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Young Classical Musicians Welcome New Concert Home In Iconic Kansas City Office Building

Julie Denesha
Violinist David Radzynski and pianist Lolita Lisovskaya-Sayevich rehearse in the Parkway Room, one of two performance halls in the 1900 Building.

The young classical musicians who train at Park University's International Center for Music have been winning national and international awards, and going on to prestigious positions.

One such alum is violinist David Radzynski, concertmaster of the Israel Philharmonic, one of the youngest violinists to lead a major international orchestra. He says studying with Park’s violin studio head Ben Sayevich gave him the confidence to take on his ambitious new post.

Radzynski says he has fond memories of performing in Parkville as a student — but he has less-fond memories of the performance venue: The university's Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel, right near a busy railroad track.

Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM
Now concertmaster of the Israel Philharmonic, David Radzynski returns to Kansas City regularly to give concerts for the International Center for Music.

Every 15 minutes, he says, a train would pass by and “ruin your beautiful moment.”

“Every time. Every concert. No exception,” adds Lolita Lisovskaya-Sayevich, the International Center for Music's director of collaborative piano.

The two are joking about this particular quirk of previous concerts in Parkville as they rehearse for a performance at the school's new venue, more than 10 miles south of campus in what's now known as the 1900 Building.

Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM
International Center for Music Director of Collaborative Piano, Lisovskaya-Sayevich, during rehearsal with Radzynski.

With its curved facade and modernist columns, the striking white building at the corner of State Line Road and Shawnee Mission Parkway is quietly iconic for something that’s basically been an office building for decades. It was built in 1966 for H.D. Lee Jeans.

Steven Karbank chairs Karbank Real Estate Company. He also co-chairs the International Center for Music’s Advisory Council. His family has deep ties to the classical music community in town, and he attends a lot of concerts around town.

When the company decided to rehab the building, Karbank says, he wanted to fill what he saw as a gap in the local music scene.

Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM
Pristine, white modernist columns beckon as an audience member heads to Radzynski's performance on a recent Sunday afternoon.

“We felt that there was a dearth of small-scale musical venues,” says Karbank. “The location of the 1900 Building seemed to be the perfect place to build those small venues.”

Now the building includes two concert halls, with the bigger one seating 300 people. It's hosted performances by a variety of artists besides those at Park, but International Center for Music director Roger Kugler says the school's new partnership with the 1900 Building, which started slowly, has been so successful that they’ll be having more concerts there next season.

Kugler says the space will allow more Kansas Citians to hear the next generation of rising classical musicians. For some potential audiences, he says, driving to a concert in Parkville is just too far.

“There's a kind of hesitancy,” he says. “I sometimes fear that people in the Kansas City metro area look at a bridge that goes North across the river and think that if they go to the other side they can see Canada from there. So it’s been a blessing to have this venue.”

Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM
Audience members linger over conversation before the concert. School Director Roger Kugler says the new performance space will allow more Kansas Citians to hear performances by International Center for Music students.

According to Karbank, having the concert series at The 1900 Building is a testament to the quality of the student’s musicianship.  

“It's the intensity of their playing, the musicality,” says Karbank. “They're all very different players. That they now have a place that they can do it is especially gratifying to those of us at the 1900 Building.”

And when distinguished alumni like David Radzynski come back, they will no longer have to worry about competing with a train.

Two performances remain in this season's Park ICM 1900 Series: Truis Mork, cello, and Behzod Abduraimov, piano, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 1; and Laurel Gagnon, violin, 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 15, 1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Mission Woods, Kansas 66205; 816-221-4488.

Julie Denesha is a freelance photographer and reporter for KCUR. Follow her on Twitter, @juliedenesha.

Julie Denesha is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Kansas City. Contact her at julie@kcur.org.
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