Music | KCUR


Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

She's taken her craft from Barcelona to Beijing, but this weekend Joyce DiDonato will grace a stage much closer to home.

Before the Grammy-winning mezzo-soprano brings the music of Leonard Bernstein and Hector Berlioz to life at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, we sat down for a wide-ranging conversation on KCUR's Up To Date. We talked about the kindlings of her now red-hot career, an upcoming tour to Moscow, and recent student protests that have captured the nation's attention.

Segment 1: Meet the city's expert on illegal dumping.

Cleaning up other people's messes can be a thankless task. But KCMO's illegal dumping investigator is passionate about his job. Hear his story.

  • Alan Ashurst, KCMO Illegal Dumping Investigator

Segment 2, beginning at 16:03: Should music venues be held accountable for the political positions of the bands they book?

Segment 1: Local poet writes collection based on his working class roots. 

For Robert Stewart, poetry isn't ethereal — it's a working class endeavor. He shares how his background as a plumber's apprentice, ditch-digger and truck driver shaped his worldview as a writer. 

Segment 1: A new group wants to make theater accessible to everyone.

What if you could see a play for free in a non-traditional venue? Well, now you can. The Kansas City Public Theatre kicks off its first season this fall, but it's already staging some monthly readings at a local bar. We talk with its executive artistic director and a playwright, whose work will be performed on Monday.

Segment 1: Why The Olympics in PyeongChang is about more than sports to Kansas City's Korean community.

For members of the Korean community in Kansas City, the Winter Olympics have been as much a celebration of heritage as it is a moment of political tension. Today, we check in to learn about the significance of this international event. 

Paul Andrews /

Enrique Chi, frontman of the Kansas City-based band Making Movies, has had a busy year.

The band released its second album, “I Am Another You,” last spring. Produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, the record made it to #3 on Billboard's Latin Album chart.

Enrique Chi

Feb 16, 2018

Meet Enrique Chi, the frontman of Making Movies.

Segment 1: Why the face of vocational tech education is changing.

When you think of career education classes for high schoolers, what comes to mind? Maybe welding or auto shop? But with today's changing workforce, many students are also preparing for industry fields like coding and biomedical technology. Find out how a school in Lee's Summit is adjusting to meet this need.

On our First Friday arts show: a local artist has been keeping a dream journal for over 40 years. In his new exhibit, he's brought recurring objects from his dreams to life through sculpture. Then, we talk to the star of a one-woman show about fashion icon Diana Vreeland, and a band conductor on how his group keeps the Kansas City sound alive ... and how they're taking a step to address the gender imbalance in jazz.


Kansas City's music scene has a long tradition of hardworking artists who turn out great, original songs. Last year was no different. Today, co-creater Savanna Howland, Judy Mills of Mills Record Company, and KCUR contributor Bill Brownlee offer a sampling of their favorite 2017 releases from Kansas City and around the world.

A new play, Trench Warfare, is about two infantry soldiers in World War I. We talk with the local musician who composed the score for the play; he shares how he evoked the feelings of WWI with a seven-piece orchestra and a computer.

Then: Sexual misconduct has been an issue in the Kansas and Missouri statehouses. Two women in politics from both sides of the state line compare notes from their experiences on the job.


In our January arts show: we hear more about a new exhibition at The Nelson that features artifacts from the tombs of kings of ancient China — including a burial suit that's made from over 4000 pieces of jade.

naturalflow / Flickr -- CC

What makes a song a Kansas City song? We revisit the classic "standards" that once defined the KC sound. Plus: a local writer takes us on a tour of the nearby breweries, distilleries and vineyards on both sides of the state line.


Members of the hearing-impaired community often face unique, and sometimes difficult situations even when living in America. Today, we discuss the history of persecution against people with deafness in this country and the milestones alongside the path to equal rights.

For a full transcript of that segment, click here.

Plus, the story behind the song, "Hold On," by Isaac Cates & Ordained.


Protest Music (R)

Dec 26, 2017

Three musicians discuss the influence of protest music, what makes a song political and how protest songs of times past compare (or differ) to today's.


From a collaboration between a big-band trombonist and two local rappers to an opera about an ill-fated expedition on Mt. Everest, it's been a busy year in the local arts scene. Our panel of avid arts-goers share their favorite moments from 2017.


Kansas City is home to the best brass band in the country. Hear more about the Fountain City Brass Band, which recently placed second and third at two international brass band competitions.

Then, the concertmaster of the Kansas City Symphony discusses his labor of love: performing in Shir Ami, a group that revives the lost music of the Holocaust.

Missouri S&T

Missouri S&T senior Dajae Williams is helping other students learn a complex math equation through rap.

In a YouTube video uploaded on the Rolla campus’ official channel, Williams mixes her passion for music and numbers into a track explaining the quadratic formula:

TheNaska / Flickr -- CC

Meet a soon-to-be-NASA engineer from Missouri who raps about math.

Plus: what are the smells of KC, both past and present? We explore the rich tapestry of Kansas City scents, good and bad, and how they affect our experience of a place.


On this December arts show: the story behind "Uplift," a new exhibit that's inspired by ladders, and a local science fiction writer on her book, which takes place in the aftermath of the second civil war in the United States.

Plus: pajamas and punk rock at the museum? The Nelson hosts a pj party for grown-ups, featuring the music of The Architects. We catch up with drummer Adam Phillips ... and talk about fuzzy onesies.


The McFadden brothers are musicians, singers and tap dancers. They learned how to tap from their father, the legendary Smilin' Jimmy McFadden, and they've just received a 2017 Living Legends awards from the Tapology Music Institute, a national organization. Hear their story, which starts at 29th and Euclid.


Wikimedia Commons

For as long as there has been recorded music, there have been cover songs.

Mitch Bennett / Flickr -- CC

Meet a young musician who's starting to make a name for herself in Kansas City ... and who is putting some of her success towards helping the city's homeless.

Then: how often do you think about the trees in our area? Since the 1940s, an organization called American Forests has been tracking the oldest and largest trees in the country — champion trees. We hear about the champion trees near us, along with the beloved trees in and around KC.

Keith Stanfield

Oct 20, 2017
Paul Andrews /

He started playing the violin at age 3, then he taught himself how to play soccer at 12. Meet local violinist Keith Stanfield, who not only went to music school, but he also played soccer for Western Samoa's World Cup team.


Isaac Cates

The group: Isaac Cates and the Ordained

The song: "Hold On"

The story: Kansas City gospel singer Isaac Cates grew up hearing his grandparents hum to the traditional gospel song, "Hold On." 

"It's birthed out of the African experience of singing a story of encouragement," Cates says.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

One Missouri photographer has spent years collecting stories and making images of musicians and their most prized possession; their guitars. Today, Chuck Holley shares some of his favorites. Then, we visit with Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller about the possibility of an upcoming bubble. Shiller says many harbingers of recessions in the past are present, but something important is missing.

Last month, at Milan Fashion Week, the models at the Missoni show walked the runway under a colorful fabric canopy that was created by a Blue Springs native. We chat with artist Rachel Hayes about her fabric sculptures.

In 1973, Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs met up on the tennis court to see whether women could cut it in sports. Inspired by Battle of the Sexes, we take a look at how their legendary match influenced feminism and women in sports today.

Plus: a teacher at Shawnee Mission East wrote a song that addresses sexual assault ... and invited his students to collaborate on it. Hear the story behind his song, "Fallen Roses."


Meet the creative forces behind some of the exciting art stuff going on in September. We talk to the director of a play where ten manly explorers are played by women. Then, the dance troupe that choreographs shows off the sides of buildings. Finally, a KC musician who activates local dance floors and local politics.


Cowboy music is not the same as country-western. A talk with some of the musicians of 3 Trails West — one of the few practitioners of true cowboy music in Kansas City.

Plus: the legendary history of the "Big Red One" (1st Infantry Division). Based at Fort Riley, Kansas, it's the longest continuously-serving division in the United States Army ... and it recently celebrated its 100th anniversary.