Libby Hanssen | KBIA

Libby Hanssen

Originally from Indiana, Libby Hanssen covers the performing arts in Kansas City. She's written for KCUR, KC Studio, The Kansas City Star, The Pitch, and KCMetropolis. Libby maintains the culture blog Proust Eats A Sandwich and writes poetry and children's books. Along with degrees in trombone performance, she was a Fellow for the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University.

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.

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.

Creating high quality art for kids is no easy task. As an audience, they’re pure in their responses: If the work engages them, they’ll roar in approval; if not, they’ll (at best) stare glaze-eyed or (at worst) rumble with disinterest as they turn their attention elsewhere.

The 800 middle- and high school students who whooped and chattered excitedly at the world premiere of a sophisticated new dance theater concept apparently approved of the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey's performances at the Folly Theater on Wednesday and Thursday.

In your average art museum collection, which often displays the female form in various states of undress, less than 10 percent of the work was created by women.

A show at the InterUrban ArtHouse changes that ratio, at least for one month in Kansas City.

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.”

What started as a high school reading group in the 1960s has become a way for Kansas City audiences to enjoy some of America’s greatest plays, read aloud by Kansas City finest actors, for free.

When Kip Niven was a student at Shawnee Mission East High School, friends would gather in Frank Dwyer’s living room, Frank’s mother would put out snacks, and they’d read through plays like “You Can’t Take It With You” just for the heck of it.

Fifty years ago on Christmas Eve, the astronauts of Apollo 8 — the first humans to leave Earth’s gravity — orbited the moon, photographing its dark side and witnessed the first view of an earthrise.

Broadcasting back to Houston, they offered a Christmas greeting to those on Earth, where one in four people were watching the televised event.

A new concert at the Lyric Opera recalls the Golden Age of radio, when anything was possible.

Evolving from the technology of World War I, broadcasts reached into millions of homes, filling billions of minds with the culture and news of the day.

One of the leading dramatists of radio’s heyday in the 1930s and 40s was Norman Corwin. Using only voices, sound effects and the occasional full orchestra, he invited listeners into worlds conjured entirely of suggestion and imagination.

A new combination of ancient song and contemporary dance draws beauty from the hidden history of women.

“Morena” is a Spanish word meaning “beautiful dark woman.” It is also the name of the latest project between Kansas City soprano and musicologist Victoria Botero, the Owen/Cox Dance Group, and a cadre of international musicians.

A new ballet with an original score isn’t quite as rare an event as a house falling on a witch, but it is an exciting chance to shape a fresh telling of the beloved story.

L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” set in Kansas, sparked 13 sequels, story spin-offs, and multiple adaptations on stage and film.

Performing music by women is trickier than it would seem.

For centuries, women were discouraged or forbade from composing, their works relegated to salons and home audiences, and rarely published. In many cases, once a composer died, her oeuvre was abandoned and forgotten.

Helping to right that historic wrong is the Midwest Chamber Ensemble, presenting its fifth annual concert of women composers this weekend (the ensemble was founded in 2011).

Partnering, in dance as in life, requires trust, collaboration and strength. Jokes are important, too.

No one who lives in the United States today is removed from the coal industry.

Composer Julia Wolfe makes that point in the final movement of her 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning oratorio “Anthracite Fields,” listing various everyday activities that require energy — baking a cake, drilling a hole, washing clothes — energy powered, at least in part, by the coal industry.

Mary Lou Williams only spent a dozen years in Kansas City during its first jazz heyday, but this is where she solidified her professional reputation, gaining the respect of leaders in the field.

“Mary Lou Williams is increasingly ranked as one of the most significant and influential composers to have ever made Kansas City their home base,” says Dan Cameron, artistic director of Open Spaces.

Among the ten-week festival's opening-weekend events is a free performance of Williams’ “Zodiac Suite” by the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra in Swope Park.

People all over the world are obsessed with “The Wizard of Oz." But there is no place in the world where it has as much cultural value as in Kansas, where "Somewhere over the Rainbow" can be considered as much the state song as "Home on the Range."

“It's become synonymous with ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” says Mark Edelman, head of Theater League, which produced this latest version of the iconic story that opened Wednesday at Providence Amphitheater (formerly known as Sandstone) in Bonner Springs, Kansas.

A few times a year, select musicians from all over North America come together in Kansas City.

Assembling with a few of their locally based colleagues just a few days before show time, they pull off an impressive feat: a concert encompassing centuries-worth of styles, and techniques both ancient and modern.

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.