Molly Shirk Jessup-Austin
Molly Shirk Jessup-Austin, Raytown High School, Class of 1961
After graduating from Raytown High in 1961, Molly Shirk Jessup Austin attended the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC), graduating in 1966 with a Bachelors of Arts in music and later a Masters Degree in vocal performance. A lifelong musician, Molly was the resident music director and teacher of Applied Voice inMusic Theater program at the UMKC Conservatory where she was also an Adjunct Professor of Graduate Theater, teaching voice and music theater to students working toward their Music Fine Arts degrees. Molly’s earliest professional teaching experience was as a vocal music teacher at Pittman Junior High. She followed in the footsteps of her mother Marybelle Shirk, who was the legendary first district director of elementary music in Raytown.
Upon leaving public education, she served as musical director for every professional theater in the Kansas City area beginning at the Waldo Astoria and Tiffany’s Attic, and moving on to Starlight, The Coterie, and The Kansas City Repertory Theater, where she served 23 seasons with A Christmas Carol. Additionally, Molly served at The Unicorn, The American Heartland Theatre, and Quality Hill Playhouse.
Nationally she conducted productions at Northshore Music Theater, Pittsburg Civic Light Opera, Casa Mananna, St. Louis Municipal Opera and the Kennedy Center. She also toured with the National Tour of Les Miserables. Molly’s final credit was as music director of the current Winesburg, Ohio, at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. She is still recognized as the leading music director in the Kansas City theater community. Her career included working on new musicals with major local shows and teaching voice students. Many who had the good fortune to work with and study under her are performing on the Broadway stage, in regional theaters and in film. Molly’s spirit and intelligence, and great heart, made her a wonderful mentor to amateurs and professionals alike.
Her son, Bruce lives in Seattle, Washington and daughter Jill Webster lives in Overland Park, Kansas.