Laura Spencer


Laura Spencer caught the radio bug more than a decade ago when she was asked to read a newscast on the air on her first day volunteering for KOOP, the community radio station in Austin, Texas. 

After moving home to Kansas City, she learned the fine art of editing reel-to-reel tape as an intern and graduate assistant with the nationally syndicated literary program New Letters on the Air. Since 2001, she's focused her efforts on writing and producing feature stories as KCUR's Arts Reporter. 

In 2011, Laura was one of 21 journalists selected for USC Annenberg’s seventh National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater. She's received awards from the Associated Press, Kansas City Art Institute (Excellence in Visual Art and Education), Kansas City Association of Black Journalists, Missouri Broadcasters Association, Radio-Television News Directors Association (regional Edward R. Murrow Award) and Society for Professional Journalists. 


11:13 am
Wed July 9, 2008

Crossroads Ballet Festival Highlights Classical and Contemporary

photo: courtesy of Crossroads Ballet Festival

Summer is usually the off-season for dancers. But this weekend, dancers from across the country will be featured in a new showcase for classical and contemporary works called Crossroads Ballet Festival.

Kansas City, MO – KCUR's Laura Spencer spoke to artistic director and founder Matthew Powell about starting the Crossroads Ballet Festival and his decision to leave the Kansas City Ballet after seven years.

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11:24 am
Tue July 8, 2008

New Conservatory Dean at UMKC

On Tuesday, UMKC officials announced selecting Peter Witte as the new Dean of the Conservatory of Music and Dance.

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Visual Arts/Design
12:12 am
Tue June 24, 2008

Zimbabwe Artists Shown at Powell Gardens

(photo by Laura Spencer, KCUR)

Kansas City, MO – It's the work of three generations of African artists and most are Shona, the majority ethnic group from the country of Zimbabwe.

Listen to the story here.

Chapungu: Nature, Man & Myth continues through November 2, 2008 at Powell Gardens.


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2:14 pm
Thu June 5, 2008

Jonathan Biss with the Kansas City Symphony

Pianist Jonathan Biss

Jonathan Biss makes his Kansas City Symphony debut. At the age of 27, Biss is considered one of the finest pianists of his generation, working with orchestras, as well as performing solo recitals and chamber music. KCUR's Laura Spencer talked to Biss recently from his home in New York about his love for Beethoven and what it's like to be the third generation in a family of professional musicians.

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3:17 pm
Wed June 4, 2008

Octarium Sings in One Voice

Artistic Director and General Manager Krista Blackwood
photo: Mark Hutchinson

This week, the eight-voice a cappella choir, Octarium, presents a program called "Should Have Been Choral" including everything from Renaissance music to ABBA. Artistic director and founder Krista Blackwood is the former choir director at St. Andrew's. Blackwood told KCUR's Laura Spencer that when 8 of her soloists sang together in 2001, it planted the seed for the group.

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Visual Arts/Design
2:14 am
Tue May 13, 2008

Artists Bring Work from Zimbabwe to Powell Gardens

(photo by Laura Spencer, KCUR)

Kansas City, MO – Fifty massive stone sculptures of graceful human forms, animals and plants are now on display amongst the waterfalls and lush vegetation at Powell Gardens.

Listen to the story here.

Check here for a slideshow of images.

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3:58 pm
Fri May 9, 2008

StoneLion Puppet Theatre Presents 'The Spirit Of The Wood'

On Mother's Day weekend, StoneLion Puppet Theatre unveiled The Spirit of the Wood. It's a giant interactive puppet spectacle that the community helped build: a 20 foot monster of trash, 9 foot giant butterflies, 20 foot walking trees, and lots and lots of frogs.

Kansas City, MO – Artistic director Heather Nisbett-Loewenstein provided this preview before a recent rehearsal on the lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

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1:29 pm
Mon May 5, 2008

A New Opera Explores Legacy of John Brown

Nearly 150 years after his death, abolitionist John Brown remains a controversial figure; some consider him a martyr, others view him as a terrorist. A new opera, written by a native Kansan, aims to explore the complexity of John Brown's character and his legacy. For John Brown photos, check here.

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8:34 am
Thu April 24, 2008

Bach Aria Soloists

Bach Aria Soloists (from left to right): Matthew Johnson, cellist; Jan Kraybill, organist; Rebecca Lloyd, soprano; Robert Brand, guest baritone; Elizabeth Suh Lane, founder, artistic director, violinist; Tina Cho Johnson, guest violinist.
photo: Laura Spencer, KCUR

For nearly a decade, the Bach Aria Soloists have highlighted some of the arias by the prolific German composer and organist Johann Sebastian Bach.

Kansas City, MO –

Download recent arts stories or subscribe to the KCUR Arts Podcast

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3:23 pm
Wed April 23, 2008

Romeo and Juliet Choreographer Ib Andersen

Danish dancer and choreographer Ib Andersen visited Kansas City recently to help stage the Kansas City Ballet's full-length production of Romeo and Juliet.

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9:24 am
Mon April 14, 2008

WEB EXTRA: Xanath Caraza Reads from Primera Pagina

Traveler, educator and short story writer Xanath Caraza says she first started writing poetry when she was about six years old.

Kansas City, MO – Caraza writes in Spanish, her first language, and then translates her own work into English. Here, she reads a poem she wrote in Mexico to celebrate International Women's Day; it's called "Mujer."

This poem is published in the anthology called Primera Pagina: Poetry from the Latino Heartland.

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10:43 am
Wed February 27, 2008

Love Hangover At Bluestem

There's a simple premise to the Love Hangover. Duos of musicians perform love songs celebrating the joy, pain, or humor of love. It's an annual event, now in its ninth year and third city, and travels this year for the first time to Kansas City.

Kansas City, MO (2008-02-27) – Love Hangover is presented as part of "Pairings in the Lounge," a new monthly series of music at bluestem .

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10:11 am
Thu January 24, 2008

Legendary Choreographer Creates Ballet about Kansas City Jazz

Donald McKayle talks to Kansas City Ballet dancers during a recent rehearsal
Laura Spencer/KCUR

Donald McKayle describes dance as "movement that lights the soul." In a career that's spanned 60 years, the five-time Tony Award nominated choreographer has crafted the steps for modern dance, Broadway musicals, film and television.

Kansas City, MO – Donald McKayle has also been recognized as a Master of African American Choreography at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and named one of America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures by the Dance Heritage Coalition.

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10:47 am
Wed January 23, 2008

WEB EXTRA: Donald McKayle on Games

Games (1951) is one of Donald McKayle's classic choreographic works. McKayle says it was inspired by his own childhood in New York City.

Kansas City, MO – The Kansas City Ballet presents McKayle's new work called Hey-Hay, Going to Kansas City February 21 - 24 at the Lyric Theatre before the company takes it to New York in March.

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Cops & Crime
7:37 am
Wed January 16, 2008

Former Missouri Charity Indicted for Funding Terrorists

John F. Wood, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri at the press conference
Laura Spencer, KCUR

Kansas City, MO – A federal grand jury in Kansas City Wednesday charged members of a former Missouri-based Islamic charity and a former U.S. Congressman with money laundering and financing al-Qaeda terrorists. KCUR's Laura Spencer reports.

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12:03 pm
Fri October 12, 2007

Kansas City Ballet Celebrates 50 Years

The Kansas City Ballet marks its 50th anniversary with a season full of choreography new to the company. This weekend's fall performance includes the Kansas City premiere of three works. It also provides an opportunity to examine the company's past and its future.

Kansas City, MO – October 11 - 14, Lyric Theatre

Kansas City Ballet's Fall Performance:

Choreography: George Balanchine
Music: Peter Tchaikovsky

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11:18 am
Tue October 2, 2007

Harriman-Jewell Series Founder Celebrates Milestone

Note: This is an extended version. When more than 200 guests gathered in September for a party celebrating Richard Harriman's 75th birthday, conversation at the event focused as much on the performing arts series Harriman founded in 1965, now called the Harriman-Jewell Series.

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2:06 pm
Fri August 24, 2007

Everlasting Universe

Civic Opera's Artistic Director Andy Anderson, and composer John Mueter at a recent rehearsal of Everlasting Universe.
Laura Spencer/KCUR

The Civic Opera Theater of Kansas City presented two new works recently, including a world premiere called Everlasting Universe exploring the relationship between the early Romantic poets Byron and Shelley.

Kansas City, MO – The Civic Opera Theater of Kansas City presented two new works recently, including a world premiere called Everlasting Universe exploring the relationship between the early Romantic poets Byron and Shelley.

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Visual Arts
12:15 pm
Thu July 26, 2007

'Kansas City Snapshot' Examines Daily Life

Photographer Mike Sinclair taking a photo of the alligator house on Independence Avenue.
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

Kansas City Snapshot is a project created by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects to celebrate the organization's 150th anniversary. As discussions continue about the future of the metropolitan area - from downtown Kansas City to Metcalf Avenue - organizers say this "yearlong experiment" could provide an opportunity to take a look at where we are now...and how we live, work and play.

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12:07 pm
Tue May 1, 2007

A World Premiere of Carmen at the Kansas City Ballet

The Kansas City Ballet's Kimberly Cowen as Carmen.
photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

One of the foremost authorities in Spanish dance is in Kansas City helping stage flamenco choreography for the Kansas City Ballet's world premiere of Carmen, choreographed by artistic director William Whitener.

May 3-6, Lyric Theatre (11th & Central)

Thursday, May 3, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 4, 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 5, 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 6, 2:00 p.m.

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11:06 am
Mon December 11, 2006

1986 Interview with Jay McShann

Jay "Hootie" McShann tells the story of how he first came to Kansas City, and put together his first band.

Kansas City, MO – Jay McShann said he discovered the blues as a young man, listening to the radio and records by Bessie Smith and James P. Johnson. He was a self-taught pianist - he just picked out the songs he heard on the family piano.

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9:45 am
Fri December 8, 2006

Remembering Jay McShann

Legendary jazz and blues musician Jay "Hootie" McShann died Thursday, December 7 at the age of 90. A pianist, vocalist, composer and big band leader in the 1930s and 40s, McShann was one of the last of a generation who helped create the Kansas City style.

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12:39 pm
Wed December 6, 2006

WEB EXTRA: Ahmad Alaadeen on Jay McShann

Photo courtesy of the Marr Sound Archives, UMKC

Saxophonist Ahmad Alaadeen grew up down the street from Jay McShann. Here, Alaadeen tells a story from his childhood about walking down the street, disobeying his mother to hear McShann play.

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10:56 am
Wed December 6, 2006

WEB EXTRA: Myra Taylor on Jay McShann

Photo courtesy of the Marr Sound Archives, UMKC

Vocalist Myra Taylor also performed in Kansas City in the 1930s and 40s. Here, Taylor tells a story about attending a ceremony at the Jazz Hall of Fame in Tulsa (where McShann received the Lifetime Achievement Award).

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10:44 am
Wed December 6, 2006

WEB EXTRA: Chuck Haddix on Jay McShann

Historian Chuck Haddix is the co-author with Frank Driggs of Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop: A History. Here, Haddix talks about how McShann will be remembered.

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1:01 pm
Mon November 13, 2006

A Conversation with the Interim Director of the American Jazz Museum

American Jazz Museum Interim Executive Director Carol Rhodes Dyson has been on the job since former Executive Director Juanita Moore left in September. Rhodes Dyson grew up in Kansas City, just blocks away from the museum.

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8:09 am
Thu September 7, 2006

Natalie Twigg on Aurora Consort

The Kansas City-based ensemble Aurora Consort is known for its fusion of jazz, world, and classical music. This weekend, the group presents original compositions, as well as traditional music from Iraq.

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8:59 am
Tue August 29, 2006

An Interview with the Kansas City Symphony's Damon Gupton

Kansas City Symphony assistant conductor Damon Gupton
Photo: Stephen Kunken

original air date: August, 2006

This weekend, the Kansas City Symphony's new assistant conductor Damon Gupton makes his debut. A native of Detroit, Gupton has a background in both music and theatre.

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3:42 pm
Fri August 25, 2006

Charlie Parker Tribute

Charlie Parker
UMKC Marr Sound Archives/Miller Nichols Library

Charlie "Bird" Parker was born on August 29, 1920. Considered a founding figure of bebop, the jazz saxophonist and composer was born in Kansas City, Kansas and raised in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas City, MO – Note: Excerpts for this piece were drawn from a tribute recorded in March at City Hall, Kansas City.

A number of Charlie Parker Tributes are planned this weekend including:

Saturday, August 26, 2006:
A jazz jam in honor of Charlie Parker runs from 6 to 8 at the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center

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11:21 am
Thu June 22, 2006

Excerpt from King Henry V

Nathan Darrow, as King Henry V
Photo: Heart of America Shakespeare Festival

Here, an excerpt from a recent rehearsal of the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival's King Henry V hours before the first preview at Southmoreland Park.

Kansas City, MO – The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival is set under the stars in Southmoreland Park, just west of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (47th & Oak St.).

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