ACKC in Action: Union Station, Kansas City

by Pat Todd on June 30, 2015

We played at Union Station in Kansas City, MO today. The station is HUGE, and in beautiful condition. The pianos were set nesting in the middle of the “great hall” with an enormous American flag hanging behind us. I set our bowl full of American flags for donations on a pretty bench in front of us, and put a program on every one of the 40 chairs.

Bee Tuttle and I had arrived an hour early, so we sat down in the beautiful Parisi Coffee Shop across from the Information Booth. I decided to take a photo of the shop, and a young man jumped out of the way so as not to be in the picture. I told him that it didn’t matter, and handed him the ACKC card that I insert in the 2-piano program. He got his coffee, and came over to our table to tell me quite excitedly that he had a kidney transplant only a couple of years ago at the University of Kansas (KU). We introduced ourselves all around, and I learned that Travis was born with very weak kidneys. By the time he was 30, he was on his way out. His girlfriend at the time donated one of her kidneys to him. They subsequently married, and have been married for a year. Travis works nearby at a medical center in the dialysis department. I gave him my email address, and he promised to send me the news article about his kidney ordeals, which he subsequently did. Read his story here.

It was only 12:30 by then, so Bee and I went outside to walk around the front of the building (we entered from the parking garage entrance). The sidewalk was solid with bricks with names on them. There were thousands of bricks. Bee said that she and her late husband had donated a brick for $200, so we went back inside to the information desk to find out where her brick was. The book of names and numbers is huge, and in alphabetical order, so it was easy to find the Tuttle brick — Section #830. Outside again we walked only a few steps from the front door, and there was the Tuttle family brick.

Time to play the pianos!

Brenda arrived with her hostess and longtime friend and KU sorority sister Carole Coulter who organized both venues in Kansas City for us. We greeted everyone who arrived, which included a few people who work in the station. I hope the pictures come through on this website so that you can see the painted piano I played. It’s described as a work of art. The mother of the artist was there, so we took pictures of her too.

The acoustics were marvelous, but periodically, groups of day camp children would gather at the entrance to the science museum just behind us. Sometimes they were quiet, listening. Sometimes they were rambunctious — and it was perfect. The audience took it all in stride. You must Google Union Station to get an idea of the incredible activities that go on there, and how beautiful it is. It was rescued in the 1990s.

Afterwards, after loading the car, we hit the road for Emporia, KS, Brenda’s home town. Emporia is less than 100 miles southwest of Kansas City, and the air was still full of smoke. The drive was a challenge, the first challenge of the trip, because we were headed into the late afternoon sun, and the fires in Canada are still sending smoke this way. The heat (95 degrees) added to the smog. We didn’t see a cloud or a sign of blue until we arrived in Emporia. And now, as I sit typing this blog in the “office” of the Holiday Inn Express Emporia, the sunset in the window at my elbow is absolutely glorious red red red.

We’re all planning on returning next year. Everyone along the way has spoken about the publicity and how we can get even larger audiences now that we have “broken the ice.” Union Station wants us to play during the holidays this December. That isn’t going to happen, but it was so nice to learn that we were the FIRST to play a two piano concert in the station.

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