YOUTH JAZZ Terms and Conditions are found here.

Photo by Helen Traphagan
Photo by Helen Traphagan

ABOUT Kansas City Area Youth Jazz

  • Our professional staff and esteemed jazz faculty are currently unpaid community volunteers.
  • Our collective motivation is to simply pass down our proven professional experiences and technical knowledge of the jazz music art form to our youngest generations.
  • We do this through a four-month season of 16 rehearsals, concerts, and recording sessions that produces a professional album released commercially on a professional jazz record label.
  • Fellows perform original compositions and arrangements that are written specifically for them, learn the process of preparing music for commercial release, and learn about booking live performances in the community, among other vital skills.
  • Among our program goals is to totally immerse participants in an artist-level program that also provides useful insights about the professional music industry both before AND also while attending college, university or conservatory music programs.
  • The Kansas City Area Youth Jazz experience helps refine and inform such opportunities in a more realistic context.
  • We seek tax-deductible funding support of the program by selling the recordings we produce, chair sponsorships, booking concerts, donations, and grants.
  • We use this tax-deductible funding for strategic investments in this project and for arts integration purposes.

— Christopher Burnett , Founder + Artistic Director


PHOTO: Mr. Burnett with jazz great and Kansas native, Bobby Watson after his performance with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra at Unity on the Plaza.

YOUTH JAZZ is a premier student jazz artist opportunity.

Our approach is to engage the next generation of jazz artists in an applied performance environment.

Our philosophy is to develop selected jazz repertoire for refined performance opportunities through a high-level of understanding and musicianship.

Our vision is to attract the "best of the best" among the KC area youth jazz musicians.

What's unique about our process is the opportunity to allow the most accomplished jazz artists of our youngest generation a forum among peers each season.

Among the distinct and interesting facts about our model is that students are exposed to and learn about both - the music and the business of jazz.

This sets us apart from many jazz education programs.

Our Story

Mr. Burnett returned home to the Kansas City area in 2001 after serving 22 years with military jazz bands. He worked with Leon A. Brady's famous jazz education program for five years (until Mr. Brady retired) and then with other jazz education programs.

Mr. Burnett has valued Mr. Brady making himself available as a mentor with proven experience and success in the private jazz education arena. He even discussed the idea of starting this new program with Mr. Brady in 2012, well prior to the official launch of Kansas City Area Youth Jazz in 2019.

PHOTO: Mr. Burnett with Mr. Brady presenting a Jazz Clinic for fellow Music Educators at the Kansas Bandmasters Association conference.

Meet the Team

Photograph by Duane Hallock

YOUTH JAZZ brings together a diverse range of individuals, organizations, and businesses to support our mission. We bring validated individual and collective professional experience to the jazz education and ensemble performance process. It's about using our collective expertise and knowledge to develop another generation in the jazz continuum.



Associate Musical Director

Founder & Artistic Director

Mr. Burnett is a prominent Kansas City saxophonist, bandleader, instructor, and raconteur. He operates Artists Recording Collective, a record label that has released dozens of albums by jazz musicians from around the world. He is an educator, arts business leader, and award-winning composer who began his extensive professional career with military jazz bands going pro directly upon graduating high school at 18 years old. He is a writer and the editor of Jazz Artistry Now magazine.



Associate Musical Director

Recruiting & Outreach

Rev. Thornton is a professional musician and educator based in Kansas City. He has taught music for over twenty years and is currently the Vocal Music Director at the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts. Rev. Thornton is an in-demand clinician and conducts gospel music workshops and clinics around the country. He is a music producer and recording studio owner. He has recently completed the mastering of his debut solo recording project.



Album Producer

Recording Engineer

Mr. Crain encourages intellectual curiosity, ingenuity, practiced technical competence, musical literacy, and deep understanding of fundamental concepts in his students at The Institute of Audio Engineering Arts. In addition to his audio engineering endeavors, he performs with several noted ensembles. His Bachelor in Music Performance with a focus on jazz and studio music and his Masters of Arts in Music with focuses on audio engineering, electronic music composition, and higher education, degrees were earned at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory.



Associate Musical Director

Recruiting & Outreach

Mr. Cunningham is a music educator and performing/ recording artist who serves as the director of bands and jazz studies at Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts. He can be heard performing throughout the Midwest. A Kentucky native, he earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from Western Kentucky University, holds an artist certificate from the Kodaly Institute at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Music, and is completing the Master of Music Education Degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Photo by Helen Traphagan


Among the primary purposes of the Kansas City Area Youth Jazz program is to teach participants through participation and application how to integrate art in ways that impact community.

  • INNOVATIVE PARTNERSHIPS - KC Area Youth Jazz products and services partner with other community entities to develop programs that address community needs such as tourism.
  • INTEGRATED ARTS EDUCATION - KC Area Youth Jazz increases student performance using recording engineering technologies during the course of our season by conducting professional recording sessions and creating a professionally produced commercial recording.
  • VISITING ARTISTS - KC Area Youth Jazz has partnered with the Artists Recording Collective (ARC) recording label to bring internationally known artists to the KC area for workshops, concerts and master classes. And most recently KC Area Youth Jazz has partnered with ARC and the 424 Lounge to produce a monthly student jazz jam session in the northwest KC metro.