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Best Museum Tour Guide 

Dennis Winslett

One day this past spring, the American Jazz Museum was filled with a couple of busloads of tourists. One group was aging baby boomers, maybe in town for some convention; the other group looked like European teenagers paying homage to the classic American art form that doesn't get enough love in its own country. It's not exactly easy to absorb the Jazz Museum experience. Visitors have to work hard, making stops at various booths to put on headphones and listen closely while reading explanations of what they're hearing. But on this spring day, Dennis Winslett was leading the tour, saxophone in hand. Stopping in front of the display on Charlie Parker, Winslett said, "This was how jazz sounded before Charlie Parker," and he played a little bit. "This is what Charlie Parker did with it," and then he played it the way Parker played it, and suddenly it all made sense. If you didn't understand Parker before — and, honestly, we really didn't — we understood him after hearing Winslett play. The 33-year-old dreadlocked Kansas City native graduated from UMKC's Conservatory of Music before hitting the road and spending time in Chicago, where he worked as an arts administrator and educator while performing and recording his own music. He's finally settled back in Kansas City, with a mission not just to educate Jazz Museum visitors but also to nurture the next generation of jazz musicians throughout the city. They're in good hands.

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