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Music

Libby Hanssen / KCUR 89.3

When you see a stranger on public transit, what's your usual reaction? Do you make eye contact, even small talk, or studiously ignore them and play Pokémon Go on your phone?

Traveling with Megan Karson's The Stranger on the Train, reactions are a little different. When The Stranger trundles onto the #801 at the Kansas City Streetcar stop at Union Station, passengers stare, then laugh, at the surprising addition to their ride.

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Kansas City likes to boast that it’s internationally recognized for jazz. A concert at the Gem Theater on Thursday provides some evidence.

“Our musicians are everywhere in the world. We are pretty famous for our musicians,” says vocalist Deborah Brown, a Kansas City native and one of the instigators of Jazz Sister Cities, a partnership between musicians in Kansas City, Missouri, and Szczecin, Poland.

Kansas City already has civic relationships with 13 sister cities around the world, but this is the first purely musical relationship, unrelated to City Hall.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Maybe what Kansas City’s slow-to-redevelop 18th and Vine district has needed all along is The Popper.

The entrepreneurial rapper, whose real name is Walter Edwin, recently opened a storefront just south of the historic street corner. True to his hometown cheerleading, the name of the shop echoes the title of his signature song: It’s called I’m KC.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Lee Hartman wants to show a few hundred musicians from as far away as Australia and Great Britain that Kansas City isn't flyover country.

Hartman gets his chance next week, when Kansas City’s Mid America Freedom Band, of which he is artistic director, plays host to 30 concert bands and marching bands coming to Kansas City for the Lesbian and Gay Band Association's annual conference.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include developments at Thursday's City Council meeting.

This week marked the deadline for Kansas City's troubled American Jazz Museum to respond to the city's request to change its staff and board leadership in order to be eligible for city funds.

Helix Architecture + Design

The University of Missouri-Kansas City on Thursday announced the merger of two arts programs: the Conservatory of Music and Dance and the Department of Theatre. 

The theater department will move from the College of Arts and Sciences to a school in the Conservatory, according to an email to faculty and staff written by UMKC Interim Chancellor and Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer.

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People’s Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City doesn’t intend to inspire a revolution with their upcoming performance. They’re not even aiming for civil unrest.

No, the band’s leader, Brad Cox (piano and accordion) says they just wanted to compose a new score for a really beautiful old film, “Battleship Potemkin,” but in the band’s own style, what Cox describes as “modern freaky jazz.”

Kansas City Civic Orchestra

When the Kansas City Civic Orchestra decided to call its first performance in Helzberg Hall – Kansas City’s premiere concert hall – its "Surround Sound" concert, they didn’t realize they would end up literally surrounded.

In keeping with Civic's 59-year mission, the tickets were free. But even so, the organization had not anticipated the fervor that ensued.

Tickets for the May 11 performance went live April 3 and sold out within a week. (The last person to sell out the hall was internationally renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.)

Alex Nivens

Stephonne Singleton has been making music for as long as he can remember, and it’s all been building up to this moment.

He’s on the verge of releasing his first solo album.

“I’m so excited!” Singleton says. “I’ve never worked harder on anything in my entire life. It’s my heart. And I get to finally share that.”

He describes his music as a marriage of Prince and Billie Holiday, and it’s got elements of grunge and folk.

Courtesy of Una Walkenhorst

The artist: Una Walkenhorst

The song: No Man Like the City

The story: Four years ago, Una Walkenhorst quit her job, got in her two-door Honda Civic and kicked off on a road trip across North America for a year and a half.

The reason was simple: she wanted establish herself as a musician. But she wanted to do it on her own – without help from her father.

Clint Ashlock

Musicians have a lot at stake when it comes to the future of the American Jazz Museum.

"Please take the artist into consideration first, and foremost," bandleader and percussionist Pablo Sanhueza urged members of the Kansas City Council's finance and governance committee at an April 25 hearing to chart a course forward for the troubled museum.

E.G. Schempf

Western audiences have long been fascinated in the Balinese art form of gamelan, which honors tradition while embracing experimentation.

The music’s shimmering sound is instantaneously recognizable, a unique timbre resulting from pairs of detuned instruments after an entire ensemble has gone through an extensive tuning process. As the slightly different frequencies pulse against each other, it creates a beating effect called ombak.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

The young classical musicians who train at Park University's International Center for Music have been winning national and international awards, and going on to prestigious positions.

Segment 1: How people in the Midwest cope when they have a fear of storms.

Spring in the Midwest means blooming flowers and warmer weather ... and also tornado siren tests and scary storms. What is it like for someone with a phobia of severe weather?

Meet a Leawood fifth grader who is one of five finalists in a nationwide contest for her invention, The Storm Sleeper. However, kids aren't the only ones afraid of storms; we hear about astraphobia and the adults who suffer from it.

Lonny Quattlebaum

Kansas City blues and soul singer Danielle Nicole has a new release, her second solo album, called "Cry No More." For this latest recording, Nicole said she trusted herself and took some chances. She wrote nine of the 14 tracks, including a song about her late father, "Bobby." 

Before she fronted her own band, Nicole sang and played bass in Trampled Under Foot, a blues trio with her brothers, Kris and Nick Shnebelen. 

CJ Janovy / KCUR 89.3

More than 50 people, including artists, musicians, former American Jazz Museum employees and volunteers packed a Kansas City Council committee meeting on Wednesday to voice their concerns or support for the troubled museum.

The council's finance and governance committee had a lot of ground to cover during the three-hour session.

Segment 1: The story behind a cowboy music band from Kansas City.

Cowboy music is not the same as country-western. We speak with two of the musicians of 3 Trails West — one of the few practitioners of cowboy music in Kansas City.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Two Kansas City Council members on Thursday introduced very different resolutions in response to a consultant's report suggesting drastic measures to address financial and other problems at the American Jazz Museum. 

Sean Chen

Pianist Sean Chen connects his role as performing artist with that of teacher, approaching piano's vast repertoire with humility and fun.

Chen, who is now an artist-in-residence at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, moved to Kansas City from New Haven, Connecticut, two years ago, when his wife Betty, a violinist, joined the Kansas City Symphony. That gave him an instant local connection, and he's collaborated with some Symphony musicians for chamber concerts around town.

Denny Ilic

Strange Music, the record empire that's home to the rapper Tech N9ne, has entered a whole new realm with Friday's release of Mackenzie Nicole's debut album "The Edge." The pop record, by the teenage daughter of Strange Music co-founder Travis O'Guin, is a dramatic departure from the label's abrasive and hugely successful hip-hop.

It seems Nicole was raised for this moment.

Tanner Martine

In 2016, Simon Fink and his band, Under the Big Oak Tree, performed a holiday concert in their hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri.

One of the songs they played was “The Little Drummer Boy,” which was composed by Katherine K. Davis. As it turned out, she was born and raised in St. Joseph.

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Though it's firmly rooted in jazz, The Project H also appeals to fans of rock and R&B.

At the end of March, a flurry of sales briefly placed their new record, "Everyday, Forever" in the top ten of iTunes' jazz album chart; they celebrate its official release on Wednesday.

Elizabeth Stehling / Kansas City Ballet

When the Kansas City Ballet performs George Balanchine's “Diamonds” for its 60th Anniversary Dance Festival next weekend, Elysa Hotchkiss will be in one of 17 couples on stage.  

"You feel a lot of breath and a lot of movement, and see the stage moving as a whole in this ballet because there’s so many of us on stage moving as one," she recently said of Balanchine's choreography.

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