The Importance of the Arts with Lindsey Rood-Clifford

Lindsey Rood-Clifford, the president and CEO of the Starlight Theater, discusses her role in stewarding the legacy of the theater and the importance of arts education. She shares the upcoming changes at Starlight, including a capital campaign to add a canopy structure and expand programming. Lindsey emphasizes the value of arts in society and the…

Show Notes

– The arts are an essential part of a rich and full life, providing opportunities for connection, shared experiences, and storytelling.
– Kansas City offers a vibrant arts and culture scene, with a strong emphasis on supporting local artists and organizations.
– The post-pandemic era presents both challenges and opportunities for the arts, requiring innovation, adaptability, and a focus on audience development.
– Getting involved in the community and making a difference can be achieved through volunteering, networking, and connecting with like-minded individuals.

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Show Transcript

Virginia Huling (00:00)

So welcome back to another episode of Season 2, KC Leaders podcast. My guest today is Lindsey Rood-Clifford, and she is the current President and CEO of the Starlight Theater. And we are super excited to have you here today. I’m a huge fan of the arts, and finding the Starlight Theater for me last year, we stumbled into a production of Legally Blonde. And going to this place, we had a friend in town, and we were like, Let’s go do something. And being new to town. We didn’t really quite know where to go. And this was a great opportunity for us to roll in and see what this thing was. And it was like, it was like Candyland. It was like, this is a giant castle that’s surrounded by all these people, that they’re happy to be there. There’s a buzz of excitement. How has this affected you in the course of your life?


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (01:07)

Well, I grew up coming to Starlight, so I love hearing stories like that where people are discovering it for the first time because that description is what we hear a lot. We drove into a park, and then we saw castle towers, and then we realized there’s this huge theater in the middle of a park, and that the feeling that’s in here is what a lot of people really talk about, that it’s more than what’s on the stage, that it really is about the people that are there, the feeling that you have, what happens before the show, how great you feel, and the people that are waving and talking to you after the show. I think that’s what’s made it special for me since I went for the first time when I was five or six years old. My My parents were season ticket holders, so I grew up going to Starlight. So I don’t fully remember, I think, that feeling of discovery, because I’ve also been driving there now for almost 18 years every day of my life.


Virginia Huling (01:57)

It’s been in your life, your whole life. That’s incredible. So you’ve really seen a lot of where it was and how it’s come along, and now you yourself have a hand in where it’s going for its future.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (02:09)

It’s wild. I’m coming up on my one year anniversary in this role, April first. Congratulations. So it’s right around the corner, and I can’t believe it. It’s like you blinked and it’s here. But yeah, it’s very… Right now, especially because the CEO that I started working under at Starlight actually just passed away this week. Oh, my gosh. And so So it’s really brought a lot of the Starlight family together and realizing how huge that family is, not just here in Kansas City, but when you talk about national artists and creatives and people that love coming to Starlight or have great memories at Starlight. So that legacy really hits you. So being responsible for stewarding that legacy, I take that really seriously, and that is both a great privilege, and there’s also some obligation there to do it right. Right.


Virginia Huling (03:00)

Definitely. Big shoes to fill. Yeah. But for my fellow women entrepreneurs, Lindsey here is the first President and CEO, woman president and CEO in Starlight’s history.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (03:12)

Is that- Seventy-five years, almost. Yeah. All right.


Virginia Huling (03:14)

So one, congratulations on breaking the streak. And two, you’ve got some… You yourself are creating some big shoes to fill yourself, holding that position. So this is a a major week for you all.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (03:31)

It is. And I also think that when you have 75 years of history to still have firsts that are happening, you feel some friction around that. You also think, Gosh, you think that it would have happened before, to some respect. And at the same time, I also take that the board of directors, the people that hired me into this role, that there was some risk for them in making this choice to do something different than what history was. And that confidence that I think they had in me, I also feel deeply and take very seriously. And I think it is important that whenever there’s first, you go, Well, you want to be the first, but not the last. So modeling that, knowing that what you’re out there doing is going to be important to someone else, I’ve got a two-year-old little niece. That’s the person that I think about, that you want to not have it be a big deal for there to be a first woman in a role at some point. Right.


Virginia Huling (04:24)

But as she grows up and has Starlight in her life…


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (04:28)

She will never know anything but a woman in this role!


Virginia Huling (04:30)

Exactly. I mean, I think that’s pretty cool. Just got to say for myself. So that does bring something about… You bring a lot of history and experience in your role as President and CEO. You’ve done a lot of work with nonprofits in your history. Is that right?


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (04:47)

That’s right. So when I actually started working at Starlight, it had an event management subsidiary that I worked for. So a lot of my clients at the time, it was like an agency style. So I had a lot of nonprofit clients in addition to working at Starlight. So worked with a lot of different nonprofits then, serve on a lot of different nonprofit boards as well. At this point, just got done chairing the Association of Fundraising Professionals because my last role at Starlight before moving up into executive leadership was in philanthropy. So lots of experience, and Kansas City is rich with nonprofit and philanthropy.


Virginia Huling (05:21)

Definitely. And the arts. One of the things that really attracted us to Kansas City was such an emphasis on the arts. And I know that It’s had its own… Through interviewing people here, that’s had its own ups and downs and storied history. But the fact that there’s so much momentum behind keeping them in the spotlight really, really speaks a lot to the area and the people.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (05:47)

I think it’s a spectacular time to be a part of arts and culture in this city. But I think it’s also a spectacular time to be a part of Kansas City, period. Yeah. Being a part of a city that has seen the renaissance that it has, that is on this, what feels like this precipice, right, for hitting it big. That is a really exciting thing to be a part of, even as a historical institution, because there’s then these opportunities to say, We have all these chapters that came before, but there’s all these future chapters that the stories aren’t told yet. What is that going to look like for us? And that’s really exciting. Yeah.


Virginia Huling (06:21)

And for the listeners here who are maybe new to the show or are unfamiliar with the Starlight Theater, this This is a rich jewel, and it tucked away in Kansas City. It’s an outdoor theater. They’ve got a variety of different programs. Like I said myself, I went and saw a touring musical theater program that came through. But could you, Lindsey, tell us about some of the things that are on the horizon for Starlight?


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (06:49)

Actually, you saw a local production if you saw a legal bond. So that was actually produced at Starlight. So it was not a tour. Oh, even better. So most of that cast were local artists, and it had a teen chorus. We We get to do a community course. So there were 20 local teenagers that were a part of that. Oh, my gosh. Yeah.


Virginia Huling (07:03)



Lindsey Rood-Clifford (07:05)

Sorry, what was the question?


Virginia Huling (07:06)

Oh, no, that’s fantastic. What’s on the horizon? You’re at the helm of this. So what’s the feature that you want to help build for Starlight?


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (07:16)

So there’s a couple of big things that I think will make the theater look different moving forward and therefore feel different. This past fall, we announced that we were completing a $40 million capital campaign. So that It’s huge. That’s the largest in our history. And it will be adding several things to the theater, the biggest of which is really a traditional amphitheater canopy structure. So we have 8,000 seats. We will now, when it’s done here in two years, have 3,200 of those seats covered. So for us, that means that it will allow us to expand programming, in addition to what it’ll do for guest experience, especially for Broadway shows when they come in. Right now, we can’t do matinees like a lot of theaters because nobody wants to sit outside in July in Kansas City. Exactly. But This will allow us to expand to those matinee programming hours, which really is family hour. An eight o’clock start time is too late for people with littles. So that two o’clock or one o’clock start time, that’s going to really allow us to reach new audiences, which is really important right now. Definitely. That program also includes a kitchen renovation, because one of the big things post-pandemic is that it’s not just about what’s on the stage, it’s about the experience before and after.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (08:24)

So we are going to see a lot of things that we’re going to be trying out over the next couple of summers to really engage engage people in those pre-show hours, and maybe even those post-show hours. And post-show is not something that theater historically does a lot of. But really, as shows get shorter and intermissions go away in some shows, we’re really trying to tap into how do you make this a real experience? Because one of the things I think we see is that people feel differently about time on the other side of the pandemic, and certainly about the things that they want to get off their couch and go do. So that value proposition, I think, has changed, and we really have to be something that people people really want to get up and go do and be with their friends, and be with their family, and they know that that’s going to be an experience no matter what’s on the stage that they want to enjoy.


Virginia Huling (09:09)

Yeah, there’s a lot to be said for… There’s a lot of things competing, like you said, for your time. But when you’re choosing to where you want to go with that and then actually getting the momentum to get out there and go, keeping them in that experience helps create a lot more of those lasting memories, I think.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (09:30)

Yeah. And it’s a piece for us of, I think, audience development. So the other piece of our campaign, which we call Uniquely KC, because we think Starlet is Uniquely KC, but it’s also programming expansion on our community education programs. So that’s something that a lot of people don’t always think about when they think about Starlight. They think about big concerts, big musicals. But we have an existing portfolio of community education programs, and we’re actually going to be almost doubling them through this campaign. And really, those were were developed to look at where we had gaps, where the community had gaps, and to your earlier point on what a great arts and culture city this is, to really say, where can we make a difference in the arts and culture ecosystem? So for us, that was looking at elementary school ages, both in what our programming at Starlight was, but also programming out in communities. So we’ll be piloting here in the next year or so a new program that brings a free 17-week program to Title One Elementary Schools that helps them put on their first musical. They don’t have music programs, so it teaches third grade teachers, counselors, whoever might be interested, how to help them put on a musical because we know those elementary ages are where people have big imaginations and they can fall in love with theater and music.


Virginia Huling (10:40)

Yeah, it’s where you get the permission to play.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (10:43)

Right, right. Because by middle school, we get a little scared, right? So elementary school is where you want them to see that there’s those possibilities for them, and that that continues on, that that tradition starts there.


Virginia Huling (10:55)

How did Starlight create that for you? Because there’s something in your voice that just went wistful.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (11:02)

Well, I often describe myself as a recovering theater kid, and for all the theater kids that are out there, they know exactly what that means. But I grew up going to the theater, so it was a privilege that I had that was always a part of my life. So I think one of the things that I love about being part of a nonprofit theater like Starlight, and one of its size, is just the opportunity to give that experience to other kids, to have that discovery happen, because I know how impactful it was for me. I’ve seen how impactful it has been for my kids. So that’s, I think, the special part of it. But I also did theater growing up. I was a theater and music person. When you’re a little red-headed kid, you do a lot of Annie’s. So that was a big piece of my life. Are you a triple threat? Well, look, I’m dancer last. I’m what they call a mover.


Virginia Huling (11:50)

Okay. Okay.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (11:52)

Can move rhythmically, not a dancer.


Virginia Huling (11:56)

Still a triple threat, compared to me.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (11:59)

But it was It was so fun. And that’s where I found my people, you find your confidence. There’s so many skills I think you get out of arts education. And we often treat the arts as something that feels a little like extra, like it’s discretionary, right? And I think we felt that deeply during the pandemic when funding went away from arts and culture. And we learned, hey, this is where we are right now in people’s priorities and sense of their hierarchy of needs. And I think anybody Somebody that’s in it would argue, look, yes, you absolutely need food and shelter and those basics, but to have a rich, full life, you have to have art in it.


Virginia Huling (12:37)

I’m really glad you said that phrase, specifically, a rich, full life, because in the normal course in scope of business, I’m in marketing. So we’re looking at a lot of artificial intelligence. Everybody is about tracking the data. Everyone’s glued to their screens. And regardless of how you feel about that, that’s a part of our society and where we So that limitation of being singular creates a position where you’re not able to connect with your fellow humans, and you’re not able to play with them. You’re not able to explore different conversations. And the theater and the arts in particular, give us a way to experience that. So when parents are making their decisions about what programs that maybe they want their kids to go to, the benefits that Starlight brings to them, what are some of the things their parents can expect? You said building confidence. I don’t know that people think about that.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (13:38)

I think it’s building confidence, but I think even more timely now is that we know there is an epidemic of isolation. There you go. And we know that our kids now suffer from mental health issues and anxiety. And part of that, I truly believe, and it’s a little bit my editorial, but that is from that isolation, right? It’s from lack of connection, maybe a little bit from lack of creativity. But I think it’s the connection piece.


Virginia Huling (14:07)

Stays locked in your head, too.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (14:08)

Yeah. And when you’re home or when your whole social world is on a device, that is a different experience. Than being out in an audience, than having a shared experience. And that is irreplaceable. And that’s the piece where when I look out for my office, which looks over Starlight Seating Bowl, I can’t see the stage. And I love watching the audiences more than anything else because you see that thing, that what it is to be with other people experiencing theater and music, even when you feel differently about what you’re seeing or what the experience was. And then you want to talk about it. I have had more great experiences with…


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (14:47)

I now have a 15-year-old that’s the only one still at home, but he loves the theater, and we will go out. But then he loves after the theater, where we get to go somewhere and talk about what we thought we saw and whether we liked it and what worked and what didn’t work. So it’s also teaching some critical thinking skills. It’s teaching you to wonder about things, to be curious, to see that there’s different perspectives and that they’re all valid. Those are pretty critical skills. And you’re seeing the power of storytelling. And as someone, you said you’re in marketing. Marketing is storytelling. Absolutely. You have to be able to connect to people or understand or have empathy. And that’s all storytelling. So when you get kids involved in arts education and you think, Hey, they’re just having fun or they’re dancing around or they’re singing some songs, there’s so much more than that that I think impacts them and helps them develop into people that have full rich lives.


Virginia Huling (15:43)

Yeah, that’s fantastic. Where can people who are interested go and find this information? I’m assuming it’s all on the website.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (15:50)

It’s all on the website, And then pretty much any social media platform that exists also has a handle that’s Casey Starlight.


Virginia Huling (15:57)

Okay. Starlight is obviously a a large part of your life. Are you working in other areas? Are you on other boards and nonprofits still?


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (16:09)

I am. And I think the ways that I see you can contribute outside of your day job and your personal life are really in two ways. You can give time and you can give money. Both of them are somewhat finite in terms of what they are. But where I give my time usually is aligned with what my priorities are. So right I give it in the philanthropic sector with the Association of Fundraising Professionals. I give it to a chamber leadership development program that I was a part of, that I’m now an alumni of, that supports DEI scholarships for that organization. And then maybe most importantly, I’m involved with an organization called In the Name of Grace, which supports recovery housing through the Oxford house model in the whole state of Missouri. I have a parent who’s in recovery and was a part I have an Oxford house model, so that’s a way that I can be a part of something that really saved his life.


Virginia Huling (17:04)

That’s incredible. Thank you for volunteering and doing that. That helps a lot of people. Coming back to Kansas City as a whole, what are some of the unique opportunities or challenges that you think KC is going to see on the horizon? We have a lot of things lined up. Obviously, there’s a tech sector that’s really springing off out here. We’ve got the World Cup coming. There’s a lot of businesses looking at Kansas City right now. What are some What are the things that you think we have to tackle?


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (17:33)

I think one of the challenges is the sheer number of opportunities and how we make sure we’re ready for them. Okay. Using the World Cup is a great example. I sat with I had the opportunity recently to attend something with World Cup leadership, where they really underscored that this is not only going to be the biggest event in Kansas City’s history, but the biggest event in world history. And I I think I knew that, but I didn’t really know that until they were showing the scale of it against Super Bowl’s and past World Cups. And to see the size of Kansas City and know that we were chosen amongst all of those other host cities tells me that somebody outside of us also saw some great things here. But then I think all that we have to do to prepare to make sure that when we are on the world stage, that we’re successful, there’s some pressure to that, I think, to making sure that we have enough transportation, that when people come, they have enough to do. I think as an arts and culture institution, that’s the question we’re all asking ourselves is, there’s only so many matches people are watching.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (18:35)

What else are they going to want to do? And how do we make sure that they get an opportunity to see what arts and culture in Kansas City looks and feels like and how terrific it really is? Because it’s always something that I think people are surprised by. If you’re on a Coast, this is still flyover country, but everybody always comes here and they’re like, Oh, I didn’t know. I didn’t know that this was here. And I have friends that have been that very same way. So So I think those are the opportunities that also then present the challenge of just how do we make sure that we do get it right when we have so much in front of us, and how do we be successful? And in terms And so there are challenges, I think not just for Kansas City, but I do think we’re still in a period of post-pandemic recovery. We’d all like to be over it. We’d all like to stop talking about it. But there was a before, and there is an after. And I think this after, we’re still not quite sure. I always describe the pandemic as a big snow globe shake, and I just don’t know that all the snow has settled down and we know what the new landscape is yet.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (19:39)

The great thing about that is a lot of innovation. The challenge of that is we don’t know. Exactly. And so we’re having to gather data and be more nimble than we’ve ever been and make different decisions, and we can’t rely fully on the historic data the way that we used to be able to.


Virginia Huling (19:51)

I really appreciate that you’re saying that because I think that maybe you see that differently because of the industry that you’re in. The arts, and not entertainment, but the arts are always challenged. You’re always having to claw for the funding or fight for that. And I guess you guys probably felt that a lot more than a lot than people realize, maybe, with the pandemic?


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (20:17)

I have said to some of my peers in the theater industry who are… Starlight is the largest theater institution in Kansas City Theater Organization. So I think sometimes you think, Well, they’re probably fine because they’re bigger. But I’ve said to some of my peers who are also struggling post-pandemic and trying to figure out, How do we develop new audiences, what’s going to attract people to come down to my theater, that it’s just different scale of issues It’s a different scale of budget. But really, a lot of the problems are all the same. There’s a lot of connective tissue between them. But whether you’re trying to fill a 500-seat house or an 8,000-seat house, you still got to figure out a way to get people to come out and see what you’ve got. And I think one of the biggest challenges in that in the arts is that if you really love the art, but no one has ever seen it before, sometimes you feel like you’re screaming into a void about how great the thing you have is. But if it’s not enough to get someone to leave their house and come see it, then it doesn’t matter.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (21:17)

So then we’ve got to tell the story differently, and we’ve got to figure out a way to attract people differently to it. I really believe for us, once they’re there, they’re going to come back. But it’s getting them there right now. That’s the biggest challenge. Yeah.


Virginia Huling (21:30)

Okay. How do you foster collaboration with that? You’re working with a lot of different people on a lot of different stages, figuratively speaking.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (21:38)

I think that is one thing that we’re trying to do differently at Starlight. That’s a priority of mine, is to really understand who we are and how we can be most useful within the different ecosystems we’re a part of. So there’s an age-old question for Starlight of how people see us. Are we a venue, just a place? Are Are we an arts organization? Or are we a community asset? And one of the things we did during the pandemic was actually a market research study to ask this question. So we’d stop arguing about it in board meetings. And we were surprised because I think in the end, we’re all three, but we are primarily for Kansas City, they see us as a community asset. So to us, that has now driven a lot of our decision making to say, yes, it’s about what’s on the stage. But this The obligation of being a community asset means that our peers are certainly other arts organizations, and there are certainly other landmarks, right? They are the World War I Museum and Memorial and Union Station and the American Jazz Museum, places that are uniquely Kansas City. But this idea of being a city-owned theater, too, or a city-owned nonprofit-operated civic asset, that means that you have to do things that aren’t just about selling tickets.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (22:59)

It does mean that your heart is in these programs that serve students, that connect seniors to community-free tickets so that they don’t feel isolated, that gives scholarships for kids to get into the arts, and that brings people to a place that is a community gathering space that’s really rooted in what it is to be together with people in a post-pandemic era where isolation is an epidemic. Right.


Virginia Huling (23:23)

Did you always know you wanted to be involved with Starlight?


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (23:28)



Virginia Huling (23:29)



Lindsey Rood-Clifford (23:30)

I have an English literature degree, and I did internships as a college student thinking I wanted to go into publishing, and I did an internship in publishing and quickly realized that’s not what I wanted to do. And that is why internships are great. And I really actually wanted to leave Kansas City when I graduated college. I thought it was at the time, and having grown up in Kansas City, you just thought, Well, real life is outside of Kansas City. What does Kansas City have to offer me? And so I was looking for jobs in, at that time, entertainment agencies and trying to move to New York, not doing the art, but trying to stay in the industry. And I remember that I got- Two very different things, right? Right. Well, and I started out in college thinking I was going to get a theater degree, and I’m the pragmatist that halfway through went, I’m not going to live this life, right? This is not for me. I want to study paycheck somewhere. And it takes a special person to get me there.


Virginia Huling (24:33)

We’re going to make that world happen, okay? Maybe not for us, but for the future.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (24:38)

And I actually got a full-time job offer in New York for a talent agency, The Dream, at the same week that I got an offer, because I had been looking for everything post-college, that I got an offer for a paid summer internship at Starlight Theater.


Virginia Huling (24:56)

Get out.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (24:57)

And the paid summer internship paid more than the full-time time job in New York. So again, pragmatist, I said, Well, I have to live and eat, so I guess I’ll take this. I love Starlight. I guess I’ll take this for the summer and see where it goes, and it is the best decision I ever made.


Virginia Huling (25:14)

That’s wonderful. To know that moment and feel the power of that moment?


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (25:20)

Especially now, because never in a million years did summer intern Lindsey think she would be President and CEO Lindsey, not even on the radar in the dream at that point.


Virginia Huling (25:33)

So how does President Lindsey feel about that?


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (25:36)

I still tell people that I don’t know that I had a goal of being a President and CEO, but I have always had a goal to have a really healthy, positive relationship with my work. And at some point, the relationship with my work required that I was a decision-maker for it to be the relationship that I wanted with my work.


Virginia Huling (26:01)

That’s a very different way of looking at a career.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (26:05)

It’s the advice I give a lot of young professionals and our summer interns that still come out to Starlight is to say, I don’t know that I always recommend thinking about the title or the money, but think about the life you want to lead and the impact you want to have and the relationship you want to have with the work you get up to do every single day. And that’s what has led me to every good decision and every opportunity. And that’s what’s led me here.


Virginia Huling (26:30)

Who are people that inspire you in Kansas City?


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (26:33)

I think a lot of them actually have been volunteers and donors for Starlight Theater. We have a long history with Hallmark here in Kansas City. And so there have been people that have served on our board. Coming to my infirmary right now is a man named Steve Doyle, who ran PR for Hallmark. And I think it’s because I’ve watched… I particularly admire leaders who, I don’t want to say lead from behind, but don’t lead for power. And I’m thinking about it a lot right now because, as I mentioned, the CEO that I started working under at Starlight, who was the CEO I grew up listening to giving curtain speeches at Starlight when I was 5, 6, 10, 14 years old. And then when I was barely legal to drink starting at Starlight, he was just He was a couple of years from retirement. So I also would say he’s someone that I greatly admired for the impact that he left on this city. But he had a quote that I’m going to Bungle to some degree, and it was actually a Charlie Chaplin quote, but it basically said that only You only need power when you want to do harm.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (27:48)

Love is enough to make the rest happen. Something like that. That’s a great quote. And that has always resonated to me, that the leaders that I like are the ones who don’t have to be the loudest voice at the table, who can offer feedback or challenge in a way that isn’t meant to do harm, always meant to make things better. Those are the ones that I’ve admired the most over the years.


Virginia Huling (28:09)

How do you stay informed and connected?


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (28:12)

I watch a lot of news, unfortunately. Internally, which is a terrible idea. But I do. I start my day with the news. That is what I wake up and get ready to. I read a lot of the local publications. So that’s a way that I stay I’m plugged into what’s happening. And I’m a social creature, so I also know from a lot of the people that I’m with who are from all parts of the city what’s going on in the various sectors that way as well. Naturally, pretty curious. And so I wish I could know all the things all the time anyway. And I think that’s part of what makes you a better leader and business person is just to also understand what’s happening around you, that it’s not just about you. And I think that’s sometimes the folly of organizations, too, is they’re just, if we build it, they will come, and not looking out and saying, No, what else is happening in the world? And I think that’s really critical right now, especially.


Virginia Huling (29:09)

Lindsey, for people who hear this and they’re inspired to want to go out and do something or make a difference or be a part of something, what steps would you suggest for them to get started? If you just don’t even know where to start, where do you go? Do you go down the starlight and go, Hey, I want to volunteer? Do you…


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (29:29)

Yeah, I think volunteering is a great way anywhere to meet people. I think just talking to people. I hate the word networking because I think it’s got a real bad rap at this point. But there is something to connecting with people. And I do think that in Kansas City, in a very special way, anybody you ask to sit down with you will try to find a way to sit down with you. And if you need to be connected to something, to an interest, to learn more about anything, people people in Kansas City are going to try to make that happen.


Virginia Huling (30:02)

I’ve had that experience.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (30:03)

And so I think taking advantage of that and knowing that that’s not just Midwest nice, I think that really is a great kindness of a lot of the people that live and work and have a great pride in this city and want to lift other people up and get other people engaged because we really believe, just as I do for Starlight, I think it’s amazing. And that’s not just marketing or PR. I deeply love what I do. And I think a lot of people feel that way about their jobs in Kansas City. So they just want other people to find that joy in the work, in the service, in where they give, coming out of philanthropy, too, and where you devote your your financial resources as well. I was never someone that thought everybody was supposed to be a Starlight donor. I just wanted to be a matchmaker to find the people that loved what I loved. Yeah, yeah.


Virginia Huling (30:50)

And finding that vibe, matching that energy, is really where we’ve seen some amazing things happen because you’re just speaking the same language in a different way. One last question. Where is your favorite barbecue place?


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (31:06)

That’s really hard. So we do what we call a tour of barbecue. I love it. So we tend to, if we’re doing barbecue, we have our favorites, and we get certain things from certain places. So of course, everyone will usually say they get the sides from Jack Stack. We’ll get most of our meats sometimes from Joe’s. We actually really like sausage from Zarda’s, which never comes up.


Virginia Huling (31:30)

Yeah, never heard that one.


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (31:31)

And then Arthur Bryant’s is my husband’s favorite. Hardcore. To the point that we did this very thing for our rehearsal dinner when we got married. We just did a little bit of barbecue from every Kansas City barbecue place we love. That sounds perfect. Including the new ones that we just tried Meet Mitch that’s in the airport that I hadn’t been to the actual brick and mortar. It’s great. Really? In the airport? Well, I hadn’t had in the airport, but I went to the one that’s out in Kansas City because I kept walking by it at the new airport going, I’ve never heard of that one, and it’s really, really good. Oh, it’s got to be good. Loving Of our Q39. I mean, the new ones, but we like it all. I think it’s great that we have something we’re famous for, and that there’s so many different things that we’re also still welcoming of the new stuff, too. We’re not like, How dare you?


Virginia Huling (32:11)

I know. My favorite diversity question is, What’s your favorite barbecue place?


Lindsey Rood-Clifford (32:14)

And I gave you the, I love it all, but I love little bits of all of it.


Virginia Huling (32:17)

You know what? Don’t apologize for what you like. Lindsey, thank you so much for taking the time to meet with us. I really, really enjoyed getting a chance to talk to you about everything that you’re doing with the Starlight. I look forward to my next visit. And for all our listeners, I hope you guys will come out this summer, check out their programming online, come out and be a guest, come out and volunteer, and just do something new.


Producer (32:39)

Thank you for listening to the KC Leaders Podcast. Please remember to like, share, subscribe, and leave a review wherever you listen. For more information about this podcast, you can visit Don’t forget to check out our other great podcasts like The Buck Stops Here, streaming now on all major platforms, and at


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