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Backstage And Beyond

MUSIC TO OUR EARS: Youth orchestra inspires hope, spurs students to broad-based achievement

When Darryl Chamberlain established the A-Flat Music Studio Inc. in 2016, he had several goals in mind. First, he believed that young people ages 10 and up should learn how to read music, through a fundamentals class, while learning to play an instrument. Because “when you play by ear it is based on your imagination […]

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IN PLAIN ENGLISH: Festival marks 30th anniversary with Shakespeare’s most vibrantly accessible play

Heart of America Shakespeare Festival started pretty much the way many Kansas City performing arts organizations have begun: Nobody really knew if it was going to get off the ground at all. Thirty years later, it is flying high. Not only is it one of the nation’s most celebrated professional outdoor theaters, it is venerated […]

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BREAKING THE FUR CEILING: ‘Animal work’ trains actors to become their whole selves

We often say that an actor on stage or screen has “leonine grace,” or eats like a ravenous wolf, or moves with reptilian stealth. What you might not realize is that “animal work” is actually a part of nearly every actor’s professional training: studying the movements, positions, and sounds of different creatures to expand one’s […]

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BACH TO THE BAYOU: Trumpeter follows famous kin into halls of greatness

Members of the Marsalis family have made such regular visits to Kansas City that listeners might not realize that one of the most famous, and most fabulously gifted, scions of this venerable family has yet to make a Kansas City solo debut. This month, the Bach Aria Soloists will present trumpet virtuoso Rodney Marsalis, the […]

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LADIES, WITH AN ARABESQUE: Local dance companies defy national odds with increased gender parity

The common perception that the dance world is controlled chiefly by men might be partly true, but the situation in Kansas City presents a noticeably different landscape. Consider this: Of the dozen works of choreography being performed this spring by the four most prominent local companies, only two are by men. And while this hardly […]

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BOYS’ CLUB NO LONGER: Women are brightening up classical music locally and globally

If music is a universal language, then why have its institutions historically been run almost entirely by men? Women account for roughly half of the audience for classical music, yet the leadership of orchestras, opera companies, presenters, and choirs has remained lopsidedly male since the birth of European polyphony in the 12th century. The good […]

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JOBS WELL DONE: Tech giant is subject of Lyric Opera’s path-forging new production

By the end of most serious operas you can be pretty sure that at least one main character will be dead. The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs needs no spoiler alert, as the title character is essentially already dead when the opera begins. Yet by the end of this 90-minute dazzler, we feel we have begun […]

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BEST OF SPRING 2022

Local offerings of music, theater, and dance display evolving awareness of diversity and inclusiveness    FEBRUARY 18-27 Kansas City Ballet; Dracula; Michael Pink’s 1996 choreographic setting of Bram Stoker’s novel, with an original score by composer Philip Feeney, was a runaway hit at its local premiere in 2014, and audiences have been awaiting its return; Kauffman […]

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PULLING THE STRINGS: Local groups use puppets for youth initiatives and standard theater

Puppet theater has been around for millennia: Archaeologists have found remains to suggest that puppetry existed in ancient Egypt, Asia, and Africa some 3,000 years ago or more. It has formed an essential part of performance culture wherever theater has flourished, so it is perhaps not surprising that it has played an active role in […]

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GIRLS JUST WANNA SOLVE CRIMES: Rep presents new female-centered Holmes play

Why should boys get to have all the fun? That’s one of the questions Kate Hamill asked herself as she began to refocus the Holmes and Watson stories to view them through the lens of a woman who had always felt left out of the “buddy stories” of literature, television, and film. “As a kid, […]

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SLEEPERS, AWAKE: New composition inspires inclusion while challenging classical status quo

As our nation struggles with issues of inclusion and racial equity, performing-arts organizations also find themselves reexamining their own core values, to ensure that their activities reflect a changing America. One institution that has struggled most fervently toward change is the symphony orchestra, which has long been perceived as a bastion of European culture. It […]

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VIEW FROM THE TOP: Kansas City violinist’s career takes a giant leap with three competition victories in a row

It was not preordained that Maria Ioudenitch would become a professional musician. It’s true that her parents, Kansas City-based pianists Tatiana and Stanislav Ioudenitch, saw an innate musicality in her from an early age, and that she showed fascination with the tiny violin they gave her when she was all of three years old. But […]

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FALSETTO THAT’S ANYTHING BUT FALSE: Series presents countertenor who is radically altering expectations

Countertenors have been with us for hundreds of years. If it seems that they are suddenly everywhere, it’s partly because the demand for them internationally has spurred conservatories toward a new level of training, to the point where we suddenly have dozens of really great ones. It took the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions nearly […]

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BUILDING BRIDGES: Friends concert will use transcontinental technology to join choirs and audiences

The pandemic of recent months has inspired a number of remarkable innovations among Kansas City’s performing-arts groups, from livestreamed concerts and “Zoom theater” to high-tech ventures combining seemingly disparate art forms. Yet for all that, the Friends of Chamber Music and the Kansas City Chorale may have come up with something that is unique: A […]

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POPCORN WITH YOUR PUCCINI: Lyric celebrates opera’s long-standing connection to film

Hollywood thrives on cliché, and its treatment of classical music through the years has ranged from the puerile to the downright offensive. When it comes to opera, though, filmmakers have sometimes taken a higher road, using that art form’s intensely expressive qualities to heighten the emotion of a scene, or of an entire film. An […]

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A NEW HOPE: Kansas City Symphony celebrates the composer who redefined film music

When we think about musical giants of our time, we often completely overlook a hugely significant segment of the community. In terms of the impact their music exerts on our lives, the great movie composers must stand proudly alongside the likes of George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, or Irving Berlin. And “in […]

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NEW WINE IN NEW BOTTLES: Midwest Trust Center and Opus 76 Quartet team up for unprecedented residency

Classical music might occupy a radically different place in American culture if more of us thought about it the way Keith Stanfield does. The violinist and founder of Kansas City’s Opus 76 Quartet trained as a professional soccer player before steering his career toward music. As a result, he thinks of his “team” of four […]

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DANCING INTO A NEW ERA: Local company marks 30 years of the best contemporary American choreography

If you wish to gain a well-rounded view of American dance during the last century, look no further than the list of works presented through the years by the Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this October 1-2. The sheer volume of this irrepressible group’s repertory is astonishing: 132 professional dancers have […]

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LIVING, BREATHING DANCE: Company remains firm in its resolve to use live musicians

If you want to know the strength of an organization’s guiding principles, observe how it acts during times of crisis. Kansas City Ballet believes that live music is as essential to dance as choreography, set designs, costumes, or lighting: and it will go to great lengths to involve musicians whenever possible. When it became clear […]

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SING, PLAY, MOVE: Charlotte Street makes bold new commitment with music-composition contest

You might at first wonder what artist-poet-filmmaker Michèle Saint-Michel has in common with singer-songwriter AJ Harbison or UMKC Conservatory doctoral student Yunfei Li. All are among the six Kansas City performing artists selected this summer as winners of the Charlotte Street Foundation’s first annual New Music Composition Competition. Each will produce a brand-new work to […]

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HEART OF THE COUNTRY: Local creators strive to make Kansas City a hub for film and television

When David Dastmalchian returned to Kansas City after a 20-year absence, to appear in the independent film he wrote, All Creatures Here Below, it was not just a homecoming. It was more like a revelation. The Shawnee Mission South alumnus and star of movies ranging from DC and Marvel Studio films to Blade Runner 2049, […]

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