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Backstage And Beyond

SOLSTICE DREAMS: Kansas City fills summer months with great music, theater, and dance

By Paul Horsley   JUNE 1-2 Te Deum; Sacred Banquet; Founder and Artistic Director Matthew Shepard conducts choral music of Palestrina, Arvo Pärt, and Olivier Messiaen and presents the world premiere of Composer-in-Residence Anthony Maglione’s commissioned setting of the Te Deum text, at Village Presbyterian Church (June 1st) and Visitation Catholic Church (June 2nd). Contact: […]

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SIMPLE TWISTS OF FATE: Symphony couple finds niche in the heartland

Fortune smiled on Kansas City music lovers when Tamamo Someya and Mark Gibbs decided to marry and settle down here. Born in Japan just a few years apart, they traveled very different musical roads before converging, finally, at the Kansas City Symphony: Tamamo as principal second violin, Mark as principal cello. Curiously, at a couple […]

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A LIFE FULFILLED: Entrepreneur finds joy in the arts and a knack for giving 

Several aspects of Benny Lee’s formative years in Taiwan became driving forces in his life, and engendered curiosity, toughness, and positivity that continue to inspire him to this day.  The death of his father when Benny was just 13 impacted him greatly: He learned much about tenacity and self-reliance watching his mother learn new job […]

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PASS IT ON: Master teacher explores broader purposes for dance

Tyrone Aiken danced prodigiously as a youth, trained at The Ailey School as a young adult, worked as a professional dancer at the height of the New York dance ferment, and even ran his own company at one point. Today he is best known nationwide for the pioneering work as educator that has occupied him […]

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LADIES WITH LATITUDE: Five women making a difference in Kansas City performing arts

CAROLINE DAHM Dancer, choreographer, producer, master teacher, adjunct dance professor at The UMKC Conservatory, assistant director at Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company What I love about the Kansas City performing-arts scene: Kansas City is a very special place. Since moving here back in 2011, I have seen a steady rise in the arts. I love that the […]

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It’s difficult to remember what the Kansas City skyline looked like 20 years ago, before the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts began to take shape at 16th and Broadway. Today anyone who drives through our city must remember one thing: This internationally acclaimed, 316,000-square-feet structure stands as a testament not just to the importance […]

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LIFE LESSONS THROUGH SONG: Local choirs reach new heights

You don’t have to watch an Allegro Choirs of Kansas City rehearsal for very long before you start to understand why these youngsters sound so good. The founding director, Christy Elsner, knows exactly what she wants, and she will persist until she gets it. “On a scale of one to 10, that was about a […]

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EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE: Dancer forms company with the broadest of missions

Tristian Griffin’s success grows partly from his openness to the wide world of arts. The Kansas City-based dancer-choreographer, who established his own company in 2019 (Tristian Griffin Dance Company), didn’t even begin his performance career with dance. He and his brother explored modeling as youngsters, until someone suggested to them that they should develop other […]

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FREE TO ROAM: Actor thrives onstage and behind the scenes

Many elements came together to make Teisha Bankston into the theater artist she is today. The frequent star of productions at the Unicorn Theatre and Kansas City Actors Theatre recalls an important early improvisation class with Valerie Mackey at Theatre for Young America, where she made friends with like-minded youngsters and began overcoming her natural […]

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WHEREFORE ART THOU? Lyric Opera presents renowned tenor with KC roots in role debut

Ben Bliss is no stranger to superlatives. During his rapid rise to the top of the opera world he has been called “one of the leading Mozart tenors on the scene today,” “close to the ideal,” “a revelation,” and at Lyric Opera of Chicago, “perhaps the finest Mozart tenor that has graced the Lyric stage […]

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Best of Spring: 35 events in music, theater, and dance you will not want to miss

JANUARY 23: Harriman-Jewell Series; Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason; The eldest of the seven celebrated musical siblings performs Prokofiev’s Third Concerto, and conductor Vasily Petrenko leads London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Rachmaninoff’s hyper-charged Second Symphony; Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Contact: 816-415-5025 or hjseries.org. 25: International Center for Music at Park University; Rosamunde Trio; The renowned […]

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MAHLER AND BEYOND: Stern and DiDonato contemplate the composer’s far-reaching vision

The music of Mahler has formed an important part of Michael Stern’s repertoire throughout his nearly two decades as music director of the Kansas City Symphony. For mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, the Prairie Village native who soared to the top of the opera world 25 years ago and has remained there ever since, Mahler is a fairly […]

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GREAT MOMENTS: Highlights of Kansas City’s arts year 2023

Kansas City brought so much exceptional work to local stages this year that narrowing this list to 10 became a Solomon-like exercise. It’s hardly a comprehensive survey (and it’s in chronological order): No mortal could attend every presentation of classical music, theater, and dance here (more than 500 annually, by my estimate). But I saw […]

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TEAM PLAYERS: Artists find that everyone gains from collaborations

Collaboration in the arts is not a choice: These days, it’s practically a necessity. In recent decades, Kansas City’s arts groups have noticeably moved toward a collaborative model, to the point where on any given night you are likely to partake of a performance of music, theater, or dance that involves multiple non-profit arts groups […]

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BUT THE FIRE IS SO DELIGHTFUL: Chamber Orchestra underscores the joy of the Baroque

If it’s December, you can be pretty sure that our concert-life is turning very Baroque. That is to say, there will be a bevvy of choral, orchestral, and chamber performances featuring music of the Baroque era (ca. 1600 to ca. 1750). This is perhaps to some extent because we associate the holidays with masterworks such […]

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KEYBOARD COUPLE: Musical teamwork enhances wedded bliss

Musicians love chamber music because it offers a chance to perform with friends in a warmly collegial, relatively low-stress environment. The most intimate chamber music of all is that for two pianists, especially when they perform together at the same keyboard. Some of the repertoire for piano duet is scored for two pianos, it is […]

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EARTH TONES: New generations of American Indian composers are steeped in classical and Native cultures

When Raven Chacon won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2022, the announcement surprised many American music-lovers, few of whom realized how strong the tradition of concert music by Native Americans had grown during the past two generations.  This year Raven was also awarded the MacArthur Award, given (as the MacArthur Foundation wrote) for “creating […]

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WYANDOTTE WAYS: Public Theatre co-founder brings family roots to bear in his work

Nathan Bowman doesn’t always advertise his Native American heritage when presenting himself to the public, but he is nonetheless proud of the deep roots that his family has always known are there. The co-founder and producing artistic director of Kansas City Public Theatre was raised knowing that, at the very least, he was descended on […]

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FRESH START: Spinning Tree launches third season of newly framed company

There was a time, during the restless months of 2020, when many performing arts groups wondered whether they would survive. In the decade since its founding in 2010, Spinning Tree Theatre had by then already earned a reputation as one of the region’s most adventurous companies. Each year it produced three or four “intimate productions, […]

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TEACHING EMPATHY: Lyric Opera asks: Why add one-hit wonders when you can innovate? 

More than 400 new operas have been produced on the world’s mainstages during the 21st century so far. That’s great, right? The bad news is that a surprisingly large share of those will never be revived, not even once. (For context, since opera’s beginnings around 1600, tens of thousands of operas have reached the stage, […]

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TRAILBLAZERS: A scrapbook of Kansas City performing artists whose impact is being felt throughout the region and beyond

 Vanessa Severo  The actor, writer, choreographer, and director is the daughter of Brazilian immigrants. She has appeared on all the major stages in Kansas City and on quite a few others around the country. In 2019, she presented the world premiere of her one-woman show, Frida: A Self Portrait at Kansas City Repertory Theatre, and […]

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