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'Cash Flow Issue' Stalls Paychecks For Musicians After Kansas City Jazz And Heritage Festival

CJ Janovy
KCUR 89.3
More than 50 local and national acts performed at the Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival, including The Kansas City Jazz Orchestra.

Update: This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. to include a city funding update. 

After experiencing "a cash flow issue" following the inaugural Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival over Memorial Day weekend, officials with the American Jazz Museum say all performers have been paid — after some musicians complained on social media earlier this week.

On Wednesday, Hammond organ player Chris Hazelton wrote on Facebook that he'd heard checks to some performers had bounced.

"I was told two weeks ago that they would mail me a new one," he wrote. "Here we are a month after the festival and they've stopped replying to my emails."

Other musicians chimed in, including one who wrote, "I still haven't been paid."

In a follow-up email to KCUR, Hazelton said he deposited a check the day after his large group, Boogaloo 7, played at the Festival. According to Hazelton, the check bounced the same week. Hazelton said he sent three emails that were "largely unanswered" to request payment.

Hazelton's social media post on Wednesday paid off. 

"Cheptoo (Kositany-Buckner, the American Jazz Museum's executive director) called me this afternoon to offer sincere apologies and assurance that a check was being mailed to me today," he told KCUR.

The American Jazz Museum, which organized the festival, said on Friday that 10 performers were affected, including eight local musicians, and that two checks were re-issued this week. 

Kositany-Buckner released a statement on Thursday night: 

"Please be advised that all artists that participated in the recent KC Jazz and Heritage Festival have been compensated. A few isolated issues surfaced regarding specific payments. However, those were rectified."  

Board chairman Anita Maltbia echoed this on Friday in a phone call to KCUR.

"It's something that unfortunately occurred for ten performers, eight of them local, and we have been working diligently to rectify that and it is rectified. We experienced a cash flow issue. We had expenses with our festival that were beyond our original calculations," Maltbia said.

"Although we had really good attendance for our first attempt at a multi-day festival, we were impacted by the weather and therefore, some of our revenue was not as projected. And, then, of course, our daily operations were going on. It was kind of a perfect storm." 

Director of city communications Chris Hernandez said that to help make up for the shortfall, the museum was given advance funding of $117,000 - $118,000 from their annual appropriation. The city budgets roughly $500,000 a year for the museum. 

The museum's board of directors has a scheduled meeting in July and plans to discuss final figures from the Festival. 

"One of the things going forward is that we are tightening our processes, revamping our financial systems," says Maltbia. "As far as the festival is concerned, we will come up with a tighter budget." 

Hazelton says he's keeping his post up on Facebook until he receives a new check, and, probably most importantly, "it clears the bank."

He added, "I truly want the AJM to make this right. I'm rooting for them. Nobody wins by them losing." 

The festival had a rocky beginning, with an announcement in February of unconfirmed performers. But organizers regrouped, and the festival seemed to go smoothly, despite obviously less-than-capacity crowds.

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter @lauraspencer.

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.
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