How music and dance became guiding compasses for Brad Allen and Gene Cooper
For almost a decade, Brad Allen and Gene Cooper can be found sitting directly behind Kansas City Ballet conductor Ramona Pansegrau at ballet performances.
It was purely by coincidence that the two found themselves in those special seats for KCB’s 2015 production of André Prokovsky’s The Three Musketeers at the Kauffman Center.
“Sitting (in those seats) is like watching two shows for the price of one!” Gene says about watching the movement of ballet synchronized to the live music of the symphony.
Immersion from a young age
Brad’s love for the arts spans both the performing and visual arts. In addition to attending the Ballet, Brad volunteers at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, guiding others on how to enjoy, appreciate and find deeper meaning in the visual arts. His interest in visual arts came from his parents, who were antique dealers, but his love for the performing arts was of his own accord stemming from his own passions.
Gene, on the other hand, has always been more musically inclined. He played the trumpet from a young age through his college years.
“I can understand and am in awe of the professional musicians who made a career with their craft,” Gene says. “It’s fun to see how their musical talents pair with the talent of the dancers as well.”
Gene credits Brad for his complete fascination with dance.
“I’m not as immersed in the arts as Brad is,” Gene says. “Whenever he has someone that he can share his love and knowledge of art with, he’ll take up the opportunity to. He’s already promoting Jekyll & Hyde to folks in Denver and on the West Coast.”
Brad realized his love of ballet as an audience member when he was in high school after experiencing dance both on-stage and off-stage (though being on stage was a few performances as a tree and as a dancing pig on pointe). That’s when he decided that his place was best as a spectator.
In college, tickets to the ballet were a luxury for Brad so he had to be selective about what he saw. He is pleased that KCB offers a reduced-price student rush ticket so young students can experience the ballet like he did.
Live music lives on with Ramona
The combination of Ramona’s artistry of curating and conducting the orchestra and the artistry of the KCB dancers hooked the couple to attend Kansas City Ballet performances regularly as subscribers.
“There’s something about live music that provides an extra part of the spirit to the performance,” Gene says. “That was a wonderful example to demonstrate the power live music has in a performance. The heart and soul of the musician comes through in their gifts.”
“I’m so impressed with her spirit, she’s both so calm and gentle. She just has this wonderful soul about her and is a great representative of the ballet, musicians and as an educator of music. I love her style and her jewelry; we’re privileged to see everything about her. She has the best hair clips,” explains Gene.
“Conducting is very emotional and spiritual but also extremely physical. Anything we can do to help the maestro out, that’s better for everybody.”
“We love sitting behind the conductor because we can see the symphony in the pit and creating a bond with Ramona,” Brad says. He recalls Ramona saying to them that she’s very conscious of how the music lifts the dancers up and vice versa.
“We also love being close to the ballet and the symphony to create a beautiful performance.” Brad adores absorbing the energy that resonates from the dancers and musicians.
The two are always thinking of how best to support Ramona.
Philanthropy with a purpose
Giving back to the arts community is important to Brad and Gene. “We’ve had such wonderful experiences with Kansas City Ballet,” Brad says. “We just want it all to continue and flourish.” As Bolender Society members, “We’ve experienced and learned so much on what goes into the making of these performances so great,” Gene says.
Brad and Gene invested in an endowment fund to ensure live music continues at Kansas City Ballet. “What we’re contributing will help the arts of the future and give people the opportunity to share the same type of enjoyment,” Gene continues.
Their fund doubled when it was matched by the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Family Foundation and has increased more due to the Ballet’s sound investment strategy. “The matching aspect is huge, we were thrilled to be a part of that,” Brad says. Their fund will contribute 5% annually to support live music indefinitely.
“It’s honoring the past, present and future. Hopefully someone will reap the benefits of our contributions,” Brad says. “That’s why supporting the arts in any capacity is so important,” Gene agrees.
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We would gladly assist you with ways to make a gift that is meaningful to you and has a lasting impact for Kansas City Ballet. Please contact Jennifer Wampler at 816.216.5585 or by email.