St. Joseph Music Foundation

July 31, 2018

Written by Rachel McCoy | Photos by Jessica Stewart


DEFINITION:  Derived from a wide range of sources and styles chosen for appropriateness to local tradition and current culture.

The local music scene in St. Joseph is diverse. Eclectic. A bit unexpected. It’s a music scene built by local must-sees that play to packed crowds and national names who trace their roots to this Midwestern river town. From rock to bluegrass to rap to classical notes, it’s a music environment that is creative and connected that seeks to share and encourage both newbies and long-time artists.

The St. Joseph Music Foundation is a successful guiding force. The Foundation launched an online radio station to promote local talent in 2008. Called SJMF Radio, it’s a truly unique combination of national artists across genres with local talent sprinkled in at least once per hour. Listeners might tune in to classic country one minute, followed by hard rock the next. Interviews and programs give local voices a chance to share about things impacting the music and arts community in St. Joseph, and many other topics.

Soon after its creation, the concept of including local talent caught on. Thousands of listeners began tuning in on computers and devices from across the nation and world. As listenership grew, the Foundation extended SJMF to the radio dial at 99.3 FM (KFOH). Now the St. Joseph music scene and all its talent power can be heard across all radio and Internet-enable devices in the surrounding regions and into the Greater Kansas City area. The station strengthens the interest (and many would say, the respect) that many St. Joseph artists and bands have garnered from Kansas City for decades.

Michael Fuson, vice president, explains that the format of the Foundation is “a little bit of everything,” which is a good reflection of the music scene itself. “People are willing in St. Joseph to try different types of music, so we created a format without a format. This is more of a European model for local music, and it has generated a very positive response.”

SJMF on the radio is also a way to bring St. Joseph music to people who wouldn’t normally find themselves headed out to an area bar or club, says Fuson. Instead, they can tune in at work, or on a weekend morning, and expand their homegrown musical horizons. And, in turn, these listeners may enjoy an artist so much that they’ll head out to a live venue to support the band in-person.

It’s about bringing the music to the people, because a core philosophy of both the St. Joseph Music Foundation and the collective musicians across the city has always been education and inclusion. A Spanish language show, created in partnership with Missouri Western State University, has grabbed listeners from several states. Programming created by the St. Joseph Music Foundation reflects this cross-cultural and educational focus. Radio shows feature local artists and professors comparing music styles of popular national acts and exploring musical trends and the changes in pop culture.

St. Joseph’s national and global award-winning classical guitarist, Anthony Glise, garners a strong European (especially French) listenership. Glise is a guiding force in the Foundation and serves as President of the organization’s Missouri Music Hall of Fame – tasks he coordinates between extended professional music stints across Europe and the U.S.

“We have so much local talent here,” says Fuson. “It’s unusual for a city our size. Our talent base has really fed the success of the Foundation and our other efforts. It continues to surprise people.”

The St. Joseph Music Foundation doesn’t just want great local music to be heard. The organization strives to make sure talented musicians from across the state are also seen and celebrated. The Missouri Music Hall of Fame, created in 2009 and spearheaded by the St. Joseph Music Foundation, is located at the St. Joseph Museum and recognizes the talent and contributions of musicians from across the state. The site seeks to draw visitors into the Missouri music scene, including historic and archived materials – starting with the 19th century. Inductees span music genres, including Missouri-born Sheryl Crow; St. Louis music teacher Ernst Krohn, a musicologist; Steve Walsh of the band Kansas; and significant Missouri venues, such as the Sheldon Concert Hall in St. Louis. As the Missouri Music Hall of Fame continues to expand its collections and inductees, it ties its mission even closer to that of the Music Foundation: educate, inspire and share great local talent.

“The growth of the Hall of Fame is one of the exciting aspects of the Foundation as we look to the future,” says Fuson. “It started out as a collection of photos of local music greats that you could view online. Now it’s part of the St. Joseph Museum and it grows each year.”

The success of the Foundation is tied to the local talent, but also closely tied to the community. Local memberships help sustain the nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, as do area supporting businesses. Together, the Foundation and its members work together to share local music and promote venues, festivals and live performances across the region. This includes helping acquire and provide instruments and accessories at a lower cost to area musicians, and to get more musical talent in front of area students. Tours, seminars and classes are also part of the mix. Community projects span the year as part of an ongoing education and outreach effort – but perhaps none as well-known as JoeStock.

JoeStock, created by the St. Joseph Music Foundation, is three days of almost continuous live local music. (Plus food, vendors and groups of people of all walks of life kicking back and having a good time). The stage in downtown St. Joseph has featured as many as 25 acts across all genres – from folk to rock to jazz and reggae. It’s a snapshot of the growing talent and interest in all things St. Joe music, and a snapshot of what the Foundation itself strives to accomplish.

Fuson explains that JoeStock, Hall of Fame and other initiatives are both creative and collaborative – like many things that happen in St. Joseph. “We’re in this together, doing the work, promoting the talent, bringing the education. It’s a lot of work and a daily effort … from event organizing to computer programming behind the scenes, we need and rely on a level of dedication and commitment from the community.”

These efforts to bring the community together in the name of a cooperative, inclusive local music scene haven’t gone unnoticed. In addition to a loyal and growing listenership, the St. Joseph Music Foundation is a past recipient of the Mayor’s Award for the Arts and several media stories. As the organization increases its impact and reach, Fuson says it’s a natural extension of other collaborative work across the Downtown area. “If you look at what’s changing across the Felix Street area, at Coleman Hawkins Park, and the increasing number of live entertainment venues across downtown, you can see that St. Joe’s music future looks bright.”

Ultimately, as technology, listenership and musical outlets continue to expand, the St. Joseph Music Foundation is still focused on “improving live music for all” across all its endeavors. That’s a riff everyone can appreciate.


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