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Barb and David Nicely: Gifts from the Heart

Bolender Society members David and Barb Nicely admit their involvement with the KC arts scene happened in many ways.  

David came from a large, arts-oriented family in Ohio who all played instruments, sang in church choir, and performed in community theater. It’s no wonder he developed an intense interest in the arts. 

For Barb, the interest was nurtured by a former employer who encouraged her to get involved in the KC Community. She joined the board of KC Friends of Alvin Ailey. “That’s how my daughter caught the dance bug,” Barb remembers. “Blair wanted to take ballet lessons. So, we signed her up for classes at Kansas City Ballet School when she was in Kindergarten and we all got hooked.”  

KC Ballet Involvement Deepens 

Barb joined the KCB Guild and was very involved for the eleven years Blair danced in the school. She even served on the Guild’s Board and helped with Sugar Plum Fairy Luncheons in the early days of the popular annual event. Working at the Guilds Boutique at performances and as a parent volunteer backstage at The Nutcracker were just a no brainer for Barb.  

“Blair started her Nutcracker progression as an angel and worked her way up from there,” Barb remembers. David, our son (Blair’s twin brother) Christopher and I would attend the performances to watch her perform. It became our tradition starting in 1998.”  

Years ago, the Ballet’s Community Engagement leader needed help making slideshow presentations to elementary schools. These visits were to prepare students to attend The Nutcracker student matinee field trips. Barb felt uniquely qualified to volunteer and she took pride in her involvement in those days.  

“I just enjoyed giving back to this community that had become so special to my family. Blair’s experiences with the school were very formative for her. As a family, it’s incumbent upon us to give back to those organizations we believe in and love,” Barb says.  

To that end, when the Ballet underwent a Capital Campaign in 2009 to fund a permanent home for the organization, the Nicelys felt compelled to lend support.   

David says, “Seeing the organization’s progress over the years has been heartening. We are proud we contributed to the Bolender Center, which opened in 2011.”   

Support During Crisis 

 In addition to having Ballet Season Tickets since 2008, the Nicelys have attended many Ballet Ball fundraisers including the 2020 Nutcracker Ball Broadcast Event and joined the Bolender Society. In 2020, they generously donated the price of their season tickets and more to help ensure their beloved ballet could weather this unprecedented crisis.  

“The world would be a pretty bleak place without the arts,” Barb shares. “The Ballet brings us joy. From the works that are chosen to the incredible music that’s brought to life with the dancing. We feel enriched by all of it.”  

As they reflect on their experiences with Kansas City Ballet, Barb and David agree: 

“We are very fortunate to have one of the finest ballet companies in the United States,” Barb affirms. “Our daughter started taking classes when KCB was still in the Westport Allen Center, a far cry from where they are today. So, we’ve really seen the progression. As for the future of the organization, we hope people continue to discover the Ballet and that audiences continue to grow and care about it as much as we do.” 

While the Nicelys admit Covid has interrupted performances and other engagement activities, they also agree that these impediments won’t last forever.  

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and we can’t wait to be back with our friends at the Kauffman Center watching our beloved Kansas City Ballet doing what they do best.” 

Interested in Joining the Bolender Society?  

Named for the beloved former Artistic Director Todd Bolender, who transformed Kansas City Ballet with his artistry and vision, The Bolender Society is Kansas City Ballet’s premiere philanthropic group. Members generously make a monthly gift of $200 or an annual gift of $2,500 or more. For questions or to become a member, contact Director of Gift Planning Rebecca Zandarski, CFRE, CSPG, at 816.216.5597. 


Top photo by Larry F. Levenson. 

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