© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Off-Season: Kansas City Symphony's Miles Maner

Laura Spencer

There are some artists, like musicians and dancers, whose contracts are for roughly 40 weeks a year. So, how do they spend the rest of their time?

We asked Kansas City Symphony musicians, on contract for a 42-week season, to share stories about their plans for the off-season.

Miles Maner, associate principal, bassoonist and contrabassoonist

On learning to love the bassoon

"I started playing the piano at a young age," says Maner. "When band class was offered, I was so excited. I was such a talker, I had so much energy. And I picked up the clarinet at the time.

"Then, later on, in 8th grade, there were no bassoons in the band...They decided that I should switch over to the bassoon. And I said, 'Great!' Christmas break over 8th grade, I was sent home with a big plastic bassoon.

"It won out over the piano and the clarinet and other things. And so here I am playing the bassoon. It won in the end."

On keeping skills sharp and instruments in tune

"When you're playing on stage with the Kansas City Symphony, it's important that you're sounding your very best," Maner says. "But we take 10 weeks off in the summertime."

For the last three years, Maner has performed in July as principal bassoonist of the Breckenridge Music Festival.

"There's a lot to be said for just practicing alone in the room. It's very important," he says. "But it's very important to keep up your orchestra skills. If you have the opportunity in the summertime to go play with an orchestra, that only plays in the summertime, to keep your skills up, then do it."

Each summer, Maner also takes a road trip, accompanied by his mother (who lives in the Chicago area), to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he has his bassoon and the Symphony's contrabassoon prepared and polished for the coming season.

UPDATE: After three years with the Kansas City Symphony, Miles Maner will join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as contrabassoonist in the fall.

Shannon Finney, associate principal, flute

Since 2006, Finney has traveled to Wisconsin to play and teach at the Birch Creek Music Performance Center, an orchestral music camp for teens. She also serves as an artistic advisor forSummerfest, the Kansas City chamber music group. Finney wrote in an email that she keeps her schedule free in August "to begin the next KCS season in a rejuvenated state."

Porter Wyatt Henderson, associate principal, trombone

Henderson will perform as principal trombone at the Crested Butte Music Festival. He says his family also takes an annual trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Elizabeth Schellhase, second horn

This summer, Schellhase's plans are of a more personal nature. She's getting married in August with a honeymoon in Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic.

The Kansas City Symphony's final public performance of the season, a recording preview concert of three Camille Saint-Saëns works, takes place Wednesday, June 19 at 7 pm, Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, 1601 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo. 816-471-0400.

The “Artists in Their Own Words” series is supported by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.