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local music

Powerful women have risen from Kansas City’s hard-driving blues scene in recent years. The latest to make her mark is Heather Newman, whose first record earned national attention three years ago and whose new release is even stronger.

After moving to Kansas City from Omaha five years ago, Newman has joined the ranks of Samantha Fish, Danielle Nicole Schnebelen, Katy Guillen and Amanda Fish, who have all earned a global base of fans.

Seg. 1: Elderhood | Seg. 2: 816 Day

Aug 15, 2019

Segment 1: A new book on aging proposes a third stage in life.

First comes childhood, then adulthood and finally, elderhood, which begins roughly in your 70s and can last for decades. It comes with a unique set of challenges, joys and needs, and our cultural reluctance to acknowledge that comes at a cost.

Peep Game Productions

To underline that music really is the universal language, a classically trained violinist from Kansas City, Kansas, has blended musical languages on her first solo recording.

Musician Katina Bilberry, known on stage as K’Tina (pronounced Kay Tina), had an epiphany on a visit to Kenya during her time as an undergraduate at William Jewell College.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

People who live around Kessler Park, just a few blocks from the Kansas City Museum in the Historic Northeast neighborhood, say it's the city's biggest front porch for listening to music in Kansas City.

“We have a lovely view of this day after day," said David Joslyn, who has lived in the neighborhood with his wife Elaine for more than 30 years. "The beautiful Concourse, the Esplanade, the wonderful playground and the fountain. We’re very blessed.”

Segment 1: A hopeful billboard has a story behind it.

When artist Nicole Leth lost her father to suicide, she told herself she would focus all her energy on spreading positivity. Now a billboard in Kansas City stands testament to that promise.

  • Nicole Leth, artist

Segment 2: A Kansas City musician rocks the violin in her new EP.

Drone photo by Don Ipock / The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

If there was a soundtrack for the sculptures on the lawn at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, what would it be like?

Christina Butera thought about that a lot while writing her dissertation in composition at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

People often ask Kansas City musician Gerald Trimble about the instrument he plays at gigs around town with his band Jambaroque. Although it looks like a cello at first glance, players hold it between their knees, so some people call it a knee fiddle. It’s a viola da gamba.

The instruments have roots in 15th Century Moorish Spain, and there aren’t that many of them in Kansas City. Once he discovered it, Trimble says, he was smitten.

Segment 1: Telling the American story through art by acclaimed African-American artists. 

There's no hyphen in 30 Americans, an art exhibition featuring masterworks by four decades of African-American artists. That's by design. Hear how Kansas Citians have made this traveling show their own, and why the curator who brought it to the Nelson-Atkins says it's "a long time coming."

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Stage names aren't just for actors. Scott "Rex" Hobart and the members of his honky tonk and country band, Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys, have used other people's names on stage since they started playing together in 1997.

But Hobart has another career, one that's off-stage.

Segment 1: 100 Years Of Swimwear

A new clothing exhibition at the Kansas City Museum at the Historic Garment District focuses on the history of swim fashion. Looking back on the past 100 years, the exhibit examines the changes in swimwear fashion until the modern age. We talk to the collections specialist from the museum about the exhibit and how changes in swimwear reflect changes in our society and culture. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Ragtime is big with the kids in Sedalia.

One day this spring, about 100 of them cheered for William McNally, a two-time winner of the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest. His performance at Sacred Heart School quickly won them over with the lively music that was all the rage 120 years ago.

“It’s kind of like making you want more," said Thomas Jenkins, 11, who had been taking piano lessons for about a year.

Ozark Mountain Daredevils

There was a time, around Kansas City — and the whole country — when the Ozark Mountain Daredevils were the soundtrack of summer.

When you drove around town, “If You Wanna Get To Heaven” and “Jackie Blue” blasted from car stereos tuned to radio stations playing what we now refer to as classic rock. More rustic songs like “Standing on A Rock” and “Chicken Train” were cult favorites, perfect for singalongs around bonfires at the lake.

The Greeting Committee

It was prom night, but the teenagers who packed Mills Record Company in Westport last month clearly had priorities.

“We can’t miss a show with Addie,” said Sage Morgan, referring to Addie Sartino, the charismatic front-person of the The Greeting Committee, who was giving a rare solo performance in honor of Record Store day.

“The music is awesome, we love the band,” said Morgan, who was there with her girlfriend, both of them in formal wear. “We’ve been following them since they started playing.”

Anna Selle

Allison Gliesman studied singing in high school and a little in college and knew the technical ins and outs. It took some distance from those lessons and a little experimenting for Gliesman's voice to take shape.

Seg. 1: Daycare Deserts | Seg. 2: Allison Gliesman

May 1, 2019

Segment 1: Daycare Deserts

Pre-kindergarten has been on the mind of Kansas City-area parents, but the conversation is also extending to care from birth onward. In this conversation, we hear about the struggles parents face in finding and affording childcare, as well as what's being done about it both locally and nationwide.

Maiestatis Pontificiae Dum in Capella Xisti Sacra Peraguntur Accurata Delineatio. Museum no. E. 2801-1991 / Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In search of gold, the first Spanish conquistadors arrived in Kansas in 1541. Though they were disappointed, the age of discovery is still alive and well for a Kansas State University scholar named Patrick Dittamo, who has recovered a treasure of the Renaissance.

It’s a piece of music that Kansas City audiences will be the first to hear in nearly 500 years, and the first to hear outside the Sistine Chapel.

Nick Schnebelen

Music runs in Nick Schnebelen's family, especially the blues. 

His parents, Lisa Swedlund and the late Robert Schnebelen, were musicians known for the band Little Eva and the Works. Music was always playing around the house, and when he was about 10, Schnebelen recalled, his dad started listening to a lot of blues.

"I started really getting into it around 12, 13," Schnebelen told Chuck Haddix, host of KCUR's Fish Fry. "And I just loved the way the blues guitar sounded, you know. I just fell in love with it."

Sky Smeed

When Lawrence songwriter Sky Smeed starts his new album lamenting that he’s leaving yet again, he sounds sad, like we're about to hear a story of one more time when things just didn’t work out.

In reality, it's just the opposite.

"I'm the happiest I've ever been right now in my life, which is pretty amazing for me," Smeed says. "I got married in May of last year, and everything's just really clicking."

R.L. Brooks

If you’ve been to a rock show and bought a T-shirt, there’s a chance it was made in a non-descript factory on Merriam Drive just off of I-35.

That’s the site of R.L. Brooks's  Seen Merch, where high-speed screen-printing machines can turn out more than a thousand rock-and-roll T-shirts an hour.

Brooks doesn’t like to brag, but his clients include some of the world’s biggest stars.

Todd Zimmer

Kansas City musician Nathan Corsi is in Austin, Texas, for the South By Southwest (SXSW) festival. He's not performing as one of the 2,000 official acts booked at the annual event that began in 1987 — he's part of what's called the MidCoast Takeover.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City boasts a vibrant arts scene, with easy access to essentially any kind of entertainment. But the people who make a career out of providing this cultural enrichment have to be as good at managing their business as they are at their artistic work. That means thinking about taxes all year long. 

"Some artists don't want to learn about bookkeeping and taxes and accounting because it doesn't feel very sexy. It doesn't feel very artistic," says actor and performer Erin McGrane. 

UMKC Conservatory

American composer Harry Partch lived an unconventional life. A dreamer and a traveler, he devised an original system for making music and built dozens of instruments to bring that dream to reality.

“My music and my instruments are an expression of an ancient tradition in which sight and sound unite toward the achievement of a single dramatic purpose,” Partch said in the documentary “Music Studio.”

Segment 1: The dark side of gambling.

Gambling often conjures up images of casinos, slot machines, and sports betting. But as our guests point out, gambling isn't all fun and games — it can also turn into addiction. One that can have an even greater impact on communities of color.

Michelle Boisseau

The internationally acclaimed Kansas City poet Michelle Boisseau died of cancer in November 2017. Though people will be able to read her work in books for the imaginable future, two other professional artists have now memorialized her poetry in an entirely different art form.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

The Topeka Symphony Orchestra has offered furloughed federal government employees two free tickets to a concert. Regardless of whether the partial government shutdown ends any time soon, the offer's good for any of the orchestra's three performances between now and May.

Justin Wilson

Justin Wilson is engaged in a consequential fight against irrelevance.

As the owner and operator of Sound 81 Productions, a recording studio in Riverside, Missouri, his life's work is imperiled by a pair of existential threats.

Anne Kniggendorf

Artist Hasna Sal, a Muslim, did something radical for someone of her faith: She created a 600-pound nativity scene. A nativity triptych, to be more precise, meaning the work consists of three panels — in this case, one two by nine-foot panel for each Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Wikimedia Commons

Segment 1: Missouri has had three governors in the last three years. Soon, a new class of state lawmakers will take their seats in the Statehouse.

Missouri lawmakers will next week begin revisiting proposals on more than a few issues previous legislatures were unable to resolve. A gas tax that would have financed road and bridge projects was rejected by voters in November, leaving state lawmakers wondering how else to find the funding. Other issues like Clean Missouri and a prescription drug-monitoring program are likely to be taken up. 

Don Ipock / William Jewell College

In 1982, William Jewell College of Liberty, Missouri, joined with Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kansas City, Missouri, to begin a holiday tradition that the college called a Christmas gift to the city in words and music.

KCUR recorded this year’s performance on December 10 at Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral for airing on Christmas Day.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Initiative to improve neighborhoods east of Troost Avenue calls for $13 million but fails to identify a source for the needed funds.

Ambitious in its scope, an ordinance approved by the Kansas City Council looks to remediate blight, help with home improvement and economic development, and combat gentrification in the eastern parts of the city. We heard what implementing the plan could mean for residents, and where the money could be found to make it happen.

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