Bill Hargraves is an award-winning silversmith whose designs and jewelry can be seen throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Bill has designed jewelry for a wide clientele, including former President and Mrs. Reagan...

Lisa Henry

Dazzling and dynamic, Lisa Henry represents the best of Kansas City’s current Jazz era.
Lisa has entertained many with her voice and energy around the world. She’s performed in numerous festivals, venues, and tours. Her talents have led her to stages in Argentina, South Africa, and Madagascar. Lisa has also appeared on numerous audio recordings, many of which were recorded here in Kansas City...

Frank Higgins

Frank Higgins was a member of the first graduating class of UMKC’s Professional Writing Program. He has published two books of poetry, two books of haiku, and a number of plays.

Frank’s play Miracles, which started at Missouri Repertory Theatre, has played to sellout audiences in Virginia and was produced at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego for a six-week run in 1997...

Valda Hsu

Valda Hsu was born and raised in Taiwan. She came to America in 1983 to attend college and study art. After more than four years of rigorous study she graduated from Art Center College of Design with honors...

Chris Hudson

Chris Hudson received his Bachelor of Music in 1996 from the UMKC Conservatory of Music. He has given solo performances in various concert series through the Kansas City Guitar Society including the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, the Downtown Library Series... 


Joel Jenkins

 Joel Jenkins, is a storyteller. He enjoys using his imagination to help people laugh, inspire learning, and look beyond their everyday lives.
As a producer and writer, Joel created What’s Your Story, Kid?, an in-school residency that nurtures children’s storytelling skills through filmmaking. This successful program has entertained and educated many students. Parents have noted the improvement they’ve seen in their children’s self-esteem as the students learn to focus their creativity into producing a video presentation...


Kacico Dance Company

 Kacico Dance, Kansas City Contemporary Dance, is a not for profit professional modern dance company of the highest quality in Kansas City. Kacico presents public concerts and programs locally and regionally in a variety of presentational forms for audience enjoyment, enrichment, and cultural education.  Its mission includes creating and performing excellence in contemporary dance and raising the level of contemporary dance in Kansas City and the mid-west region to national levels and national notice...

Kansas Settlers Band

The Kansas Settlers Band consists of Rebecca Dempsey, Michelle Cotton, Chris Hudson, and Sam Wright.

Rebecca Dempsey is a professional actor who has performed in television and radio commercials, corporate training videos, films and live theater. An accomplished musician as well, she combines her love of teaching...

Sharyn Brooks Katzman

A lecture or demonstration with Sharyn Brooks Katzman is dynamic and engaging. Sharyn holds degrees in history and art history, has written art criticism, works for museums and schools, and has a global view from living and working in various European and Asian countries. With experience in curating exhibitions and developing programs, she is attuned to a wide variety of audiences...

Pablo La Rosa

 Pablo La Rosa, a native of Cuba, is a musician, writer, and photographer. His collection of short stories, Forbidden Fruit, was published by Arte Publico Press in 1996. He has received numerous awards for fiction and poetry, including the Cintas Fellowship and the Seaton Award. His photography has appeared in literary magazines and textbooks such as New Letters, Chouteau Review, and Kansas Quarterly...

Jaime Lyon

After 15 great years of working in the commercial photography industry, I realized my heart was leading me in a new direction.  I wanted to make a difference while I’m here.

Marimba Sol de Chiapas

 Committed to the authentic performance practice and spirit of the marimba heard throughout Mesoamerica, Marimba Sol de Chiapas celebrates 20 years as Kansas City's own Mexican Marimba Ensemble, maintaining an active schedule of performances, recordings, multicultural workshops, and well over 40 years combined in-school presentation experience.

Myrna Minnis

For 15 years, Myrna Minnis has been inspiring children through classes in clay. Myrna holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Kansas State University and a Master of Liberal Arts degree from Baker University in Baldwin, Kansas.

With the encouragement of parents, kids, and teachers, Myrna created the Oogly kit in 1989. These kits are used as a tool by counselors and therapists for clients to express their emotions, poems, and stories through their Oogly characters...

Dianne Moran

Dianne Moran is an award-winning storyteller who has worked with audiences for 35 years as a folklorist/naturalist. She lives in the Missouri Ozarks where she owns Earth Ways Farm, an environmental camp. Her programs may include Mt. Dulcimer and relics, as well as her live animals which serve as metaphors for her stories...

John Mulvey

John Mulvey holds a Bachelor of Theatre Arts degree from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He has performed in plays such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, as well as children’s theater productions...

Alyssa Murray

Alyssa Murray is a jazz pianist, vocalist and songwriter currently residing in the musical mecca of Kansas City.  As a freelance jazz pianist and vocalist, she can be seen performing at the most prominent jazz clubs throughout the city including the Blue Room in the Historic 18th and Vine district, The Green Lady Lounge and the Broadway Jazz Club. She has performed with the Black House Improvisors’ Collective as well as the UMKC Concert Jazz Band.


Maya Murthy

Pianist Maya Murthy earned her Masters degree at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music under Karen Kushner. She received her Bachelor's degree from Indiana University School of Music, where she studied privately with Henry Upper and Jean-Louis Haguenauer...

Heather Nisbett-Loewenstein - StoneLion Puppet Theatre

Heather Nisbett- Loewenstein is the Founder, Artistic Director, and a Company Puppeteer of StoneLion Puppet Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri. She has performed, designed, and/or directed more than 70 different productions for StoneLion, and works as a puppet builder and costume designer for professional theaters...

Jennifer Owen

 Jennifer Owen received her ballet training from Pacific Northwest Ballet School, San Francisco Ballet School, School of American Ballet, and the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. She went on to dance with the Russian State Ballet, Moscow Renaissance Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet, BalletMet, and had the unique experience of appearing as a guest artist with the National Ballet of Turkmenistan.  Notable roles Jennifer has danced include the title role in “Giselle,” Kitri in “Don Quixote,” principal roles in George Balanchine's “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux” and “Donizetti Variations”, and the central pas de deux in Todd Bolender's “Arena.” ...

Cynthia Pederson

 Cynthia Pederson is an experienced writer, researcher, and teacher. She takes great joy in passing along knowledge through the many workshops and presentations she leads.  Cynthia holds several advanced degrees in literature, creative writing, and library science. Her teaching certificate for grades K-8 has given her the opportunity to gain experience in several teaching positions...

Roger Pitts

Roger Pitts is a native Kansan, attending school in the greater Kansas City area. Upon graduation from high school, Roger attended the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri. While studying music composition at the Conservatory, Roger was honored as a guest composer at the Mid-America Arts Alliance's Meet the Composer - The Conservatory Presents Program...

Tom Plaster

Tom Plaster attended the UMKC Conservatory of Music. He taught Percussion at the UMKC Conservatory of Music for ten years, and performed with both the Starlight Theater Orchestra and the Kansas City Philharmonic for fifteen years...

Kim Ratliff

 Kim Ratliff has been a performer and educator for over 14 years. After graduating from the University of Kansas, Kim was immediately accepted at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts. There, she discovered her love of improvisational comedy...

The Recipe Poetry Guild LLC

Theodore “Priest” Hughes and Desmond “3-3-7” Jones, life time poets and also ten year veterans in performance poetry, came together and launched in 2005 as a duo poetry team known as, The Recipe...

Richard Renner - Vodvill Entertainment

The Vodvill Entertainment Company was born in 1988 as a way to promote the lively art of circus skills and street performing. Little did we know there was such an enduring need for this kind of entertainment at the time. Our longevity has proven that time and time again. The basic truth is that we need to laugh and enjoy each other. The artists represented here are simply the best at fulfilling that need...

Jamie Root

Growing up in a talented and creative family, Jamie was encouraged to express her artistic tendencies in paint and sculpture. She continued to explore new media while earning a Bachelors of Science in Animal Science. Jamie’s teaching career started serendipitously during an internship in the exhibits department at the Kansas City Museum. She was drafted to develop and teach history and nature classes to preschoolers. More recently, she spent 11 years teaching life sciences in the public schools...

Teresa Saluzzi

Teresa Saluzzi graduated from Kansas City Art Institute painting department in 1994 studying under Lester Goldman, Ron Slowinski, Michael Walling and Hugh Merrill.  Later she continued abroad in Florence, Venice, Rome, Milan, Verona, Lake Garda, Lucca and Pisa. 

Katie Schilling

Katie Schilling is a graduate of UMKC with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and a former Kansas City Ballet student apprentice and faculty member.  Katie primarily studied at the Kansas City Ballet underneath Karen Brown and has the distinction of being the only student ever invited to choreograph for KCBS performances... 

Susan Schurman

Susan Schurman has offered activities for elementary and secondary students through Kansas City Young Audiences since 2008.  As a social worker and family therapist, she created fun educational activities for children and adults to address their life challenges. 

For the past ten years, Susan has worked as a book designer and editor for BkMk Press, of UMKC.  During this time, she has helped students produce and illustrate anthologies of their art and writing...

Susansylvia Scott

Master Teaching Artist Susansylvia Scott is a creative and innovative storyteller. She holds a Master of Arts in Theater from the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Two of her mentors are Vincent Dowling, of the Abbey Theater in Dublin, Ireland and John Houseman, a teacher at the Julliard School of Drama and featured in the Paper Chase...

Hema Sharma

Hema Sharma is a native of Chennai, India, where she started dancing (Bharathanatyam) at the age of 8 uner the tutelage of Kancheepuram Gnaprakasam. She is also well-versed in other  Indian dance forms such as Kuchipudi, Mohini Attam, Kathak, and folk dances. She holds the titles of Natyaratna and Natyakalaratna. She has extensive training and experience working with well renowned artists, like Padmashri Adyar K. Lakshman and the Dhananjayans...

Brad Shaw

Brad Shaw, a graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, is considered a “Renaissance Man” in the theater world. His name can be found on programs as actor, director, choreographer, costumer, set design, and playwright. Brad has taught in the Kansas City Public Schools and in surrounding school districts...

Lem Sheppard

The US Embassy in Brazil referred to Lemuel as “The perfect touring artist, talented, flexible, knowledgeable of his own culture and interested in others." The Eisteddfod International Music Festival in South Africa referred to Lemuel as “An example in international and inter-cultural relations" After each concert lemuel Sheppard performs he always gets asked, “Are you from around here”? He has been performing American Folk music on concert stages, schools, and festivals for over twenty five years...

Kim Shope

Kim's Ballet training began at age nine in Jackson, MS with Thalia Mara. At age 13, her parents moved to Kansas City, MO where Todd Bolender had just revived the Kansas City Ballet.  She studied the Balanchine Technique under the tutelage of New York City Ballet dancers Todd Bolendar, Diana Adams, Una Kai and Jacques d'Amboise and attended the School of the American Ballet Summer Intensives on Full Scholarship.

Stacy "Reach" Smith

Reach, born Stacy D. Smith, hails from Kansas City, Mo. Five short years after being introduced to Hip-Hop culture in 1986 Reach began writing and reciting rhymes at the tender age of thirteen. His early stylings were heavily influenced by lyrical gunslingers Keith Murray and Kurupt. After nearly a decade of honing and perfecting his craft he helped to form a local independent Rap label, Kingdome Records...

Jaisson Taylor

 C. Jaisson H. Taylor lives in the Kansas City area, with its rich musical heritage. He has used these influences to further his musical aspirations


Percussionist Mark Lowry is timpanist for the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra and is a frequent percussionist with the Kansas City Symphony. In 1993, he helped create NewEar, Kansas City’s only professional, contemporary chamber music group.

Raymond De Marchi is a founding member of the Kansas City Percussion Quartet. He is Director of Percussion at William Jewell College.

John Currey, is a freelance percussionist with more than 20 years experience as an in-school presenter and clinician. John specializes in Modern dance accompaniment, and has toured extensively throughout the US, Mexico, and Western Europe.

Fifer Emily Smith is a freelance flutist and flute teacher who performs regularly with the Radio Days Orchestra and the  Silverwood Quartet.

TurpinTyme Ragsters

Who are the TurpinTyme Ragsters?
The TurpinTyme Ragsters are a 7-Piece Ragtime music ensemble based in Kansas City. We hope to turn the clocks back, musically, to a era of ceiling fans, ice cream socials, and Sunday concerts in the park...

Pippa White

 Pippa White turned to solo performing in 1994. Previously she had an extensive career in theatre and television on the West Coast, including five years hosting a daily morning television show on ABC in San Francisco.

She calls her One's Company Productions "part theatre, part storytelling, part history." Audiences call them unique, captivating, and touching...

Mike Worley

On Christmas Day, 1979, Mike received a copy of How To Draw Comics the Marvel Way. In this book, he found his passion. Mike, already holding a degree in Music, returned to Northwestern Missouri State University to obtain a degree in Art.

The early 1980’s found Mike as a Colorist in DC Comic’s New Talent Program and as a runner-up Penciller in the Marvel Comics Tryout Contest...

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