American Jazz Museum: Conserving Jazz Music’s Cultural Legacy by Doug Daye

Doug is back to give us his impression of another great museum in the United States: The American Jazz Museum in Kansas City. Enjoy taking this short trip with us!

Doug Daye

The weather remains on the slightly cooler side, so what better way to enjoy going out for a stroll to take in the colorful, falling leaves, while listening to Billie Holiday sing jazz classic “Autumn In New York.” Of course, in San Antonio, the trees stay green year-round so it may be hard to take pleasure in the season but, hey, it’s fun to dream! Learn more about jazz artists like Billie Holiday at the American Jazz Museum!

In 1997, the American Jazz Museum officially opened in Kansas City, MO, in the historic district of 18th and Vine, which had been revitalized due to efforts by the community and city investments. The museum’s opening served as a momentous occasion in Kansas City’s history by helping to build on the heritage of the 18th and Vine District, which historically was a thriving community built by African Americans in the midst of segregation. Its grand opening ceremony featured many notable artists including Al Jarreau, Dianne Reeves, Tony Bennett, Harry Belafonte and more! It is the only museum that is dedicated to preserving the legacy and achievements of jazz music and works to educate the public on its significance.

From the American Jazz Museum webpage.

Museum Highlights

The museum offers many captivating exhibits and online activities as well! There is so much to see and do!!

Main Jazz Exhibit – Explore displays featuring many jazz artists such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and Charlie Parker, while looking at the vibrant neon signs that make it seem like you’re strolling around the city at night!

Louis Armstrong (from

Jazz In Film: John H. Baker Jazz Film Collection – Learn about jazz music’s influence in the film and TV industry by exploring early jazz artists that made significant achievements in the industry.

The Blue Room Jazz Club – Named after the historic 1930s street club, this serves as a venue for well-known and local artists while showcasing displays of the great jazz artists of the past and present!

American Jazz Museum interior (from

Take the virtual tour and learn more about the American Jazz Museum here:

Be sure to also check out the museum’s selected playlists on Spotify here:

Also check out more information about the American Jazz Museum and other historical sites on the National Trust website!

Happy New Year! Villa Finale announces upcoming programs for 2015

Although the first month of the new year is nearly ending, it’s never too late to wish you all a happy 2015!  Since this is the our first blog post of the year, I would like to take some time to tell everyone a little bit about our programs in February, beginning with our signature Music for Your Eyes tour on Thursday, February 5th!

IMG_5081Now in its fourth year, this specialized tour has been one of our most popular programs.  Not only do guests have an opportunity to see the home in the evening (the tour begins at 6:30pm), they are hosted by two of our paid staff who engage the audience about music, art, humorous anecdotes and so much more.  The staff provides demonstrations of the music machines in the house – not performed during our regular guided tours – ending the tour with a sit-down performance by our 1921 Bechstein-Welte reproducing piano located in the home’s Napoleon Parlors.  If you haven’t taken this tour, it is definitely a must!  (The program is repeated several times throughout the year.)

drawing 2Our first family oriented program will be on Saturday, February 7th, Drawing on Experience: For the Love of Art.  The Drawing on Experience program began in England as a way for educators in museums, galleries, science centers and teachers to provide a framework for using drawing as a medium for learning from collections and exhibitions — Villa Finale’s curator, Meg Nowack, brought a version of the program here to Villa Finale to share with children and their parents.  The children and parents will get a brief tour of the home after which they will select an object to draw together inside the house!  This is a great bonding experience for kids and parents or even grandparents!

DSC3043copy2webcopy5Finally, we get in a “loving mood” on Friday, February 13th with “Isn’t It Romantic?” at Villa Finale featuring the vocal talents of Ken Slavin.  The intimate concert of popular love songs made famous by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Cole Porter, to name a few, will take place inside Villa Finale’s Napoleon Parlors.  Mr. Slavin will be accompanied on our 1921 Bechstein-Welte by pianist, Barry Brick.  Guests on this special evening will enjoy appropriate refreshments – we can’t forget the champagne –  prior to the concert and at intermission.  Treat your sweetheart, family member, best friend or treat yourself — many of us are just romantic at heart!  For more information about Ken Slavin, click here.

There is much more to come at Villa Finale, including our popular programs for French Cultures Month in March.  More information about the programs mentioned above is located at the end of this post.  Thank you for your support, and stay tuned for more exciting programs and events in 2015!  (Please call Villa Finale Visitor Services for more information or for admissions at 210-223-9800.  Admissions must be paid in advance.  No refunds or exchanges.  Space is limited for these programs.)

Music for Your Eyes tour – 2/5/15 (6:30pm – 7:30pm)
$20.00 general admission; $15.00 members / students

Drawing on Experience: For the Love of Art – 2/7/15 (10:00am – 11:30am)
$5.00 for one child & parent, $2.50 each additional child, general admission
$4.00 for one child & parent, $2.00 each additional child, members

“Isn’t It Romantic?” at Villa Finale featuring the vocal talents of Ken Slavin – 2/13/15 (6:30pm – 8:00pm; gate opens at 6:00pm)
$27.50 general admission
$25.00 members / students

You can always visit our wesbite for more information.

Music for Your Eyes

At the moment, the very interesting Violano-Virtuoso in Villa Finale’s collection is more a feast for your eyes rather than your ears.  The double violins and up-right piano all need tuning-however-even played untuned, it still conjures up images of dancing in a saloon in the mid-20th century. 

Mr. Mathis has two mechanical musical instruments, one is the Violano, the other a  Bechstein-Welte reproducing piano (not to be confused with a player piano, which is much less accurate).

This Violano-Virtuoso was one of a couple of thousand produced in the early 20th century for saloons and bars all over the United States and Europe.  They acted as Juke Boxes did in the ’50s, you inserted a nickle and it would belt out a catchy tune.  It was invented by a man by the name of H.K. Sandell, and manufactured by the Mills Novelty Company of Chicago; the patent date on Villa Finale’s is June 4th 1912.  There are only a few hundred left, and only one man who fixes them properly-Robert Skinner from New Orleans.   Mr. Skinner was here last year to fix the mechanics of the Violano and will be back before Villa Finale opens to tune it.  The story of our Violano is quite neat:

Otto and Emma Koehler ran what is now known as the Pearl Brewery from 1902 through Prohibition.  The brewery stables went through several transformations, even housing an exact replica of Judge Roy Bean’s saloon.  I can only think that this is where this Violano may have come from.  As the story goes, the Violano was offered to Mr. Mathis  by a Koehler family member, who called him up and asked if he would like “this old music box?”, to which Mathis replied an enthusiastic “yes!”.  I think when he did that, he was unaware of two things:  the size of the “music box” and that his friend expected payment.   No matter, Mr. Mathis acquired it and it still plays boldly from the back of the main hall of the house, where it can be heard in every room.  Villa Finale has about 75 of the changable rolls with around eight songs each, but the one of waltzes is one that Mr. Mathis preferred.