The Kansas City metro has tens of thousands of fascinating citizens within its population of 2.34 million. Talented, passionate people are drawn here—or remain in this vibrant, 15-city region—for the arts, sports, music scene, and its generosity, both in spirit and philanthropy.
Distilling those numbers to highlight just nine individuals and one couple was quite the editorial trick. Some made the list based on career excellence; a few for how they deftly pivoted during the pandemic to serve the needs of others. Like true creatives, two of our profiles could have starred in more than one category, bridging charity and music, art and fashion and technology.
With great pride, we introduce you to our Music honoree, Michelle Bacon.
Music | Michelle Bacon
With live music returning with a vengeance this summer, Michelle Bacon finds herself juggling more than just drumsticks. She plays drums for Frogpond and bass for Other Americans, Katy Guillen & The Drive and The Band That Fell to Earth, an annual benefit celebration of David Bowie’s music she hopes will return next January at recordBar.
But when it comes to making a difference, Michelle would rather be known for her work as content manager for The Bridge (90.9 FM), the listener-supported, Kansas City-based National Public Radio affiliate. She finds her role to be a perfect fit.
“As a musician, it’s been really important to highlight the many talented, independent artists in the area,” she says. “Through my work here I’ve been able to help amplify diverse voices and magnify issues in the overall industry, including gender disparities and mental-health care.”
But Michelle doesn’t just introduce these musicians to listeners. The Bridge also gives her an outlet for writing and producing, focusing on issues that are sometimes universal but often very personal.
For instance, she produced a series in 2018 called Turning the Tables, which addressed issues of not just being a woman in a male-dominated industry, but also a woman of Asian ancestry. More recently, Michelle co-authored an article for Flatland that addressed hate crimes against Asian Americans and the Pacific Islander communities. The piece provided an opportunity for nine Kansas City residents to express their feelings and their fears.
As for Michelle, she is over her fear of performing on stage; something she never considered as a shy, introspective youngster. At the start of her music career, playing drums provided a barrier to the audience. “They won’t be looking at me at the back of the stage,” she thought.
But that reticence is gone when she pulls a guitar strap over her head. Suddenly she’s in constant motion, her long, dark hair dancing, fingers flying over the strings. Is it a case of play like no one’s watching? With a laugh she says, “I get a huge rush from being able to connect with the crowd and my band mates.
“And over the years I’ve worked with a lot of songwriters I admire, and there’s a sense of empowerment when I can help them carry out their creative vision to the audience.”
She mentioned The Band That Fell to Earth benefit concert again, and the fact that “it’s so satisfying to perform songs that are precious to so many people, including me.
“There are songs that help you get through tough times,” she says. When asked for one, there was a long pause before naming Give A Little Love by The Freedom Affair. That title alone could be Michelle’s personal anthem.
Read about the other 2021 Innovators & Influencers honorees here.