Jon Leavitt

(Frank) And we’re back. (Deb) And there’s still time for you to fly to Philly with me, and you too could be drinking champagne in the cemetery in Philadelphia. (Frank) That’s gonna take a while for that image to go somewhere. But anyway… (Deb) Alright, speaking of music….(Frank) Were we? (Deb) Well we will now. You and I have talked a lot before about all the talented musicians that we have from Kansas and we’ve got Kansas Music Hall of Fame coming up in the spring, so we’ll talk about that later on. Mark your calendars, first weekend in March. We have people from so many different genres of music. And classical music, you know we’ve done a couple of episodes. But we have John Leavitt, who is originally from Leavenworth and as we spoke before, Leavenworth has just produced some amazing musicians. (Frank) Well Randy Sparks of course, who founded the New Christy Minstrels and was the opening act for, oh now I can’t think of his name. (Deb) What’s his name? You know, he was a big star. What’s his name? (Frank) Well he really was a movie star too. But anyway, Randy Sparks is from there and of course Leavenworth is not always… (Deb) Our theme show. (Frank) Leavenworth was not always called Leavenworth you know, it was called River Bend. (Deb) I didn’t know that. (Frank) Did you know that? Yes. (Deb) No. (Frank) In fact for a very short while he had a radio show before he went on the road again after he re-formed the New Christy Minstrels here, oh gosh, almost 15 years ago now. And he did a song called River Bend and it was about his hometown of, what became Leavenworth. (Deb) Well, you know Melissa Etheridge is also from Leavenworth. (Frank) Right. (Deb) And so is the amazing John Leavitt. And throughout the Christmas holiday, listening to NPR and you know looking for recordings in the store, he is a conductor and there is a degree in conducting. Who knew? (Frank) Huh. (Deb) And he is absolutely amazing. So, let’s take a look at the career of another incredible Leavenworthian. Is that a word? (Frank) Yes, River Bendian. (Deb) River Bendian. Throughout the Christmas season, the music of John Leavitt filled the air, but the same could be said of every season. The composer, conductor, pianist, and teacher, was born and raised in Leavenworth. He received his degree in music education from Emporia State, a master’s degree in piano and composition from Wichita State, and the Doctorate of Musical Arts, which translates to conducting, from The Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Among his many honors and appointments, was a year spent with Concordia College in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where he was Director of Choral Activities and Assistant Professor of Music. In 2010, Dr. Leavitt was the recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Art’s “American Masterpieces,” to write a new choral work in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the State of Kansas. His music has been performed in 30 countries across the globe and his recordings have been featured nationally on many public radio stations. An extraordinary composer, performer, and clinician for church and school music literature, Leavitt continues to teach, lecture, and guest conduct numerous workshops, festivals, and symposia. He serves as a regular guest conductor in major venues throughout the United States including New York’s Carnegie Hall and Washington DC’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He has served as artistic director for the National Capitol Choral Festival in Washington DC and the Chicago Sings Choral Festival. His compositions are represented in nearly every major music catalog in this country.

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