I had the pleasure of sitting down with the founder of KAYJO, Gary Phillips, where he shared his passion for jazz, the kids he works with, and his incredible nonprofit. I met Gary a few years ago at the weekly breakfast hosted by the Greater Keller Chamber. He was a presenter at the popular weekly meetup where local businesses and non-profits share their story and offerings in the community.

I was immediately impressed by all that he had accomplished but, more than anything his passion radiated which made him pretty unforgettable. Once you hear the music by the talented kids he helps educate and develop, you too will see how lucky we are to have Gary and his organization a part of our community.

Ashley Stone and Gary Phillips at the Public Arts event hosted at the Keller town hall.

The Keller Area Youth Jazz Orchestra is a nonprofit organization with a mission to  1) ENRICH the Keller Arts scene by providing a type of crowd-pleasing music that other bands don’t;  2) to ENTERTAIN the community in events that are free and open to the public;  and 3) to EDUCATE kids with advanced material, in accelerated rehearsals.

Gary Phillips is the founder and has run the program since its conception in 2015. Gary’s background in music began as a trombone player and founder of his very own jazz band for adults.

Their success, lead to interest for students to join their band as an added component to expose youth to more professional opportunities. The pilot program was launched and evolved into a by-audition summer program that served the community and provided enrichment opportunities for budding students. Summer programs continued to grow into holiday and spring break camps. It was apparent the need was vast and very well received which made it exciting when the program received its nonprofit status which allowed KAYJO to grow exponentially with what could be offered which included a professional faculty.

KAYJO alumni have gone on to Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, Eastman Conservatory and Berklee. Nine of their kids have advanced to the UNT One O’clock Lab Band. (That’s huge in the jazz world). Fourteen alumni play in elite military ensembles and one is in the Fort Worth Symphony. One alumnus was the drummer for Mariah Carey’s 2021 Christmas special. One alumnus is now in the orchestra for the touring Broadway production of “The Prom,” and another is now on European tour with Michael Buble.


KAYJO is an integral part of the Keller community in a multitude of ways. In 2017 they partnered with the US Marine Corps and presented “Christmas in July” to benefit the Community Storehouse. Admission was free (as always) but they asked attendees to bring a new unwrapped toy. The attendees donated over 300 new toys to support the great work of the Community Storehouse. Here’s a clip from that event:

You can also find KAYJO performing throughout the community at senior centers such as Truewood by Merrill, The Conservatory, Evergreen, and Mustang Creek).  Seniors came of age in the era of sock-hops, and they love big band music!

Northwood Church hosts most of KAYJO’s events in their state-of-the-art venue and coming up in the next few weeks they will be returning to Keller UMC!

The organization is always seeking opportunities for partnership with local businesses, nonprofits, churches, and community events. They are a fantastic option to create a memorable experience for both the talented youth musicians and the attendants listening in! For more info contact Gary Phillips (817))691-1205 or email:  kellerjazz@yahoo.com

KAYJO is also ideal for Open Houses, Block Parties, customer appreciation events, tent sales, patriotic celebrations, company picnics and the like.