Classical Music & Dance

KU professor interviewed top names in music. Read about them in his new book

John Tibbets with a promotional poster for his new book, “Performing Music History: Musicians Speak First-Hand About Music History and Performance.”
John Tibbets with a promotional poster for his new book, “Performing Music History: Musicians Speak First-Hand About Music History and Performance.”

John Tibbetts has been making important contributions to Kansas City’s cultural life for the past several decades.

An associate professor in the department of film and media studies at the University of Kansas, Tibbetts has also spent years in various cultural endeavors, including creating classical programming for KXTR (Kansas City’s now defunct classical radio station) and writing 10 books, many of which he illustrated.

On Jan. 15, Tibbetts will discuss and sign his latest book, “Performing Music History: Musicians Speak First-Hand About Music History and Performance,” at the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library. Peter Schickele, better known as PDQ Bach, also will be on hand to add some classical zaniness.

“Performing Music History” collects some of Tibbetts’ most important cultural encounters. It’s a volume that distills Tibbetts’ career as a music journalist. Tibbets’ affable interviewing style brings out the best in his subjects. The artists he interviews always sense they are speaking to a true music lover.

Tibbetts often shows up as a guest on KCUR, where his encyclopedic knowledge of movies and classical musical is usually called upon. He recalls having his artistic inclinations encouraged as a child.

“I was fortunate to have a mother and father who both conveyed their interests in the arts to me at an early age,” Tibbetts said. “My father was very eclectic in his interests, which included a passion for grand opera, literature, and sports. Try that combination on for size. The house I grew up in Lansing, Kansas, was thus full of all those interests and pursuits — sometimes all going all at once.”

Tibbetts credits his mother, who had some experience as a commercial artist, for passing along her talent and know-how to her son.

“She not only encouraged my own work but was my severest critic — especially in the area of portraiture,” Tibbetts said.

Portraiture is perhaps the most distinctive thing about Tibbetts’ journalism. In addition to a portrait in words, Tibbetts also draws a portrait of his subjects and asks them to autograph it. They almost always do. Tibbetts’ sketches are represented in the 52 autographed portraits you see in “Performing Music History.” To see more of Tibbetts’ visual art, visit and click “Artwork.”

According to Tibbetts, some of the most memorable interviews in “Performing Music History” include pianist Emanuel Ax, Belá Bartók protegé György Sándor and Kansas City jazz great Jay McShann.

“Meeting and talking with artists-performers like these is a continuing revelation about how articulate and sharing they are,” Tibbetts said. “Particularly since so many of the classical performers have so few opportunities to talk shop with their audiences, at least compared with their pop brethren. Just look at the annual Grammy broadcasts and see for yourself how marginalized are the classical artists.”

6:30 p.m. Jan. 15. Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, 4801 Main St. Free. For more information, visit

Kansas City Symphony

The Kansas City Symphony is greeting the new year with Russian romanticism. Andrew Boreyko will guest conduct the symphony Jan. 11-13 at Helzberg Hall. Violinist Maria Ioudenitch will join the orchestra to perform Glazunov’s Violin Concerto.

The concert will begin with a real rarity by Igor Stravinsky that received its first public performance in 2008 and was not performed again until 2017. Stravinsky wrote the chant funèbre after the recent death of his teacher, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The creative and beautiful work was somehow shunted aside in the Saint Petersburg Conservatory until it was rediscovered in 2015.

Ioudenitch, daughter of Van Cliburn gold medalist Stanislav Ioudenitch, is establishing a career as a virtuoso in her own right. Playing the violin since the age of 3, Ioudenitch has already performed in the world’s great concert halls and is currently wrapping up her studies at the Curtis Institute. Many thanks that she’ll be playing Glazuvov’s delightful Violin Concerto instead of the overplayed Tchaikovsky concerto.

Some works by Tchaikovsky that are not heard often enough are his orchestral suites. The Kansas City Symphony will perform Tchaikovsky’s Orchestral Suite No. 3, a work which ends with a 20-minute theme and variations for violin and orchestra. This is a crowd-pleaser which deserves to be heard much more often.

8 p.m. Jan. 11 and 12 and 2 p.m. Jan. 13. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. $25-$85. 816-471-0400 or

You can reach Patrick Neas at and follow his Facebook page, KC Arts Beat, at