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The head of Kansas City's American Jazz Museum has stepped down

American Jazz Museum Executive Director Rashida Phillips stands next to Charlie "Bird" Parker's plastic Grafton alto saxophone. Phillips announced today that she was leaving the museum to "pursue other interests."
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Rashida Phillips served as the executive director of the American Jazz Museum starting in 2020.

After Rashida Phillips announced she was leaving her post to pursue other interests, museum leadership announced the appointment of Dina Bennett as interim executive director.

One of Kansas City's most touted musical institutions will soon be on the lookout for a new leader.

Rashida Phillips, who has served as the American Jazz Museum’s executive director since 2020, is leaving her post to pursue other interests.

The museum's board of directors announced Thursday that ethnomusicologist Dina Bennett has been named the museum’s interim executive director, effective Aug. 19.

Phillips relocated from Chicago when she took the helm of the museum. At the time, Phillips told KCUR's Up To Date host Steve Kraske she wanted to take the city's Historic 18th and Vine District, where the museum is a community centerpiece, "back to the glory that we know it to be."

"Kansas City has a rich music history," Phillips said. "We look at other places like New Orleans, New York, even Nashville is really claiming a lot of that music scene. We've got the roots here, so we've got to get up to speed."

Bennett, who has a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology, was recently promoted to deputy director after serving as the museum’s director of collections and curatorial affairs since March 2021. Before joining the American Jazz Museum, Bennett served as the founding curatorial director of the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville.

The American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in the  Historic18th & Vine Jazz District.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The American Jazz Museum, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and Gem Theater sit on 18th Street surrounded by a few active storefronts, but also many shuttered and decaying buildings and empty lots.

“Our museum — and our community — are fortunate that we have such a strong leadership team in place,” said Board of Directors Chair Dan Cranshaw in a press release. “We owe Rashida our gratitude for leading the American Jazz Museum during the Covid era, and for sparking a renewed interest in our exhibitions and mission."

"We are equally grateful that Dr. Bennett has agreed to serve as our interim executive director, allowing a seamless transition during an exciting and busy time for the museum,” he said in the statement.

“It has been a tremendous honor to have served the American Jazz Museum for the past nearly four years,” said Phillips in the release. “I am proud of what we have accomplished during that time and I am ready for a new challenge. The museum is in great hands with Dr. Bennett. She has been a terrific addition to our leadership team.”

During her time as deputy director, Bennett focused on improving and enhancing the visitor experience through collections, community and educational programs.

“Providing stewardship for this community treasure is a responsibility I take very seriously and is one of the highlights of my career,” said Bennett in the statement. “I look forward to working with the Board, staff and museum partners to continue to captivate visitors and nurture new audiences with our programming and exhibits at the American Jazz Museum.”

Julie Denesha is the arts reporter for KCUR. Contact her at julie@kcur.org.
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