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. 

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Kansas City, MO – State arts agencies and regional arts organizations will soon be infused with $20 million from the federal stimulus package. The National Endowment for the Arts will distribute the funds as part of an effort to jumpstart the economy. KCUR's Laura Spencer reports.

Kansas Arts Commission Executive Director Llewelyn Crain says the funds are to be used specifically for grant recipients to preserve jobs in the arts. The amount of the grants will range between $5,000 and $40,000.

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art presents a two-part exhibition, exploring utopia and dystopia through works from its permanent collection. The titles of the exhibitions, In Loving Memory of You, come from the Kemper Museum's recent acquisition by Kansas City-based artist Archie Scott Gobber. In this edition, a conversation between Gobber and Museum Director and CEO Rachael Blackburn Cozad.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

The Top of the Bottoms Social Aide Pleasure Society's Dirty Force Brass Knuckle Street Band and Soul Revue, or simply Dirty Force, has gained a reputation for arriving unannounced.

But each year on Mardi Gras, the New Orleans-style brass band gathers on Kansas City's West Side to mark the festivities with an early morning march.

Listen here to the February 23, 2009 Walt Bodine Show about Kansas City's Mardi Gras traditions.

The neo-classical dance company, St?rling Dance Theater (in residence at the Culture House in Olathe), has tackled difficult subject matter in its choreography over the last decade, from biblical themes to Alzheimer's.

In its more than 40 year history, the Harriman-Jewell Series has presented 18 American recital debuts, including tenor Luciano Pavarotti. Recently, it was soprano Danielle de Niese's turn.

In Kansas City recently, the all-male vocal group, Chanticleer and the Shanghai Quartet continued the world premiere tour of Chen Yi's From the Path of Beauty.

Kansas City, MO – A Kansas City-based composer, Chen Yi has taught for the last decade at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance. KCUR's Laura Spencer has this profile.

photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR

Kansas City, MO – A lot of people are holding onto their money this holiday season, but one Kansas City man has been doing just the opposite. If you're lucky, you might see him, dressed in red, handing out crisp hundred dollar bills to random, unsuspecting people, like Cody Bennett from Overland Park. Bennett says, "Money is tight this year, so it opens a lot more doors."

TubaChristmas 2008

Dec 18, 2008

For nearly 30 years, hundreds of tuba, euphonium and baritone players, amateurs and professionals, have gathered in Kansas City to perform in the annual TubaChristmas concert.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, residents of towns and villages in England would gather together during the holiday season, while guilds produced short public plays called pageants.

Kansas City, MO – The Shearmen and Taylors' Pageant is one of only two surviving plays of the Coventry Cycle, from the town of Coventry, which became well-known for its lavish Christmas productions.

The nominees for the 51st Annual Grammy Awards were announced Wednesday. And for the second year in a row, two choral ensembles led by conductor Charles Bruffy have been included.

For the late dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey, dance was a way to celebrate and honor the African-American experience. The company Ailey founded, the world-renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, marks its fiftieth anniversary this year.

The Kansas City Symphony's new assistant conductor, Steven Jarvi, just started in August. At the age of 30, Jarvi's already held a number of positions, including most recently, conducting fellow for the New World Symphony in Miami, and associate conductor for the New York City Opera.

Kansas City, MO – The state of Missouri doesn't allow advance voting, like in Kansas. But election officials in Missouri this year are reporting a 40 percent increase in absentee voting. And hundreds lined up at absentee voting locations on Monday as KCUR's Laura Spencer reports.

photo: Laura Spencer, KCUR

Audiences at the Kansas City Symphony this weekend might spot a new yet familiar face. Charles Bruffy, artistic director of the Grammy award-winning Kansas City Chorale, debuts at the helm of the Kansas City Symphony Chorus as its new artistic director.

Kansas City, MO – Fri, October 24, 8 pm
Saturday, October 25, 8:00 pm
Lyric Theatre

Sunday, October 26, 2 pm
Yardley Hall

Credit: Michael Regnier

The new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is now slated to open for the 2011-2012 season. Here, Kansas City Symphony Music Director Michael Stern reflects on acoustics and expectations.

Kansas City, MO – The Kansas City Symphony's Music Director Michael Stern says when the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opens "it will change...the way Kansas City experiences art."

photo: Laura Spencer, KCUR

Gamelan is the orchestral tradition of Indonesia and incorporates bronze gongs, metallophones, cymbals, bamboo flutes, fiddles, and drums. The region's first gamelan orchestra, Gamelan Genta Kasturi got its start five years ago and it's based in Kansas City. The group performs traditional and contemporary Balinese music and dance this weekend.

There's been a lot of progress at the site of the $405 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts since the 2006 groundbreaking. It's scheduled to open in fall 2011.

Kansas City, MO – Isaac Franco, project principal for Moshe Safdie and Associates, says the Center for the Performing Arts is expected to open in 2011. Franco says it's a complicated project. With a 1600 seat symphony hall, and an 1800 seat proscenium theatre, they want to open when the structures and the acoustics are ready.

The word "funny" isn't always the first thing that comes to mind when you think of ballet. The Kansas City Ballet opens its fall season with three works filled with humor and levity.

photo: crookedhouse.typepad.com

Kansas City, MO – Five museums and five libraries, including the Kansas City Public Library, will receive the 2008 National Medal for Museum and Library Service at the White House Tuesday.

Each year, the federal institute of Museum and Library Services, in coordination with the White House, presents the medal to 10 museums and libraries for their "civic, educational, economic, environmental and social contributions."

Kansas City, MO – Kansas City-based H&R Block, Inc. has been recognized as one of the 10 best companies in America supporting the arts in 2008.

The Business Committee for the Arts, or BCA, was founded in 1967 by David Rockefeller as a way to bring business and the arts together. BCA's top 10 list for this year's companies showing significant support for the arts included H&R Block, Inc.

Kansas City, MO – Nearly a dozen arts organizations have signed on to a new online discounted ticket service that launched this month. KCUR's Laura Spencer reports.

In Chicago, it's Hot Tix. In New York City, it's TKTS. Now, Kansas City has TixKC.com. The ticket service offers half-price, day-of-sale tickets to local performing arts shows, including theater, dance, and music, from the American Heartland Theatre to New Ear.

photo: Laura Spencer, KCUR

It was 50 years ago this month that the Lyric Opera of Kansas City presented its first production, one of the most popular operas: Puccini's La boh?me. To mark the occasion, the company returns to the bittersweet love story set in 1830s Paris as this season's opener.

photo: courtesy of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City's Artistic Director Ward Holmquist calls La boh?me "one of the great operas of the Western world." Holmquist says when the Lyric discussed presenting the work again, he was "revitalized" by the film Rent to consider casting younger performers.

photo: flickr, Rock Chalk Jayhawk Cartographer

Kansas City, MO – The City of Kansas City Missouri has officially designated Tuesday, September 16 as Bob Rohlf Day, in honor of his nearly 3 decades of leadership at Starlight Theatre. KCUR's Laura Spencer reports.

During his tenure at Starlight Theatre, outgoing president and executive producer Bob Rohlf oversaw the construction of a new 10-story stage, and more than $32 million worth of facility and program improvements over the last 15 years.

photo: Laura Spencer, KCUR

A passage from a poem by Walt Whitman sparked the inspiration for a new multi-media work, Ritual of the Body Electric. It incorporates a chamber ensemble, dancers, and video.

Kansas City, MO – The 30-minute work is loosely based on a section of Walt Whitman's "I Sing the Body Electric" and expresses the emotion behind the loss of a parent and celebrates relationships.

Kansas City, MO – It's fairly typical for a museum to be closed to the public on a Monday. On September 2, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art added another day: Tuesday. KCUR's Laura Spencer reports.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art's Director and CEO Marc Wilson stresses that the museum will not be closed on Tuesdays. It will be closed to the public, but reserved for school groups, an estimated 1000 visitors a week. Wilson says it's a priority to keep the museum free, and with rising fuel and energy costs, they didn't want to pass along cost increases to visitors.

photo: Laura Spencer, KCUR

The Kansas City String Quartet Program celebrates its 15th season this year. And for the past two weeks, middle and high school age string players have gathered in classrooms on the campus of Pembroke Hill to learn the fine art of chamber performance. KCUR's Laura Spencer sends us this postcard.

Kansas City, MO – Faculty Concert: August 8, 2008, 6 p.m. Kauffman Foundation Town Center 4801 Rockhill Rd Kansas City, MO

In previous works, New York-based composer Kristin Kuster has drawn inspiration from architecture, weather and mythology. A new work, called "Ribbon Earth", is inspired by Missouri artist Brent Collins's sculpture, Pax Mundi (World Peace), created with a spiraling bronze ribbon. It's on display at the H&R Block headquarters downtown.

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