Audio Features | St. Louis Public Radio

Audio Features

Feature-length audio news reports from St. Louis Public Radio reporters.

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Increasingly, college life is less about walking across the quad or stopping at the dining hall before sitting in a big lecture hall, and more about flipping open a laptop at home.

Take Royal Witcher, a St. Louis native and Army veteran who lives in Belmont, Mississippi. He completed most of his bachelor’s degree through the University of Phoenix, a fully online institution, but often felt like just a number.

When it was time for his MBA, the 45-year-old did his research — lots of it — and decided on Maryville University, which has a campus in suburban St. Louis. But he didn’t return to Missouri, instead taking advantage of an online degree.

Alexis J. Roston, seen in this file photo, has performed "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill" in Chicago and Milwaukee.
Provided | Milwaukee Rep

The story of a jazz a singer whose signature song drew attention to the brutal treatment of African-Americans will be on stage in St. Louis for the next two weeks.

Max and Louie Productions presents “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” a drama about the iconic Billie Holiday. The setting is a fictional performance that takes place four months before her death.

The production includes a dozen of Holiday’s songs and a running commentary in which she looks back on her life of love, loss, addiction and struggle with racism.

Longtime St. Louis resident Lucy Hamm celebrates her 109th birthday with her retirement community in Chesterfield. Hamm was born on Jan. 30, 1908.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

It might be harder than you think to find the oldest person in town.

Local governments don’t formally track the data, and voting records are often manually entered, and can contain errors. So when a listener named Sally asked our Curious Louis project to find the oldest person in St. Louis, we started looking.

After calls to county election boards and senior service nonprofits came up short, employees in the office of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay introduced us to someone who might just be the winner: 109-year-old Lucy Hamm.

Soumya Chatterjee, a scientist at Saint Louis University, peers into a microscope in his laboratory, where he studies pathogens, such as tuberculosis.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

President Donald Trump's executive order last month reduced the cap of refugees allowed into the United States from 110,000 to 50,000. That means that fewer refugees will be resettled into areas like St. Louis.

But the cap also is curtailing disease research across the country. To understand diseases that are widespread in poor, war-torn countries, scientists study refugees from those nations that are infected with those diseases.

Author Rebecca Shuman reads from her book 'Schadenfreude, A Love Story" in St. Louis Public Radio studios.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

As a college junior Rebecca Schuman found herself in peak-hipster Berlin, sitting in a dark, smoke-filled bar where patrons ordered Heineken through a hole in the wall.  She’d wanted to live “Iggy Pop’s Berlin,” and to do that she wanted to find living space in a loft.

A friend told her that people in a a local collective living space was looking for a new roommate That’s how she found herself sitting across from a guy named Johannes who had, “shock of bright blond hair that stuck out in the electrified curls about six inches in all directions.”

Schuman  recounts the experience and a number of other anecdotes in “Schadenfreude, A Love Story,” a memoir. She'll discuss the book Sunday during a book launch at Urban Chestnut in The Grove.

Bac Le, 70, picks up his grandson after studying for his citizenship test with a tutor from Bilingual International Assistant Services. Le moved to St. Louis from Vietnam to be near his children.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Between learning U.S. civics and history to acing all four parts of the naturalization exam — passing the U.S. citizenship test is no walk in the park. For older immigrants who don’t speak English, the learning curve can be even steeper.

“Think about your own grandmother,” said Jason Baker, executive director with Bilingual International Assistant Services. “Imagine her trying to learn a completely foreign language at an advanced age. And then in that foreign language learn about the Federalist Papers and be able to produce it on command. Some grandmothers will be able to do it. Others will not. Mine certainly couldn’t.”

Jacqueline Thompson plays the role of Esther in New Jewish Theatre's "Intimate Apparel."  She appears in this file photo.
Provided | Eric Woolsey

A play by New Jewish Theatre looks at the constraints placed on women in the early 1900s: the pressure to marry early, within their race.

In much of the United States, interracial marriage would be illegal for another 60 years. Miscegenation laws forbade blacks and whites from joining in wedlock until 1967.

But even as “Intimate Apparel” illustrates that taboo, it helps the theater company break out of its own limitations, given its history of largely white casts.  Four of the six characters in this play, produced by the Black Rep in 2005, are African-American. It’s the kind of opportunity New Jewish artistic director Kathleen Sitzer continually seeks.

Sina Nassiri and Mehrdad Alvandipour are Iranian students at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

In August 2015, Mehrdad Alvandipour arrived in the United States from Iran to pursue graduate degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

“Basically, I love science,” he said. “That’s the reason I traveled here, to study at a good university and improve myself.”

Alvandipour hoped that studying at SIUE would put him on track to become a professor at an American university. But President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration has him, and other international research students in the St. Louis region, worried about the future.

Jazz pianist Alfredo Rodriguez
Photo by Betsy Newman. Courtesy of the artist.

Anyone who visits Cuba would be struck by two important musical currents: the streetwise character of modern dance music — and the elegance of classically trained performers adept at various genres.

 

St. Louisans this week have a chance to see both when pianist Alfredo Rodriguez, who hails from the Cuban Institute of Music, joins conga player Pedrito Martinez, who had no formal training. Since crossing paths in the United States in recent years, they’ve played together on stage and on recordings.

Their latest collaboration will be at Jazz at the Bistro, where they will perform fuse jazz and Afro-Cuban music, including timba, the fiery dance music that took the island by storm a couple of decades ago.

This file photo of the painting "Exasperation" by local artist Fabio Rodriguez depicts people in his home of the Domincan Republic desperate for essentials like food and water. It was cut from an art exhibition for being potentially disturbing.
Provided | Fabio Rodriguez

St. Louis-area artist Fabio Rodriguez was devastated when a very personal piece of his work was removed from an exhibition. But did that action rise to the level of censorship?

Robin, 37, at her home in St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

After three years and two rounds of in-vitro fertilization, things were finally looking up.   

Robin, a 37-year-old project manager who lives in St. Louis County, went in for a routine 21-week ultrasound with her husband this past November. The couple had no idea that something was wrong.  

Areli Muñoz Reyes, who is enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, attends St. Louis Community College at Forest Park.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For the past two years Missouri legislators in Jefferson City have sent a strong message to undocumented students in the region: you can go to college in Missouri, but we won’t make it easy.

That's what it looks like, at least, to Areli Muñoz Reyes a student  St. Louis Community College at Forest Park who started in the fall of 2015. Already worried about what will happen to undocumented students under the administration of Donald Trump, she’s also facing steep tuition rates without the state-funded scholarship she worked hard for.

Riverview Gardens High band director Harvey Lockhart leads a class through practice. (Jan. 17, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Music is vitally important to Riverview Gardens High School band director Harvey Lockhart. But his students' well-being ranks even higher.

During the past five years, Lockhart has made musicians out of dozens of students, changing the way they see themselves and their futures.

For his efforts, The Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis will honor Lockhart Monday night as art educator of the year, in a ceremony at the Chase Park Plaza.

Senator Pro Tem Ron Richard answers questions from reporters.
File photo by Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum welcomes Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard to the show for the first time.

Rosenbaum interviewed the Joplin Republican in Richard's Jefferson City office. Richard is the only legislator in Missouri history to serve as both the speaker of the Missouri House and the president pro tem of the Missouri Senate.

The Prime Beauty supply store sign that was salvaged from rubble after Ferguson related protests turned chaotic has been turned into a sculpture.
Provided by Bryce Robinson

In 2014 Ferguson resident Bryce Robinson had the surreal experience of watching from a distance as his hometown became the center of national media coverage. When then-police officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown, the city erupted in protest.

Robinson, 29, was teaching at Notre Dame during the protests and civil unrest that occurred after the shooting. He was struck by the largely chaotic and disaster-focused narrative carried on livestreams and traditional news coverage.

He hopes to remind people of the thriving community that lived through troubled times with an exhibit at the Kranzberg Arts Center gallery.

Detail from Winter Wolves concert poster designed by Lauren Gornik
Provided by Lauren Gornik

For many people, conservationists and heavy metal fans may not seem to have much in common. But for Simon Koch, they're a natural combination. 

That's why for the third year in a row Koch has organized a “Winter Wolves: a benefit for the Endangered Wolf Center.”

Provided by the Metropolitan Sewer District of St. Louis

The first thing to notice about Clarice Hutchens’ front yard is that it isn’t a nicely manicured green lawn. Her house sits atop a steep hill and as you come up her driveway, you see piles of rocks, shrubs and trees that blend in well with the woods that surround her property.

Hutchens planted this rain garden, a garden built to absorb rainwater, shortly after she and her husband moved into their Ballwin home in 2004.

Karen Aroesty is the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In the weeks after the presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center collected reports of more than 1,000 hate-related incidents from across the United States. Fifteen of those incidents happened in Missouri. In the St. Louis region, local reports detailed verbal taunts and harassment based on the victim’s perceived race or religion. Many people might conflate hate incidents with hate crimes, but most reports following Nov.

Participants in Las Posadas procession, which tells the story of Joseph and Mary as they sought shelter before the birth of Christ, walk the Anza Trail in Martinez, Calif., this Dec. 6, 2014, photo.
Anza Trail NPS

In churches and neighborhoods across St. Louis, many Latino parishioners gather before Christmas for Las Posadas, a 500-year-old practice that retells the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, where they sought shelter before Christ was born. For many, the celebrations that take place from Dec. 12 to Three Kings Day on Jan. 6 help keep religious, family and cultural traditions. Gustavo Valdez, a St. Louis resident, has celebrated them since he was a 9-year-old boy in Monterrey, Mexico.

From Radar Home by Amy Reidel, an illustration by Fox Smith and a file photo of poet Treasure Shields Redmond
Provided and file photos

The art of activism weaved its way more deeply into the St. Louis arts scene in 2016.

In this year’s Cut & Paste arts and culture podcasts, we brought you conversations with performers, poets and visual video artists, inspired personal experiences and cultural issues.

The cliffs of the Tettegouche State Park in Minnesota are made of volcanic rocks that were formed by the Midcontinent Rift.
Wikimedia Commons | Smokemob

About five years ago, Doug Wiens, a seismologist from Washington University in St. Louis, went knocking on the doors of farmers in Minnesota and Wisconsin. He asked them if they would let him and his team of geologists place seismometers, devices that measure the earth’s movements, on their land.

The farmers were a little suspicious.

“‘Why are you doing this here? Are you exploring for oil? Nobody’s done anything like this before,’” Wiens recalled them asking. “And so, we would show them this gravity map and we’d say, ‘Well, there’s this really unusual feature here and we want to study that.’”

Gianna Ceriotti and Emily Catanzaro pet Paul during a recent visit to Mauhaus Cat Café in Maplewood. (Dec. 7, 2016)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There’s a new café in St. Louis, where you can get a cappuccino and your cat fix.

Mauhaus Cat Café  in Maplewood offers coffee and pastries, and houses 10 cats from Tenth Life Cat Rescue available for petting, playing and adoption.

The spot opened in November and already is so popular that if you’re interested in going, you’ll need to book your visit early, co-founder Dana Huth said.

“We’ve had some waits as long as an hour to get in just because it’s a limited space and we don’t want to overcrowd it,” Huth said.

Sarrita Hunn's Sarrita Hunn, "Art As...Library"  is a number of books attached at thier ends, spine up to the wall, was displayed at an earlier exhibit celebrating Temporary Art Review's fifth anniversary.
Provided by The Luminary

A St. Louis online arts journal that reaches local, national and international readers, is about to celebrate an important milestone.  James McAnally and Sarrita Hunn founded the Temporary Art Review in 2011. To celebrate its fifth anniversary, they’re publishing a limited edition book of writing from the site.  It may sound like esoteric art stuff, but as McAnally told Willis Ryder Arnold, there’s a lot at stake.

Two women walk home after a day of work at Uganda's National Agricultural Research Organisation in Namulonge.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The world’s largest seed companies have their eye trained on Africa’s farming industry. A few, including St. Louis-based Monsanto, see drought-resistant corn as the key to an untapped market.

But some African civil service organizations are wary of the genetically modified seeds Monsanto hopes to introduce.

Standing Rock encampment sits under fresh snow
Provided by Kathy Dickerson

When Dominique Aneekaneeka arrived at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protest camp last month, she was struck by the site’s organization.  She saw improvised roads lined with tents and teepees, bathrooms, a communal kitchen and large community fire pit. The tribe had even arranged trash pickup at the camp, which for months has attracted people from across the United States — from other Native Americans to would-be allies.

Kielah Harbert is studying business and African-American studies at Washington University. She co-wrote '#Admitted,' a college application guide for first generation students. She's standing outside Brookings Hall on December 2, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis native Kielah Harbert remembers how nervous she felt when she hit submit and sent out her college applications.

“Everything was done and it was just a waiting game,” said Harbert, who will be the first in her family to graduate from college next year. “But when I sent it out I was confident that I would get in to a school that would be beneficial to my future. And so it wasn't ‘OK I have to get into this school.’ It was ‘This is what I been waiting for. This is it.’ ”

St. Louis Youth Poet Laureate Bisa Adero and official Poet Laureate Michael Castro met each other awards ceremony on Oct. 14, 2016 at UrbArts.
Vincent Lang

Two official St. Louis poets don’t always agree on what’s appropriate but they do concur on at least one thing: If you want change, you've got to work for it. For this pair, words are the tools.

Arjun Sidhu holds an American flag while sitting with his mother, Mandeep Sidhu, originally from India, at a naturalization ceremony held at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site on Nov. 10, 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

While much of the nation remains at odds over the results of the November elections, some people are feeling more optimistic for the future than ever. Newly naturalized U.S. citizens in the St. Louis region are excited to be a part of the country, and many are raring to vote.

At a naturalization ceremony held last week at the International Institute of St. Louis, 39 people from 24 different countries stood together in front of a crowded room for the first time as new citizens.

Among them was Lenilson Pereira Dos Santos Coutinho, a clinical medial physicist who was born in Brazil. Coutinho, who came to the United States for graduate school, laments not being able to vote on Nov. 8. Now that he’s a citizen, he can’t wait for future elections.

In these Nov. 28, 2016 photos, Jaimie Hileman, on the left, looks at threatening posts on Facebook. On the right, Amber Winingham and Gus stand on the corner where she said a truck veered toward them.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Every day, Amber Winingham walks around her south St. Louis neighborhood with her dog Gus, a Pointer-mix rescue dog who’s about a year old. When Amber and her wife adopted Gus, he was skittish. Now he has a new reason to be on edge.

The day after the Nov. 8 election, Winingham and Gus had just stepped out onto Magnolia Avenue at Louisiana Street, when she saw a man in a truck, barreling toward her.

Tony Twitty, 55, founded his auto shop in 1999. Before the Affordable Care Act,it was hard for him to buy health insurance on his own.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

After running on a platform that included calls to repeal the Affordable Care Act, president-elect Donald Trump will take office alongside a Republican-controlled Congress in January. This leaves an estimated 20 million people who gained coverage through the law unsure of how their coverage will change.

In the weeks since the election, the general consensus among health law experts is that it’s unlikely that congressional Republicans will repeal the law entirely without a plan to replace it, particularly because Senate Democrats have enough seats to filibuster.

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