Laura Spencer

Arts Reporter

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. 

Ways To Connect

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

(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.

 

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.

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.

(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.

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.

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.

Bach Aria Soloists

Apr 24, 2008
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 –

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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.

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.

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 .

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.

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.

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.

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:

Mozartiana
Choreography: George Balanchine
Music: Peter Tchaikovsky

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.

Everlasting Universe

Aug 24, 2007
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.

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.

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.

Kansas City, MO – SPRING PERFORMANCE 2007
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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.).

Blues musician Gregory "DC" Bellamy grew up on Chicago's West Side, but he's made Kansas City his home for the past several years.

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