Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Lara Hamdan

“St. Louis on the Air” Producer

Lara Hamdan joined St. Louis Public Radio as the news intern in 2017. A year later, she became a producer for St. Louis on the Air. A St. Louis native, Lara graduated with a degree in journalism from Webster University. She is a cat-mom to Sali and Sami, a lover of traveling, fluent in English and Arabic – and in eating falafel sandwiches and veggie burgers. She enjoys discovering new people and gems in the city throughout her work at St. Louis Public Radio.

This interview will be on “St. Louis on the Air” over the noon hour Monday. This story will be updated after the show. You can listen live.

As the end of the year approaches, our partners at Sauce Magazine will join St. Louis on the Air to reflect on the best new local restaurants serving up deliciousness in 2019.

On Monday’s program, host Sarah Fenske will talk with the magazine’s managing editors Catherine Klene and Heather Hughes and art director Meera Nagarajan about their selections —  from fine dining featuring various eclectic offerings to classic diners. 

The panel will also discuss their personal favorite dishes and highly anticipated restaurants opening in the new year.

McCluer North student Mya Davis describes her photo at St. Louis Public Radio's Photojournalism Prize awards ceremony.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Public Radio digital team crafted its first Photojournalism Prize photography contest last month. The competition provided professional publicity, encouragement and training to St. Louis-area high school students interested in journalistic photography.

This year’s theme was “Window to my World,” and participants were required to tell a story with a caption, image and personal reflection. The six prize categories were: Best Portrait, Best Landscape, Best Still Life, Best Action Shot, Best Caption and Best in Show. All winners received a master class with station photojournalists and publication on

Michael Turley is the fourth generation to operate his family's dairy farm.
Virginia Harold | Sauce Magazine

Michael Turley wasn’t always a farmer. In fact, before he started managing the 120 Holstein cows on his family’s dairy farm in Greenville, Illinois, he was managing workers at the St. Louis communications and marketing firm Osborn Barr as its CEO.

Turley joined Tuesday’s  St. Louis on the Air, along with Sauce managing editor Catherine Klene, to talk about his journey for this month’s Sound Bites segment. They also discussed innovation in the farming industry and how farms are adapting their business plans to stay relevant to consumers. 

(L-R) Ajay Jhamb, Pooja Ganesh and Taine Dry joined Friday's "St. Louis on the Air" to talk about their passion for the cricket sport.
Emily Woodbury | St. Louis Public Radio

From afar, cricket might look like a slightly tweaked version of baseball. After all, there are hardballs, bats and bases involved. But the intricacies of the game distinguish the sport from America’s pastime. 

Invented in England, the sport later spread throughout the world due to the British Empire’s cultural influence on its former colonies in places like Pakistan, Australia and India. And, thanks to the American Cricket Academy and Club, it’s absolutely thriving in the St. Louis region. 

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked to the academy’s founder and president, Ajay Jhamb, about what the sport is all about and how local kids can get involved. Joining the discussion were cricket players Taine Dry, 15, and Pooja Ganesh, 11. 

Dane Hotle (at left) and Syrhea Conaway joined Friday's "St. Louis on the Air" ahead of Chamber Project St. Louis' BEAUTY at CAM concert.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but what about the ear? What defines what’s musically beautiful? The Chamber Project St. Louis is exploring the concept by digging beneath the surface and asking questions about what should be considered beautiful, who gets to decide and why it matters.

Waltz of the Magical Snow Forest scene in Moscow Ballet's "Great Russian Nutcracker."
Moscow Ballet

Moscow Ballet is a Russian ballet company that has toured the U.S. and Canada during the holiday season since 1993. This year marks the 27th annual North American tour of the ensemble’s "Great Russian Nutcracker," "Swan Lake," "Romeo and Juliet," and other classic Russian ballets. 

St. Louisans will get the chance to watch the ballet classics Nov. 20 and Nov. 21 at the Fabulous Fox Theatre, and performing alongside the Russian-trained classical dancers will be local ballet students. 

Sauce Magazine's Catherine Klene (at left) and Meera Nagarajan joined Tuesday's "St. Louis on the Air."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Each month, our partners at Sauce Magazine join us to hash out some of the top food and drink additions to the region. But 2019 has said its fair share of goodbyes to notable establishments in the St. Louis, from the tragic fire that shut down Goody Goody Diner to the closing of Piccione Pastry on the Delmar Loop after a seven-year run.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Sauce’s managing editor Catherine Klene and artistic director Meera Nagarajan joined the program to talk through some of the closings patrons miss most. 

The Alley Mill was built in 1894 next to Alley Spring in the Ozarks region. 
Kaitlyn McConnell

The Ozark region has modernized slowly over time, and that’s allowed for the preservation of its traditional culture. To help shed light on what the region has to offer, seventh-generation Ozarker Kaitlyn McConnell started the Ozarks Alive website, fueling her “night-and-weekend obsession” with learning about the places and people that make up the region she calls home. 

“It is true that most 20-somethings don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the historical significance of these hills,” she writes on her website. “Some might blame my love (or obsession, according to others) with this region on my blood. Seven generations of my ancestors have called the Ozarks home, and I’m proud of that connection.” Her posts showcase its history, its unique businesses and different profiles of people. 

After frequently being asked for suggestions of places to explore in the region, McConnell knew she had to use the wisdom she’s accumulated over the years to curate a book. She titled it “Passport to the Ozarks.” 

Musicans Kev Marcus (at left) and Wil B. make up hip-hop violin duo Black Violin. Their performance at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on Nov. 17 was their final show of 2019.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Hip-hop violin duo Black Violin performed their final concert of the year last night at the Touhill Performing Arts Center. Concertgoers danced and vibed to a setlist fused with what Black Violin crafts well — classical music and hip-hop.

Violinist Kevin Sylvester, also known as Kev Marcus, and violist Wilner Baptiste, also known as Wil B., make up the group. They released their new album “Take the Stairs” earlier this month. PBS described the pair as “two former high school orchestra nerds who use their love of Bach and Beethoven to reimagine classical music and connect with new audiences.”

The classically trained musicians joined Sarah Fenkse on St. Louis on the Air alongside St. Louis artist Brandon McCadney, known as Mad Keys. McCadney is classically trained in violin and plays the piano. 

Matthew Albrecht (at front), associate scientist at the Garden's Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development, and volunteer Eva Adams help during a honeysuckle sweep workday at Shaw Nature Reserve in 2018.
Mike Saxton | Shaw Nature Reserve

Bush honeysuckle isn't native to Missouri, but the species is flourishing in the state. The infestation has impacted the diversity and abundance of native plants, eliminated essential habitats for the insects that rely upon native plants, and has provided poor nutrition for birds, among other issues. The honeysuckle also escalates human exposure to Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis, a tickborne bacterial infection, by increasing the activity of the tick host, whitetailed deer. 

In an effort to upset honeysuckle infestation, the Missouri Botanical Garden has organized public events and volunteer removal days to raise public awareness about the need for bush honeysuckle removal and the benefits of replacing it with native plants. 

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with the garden’s restoration outreach coordinator, Ali Brown, who is heading up the organization’s Honeysuckle Sweep Month

From left, authors Meg Cabot and Ridley Pearson joined Monday's program.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Parents and educators often look for various ways to engage kids in reading. Traditional novels are seen as the ideal, but graphic novels can be just as effective. While similar to comic books, graphic novels tend to be in a longer format, and the narrative is largely self-contained. With the combination of text and pictures, graphic novels have complex plots, characters and conflicts. 

DC Comics recently introduced a line of superhero-based graphic novels aimed at middle-grade readers, between the ages of 8 and 12.

St. Louisans will get to learn more about some of them by visiting the St. Louis County Library this week. Authors Ridley Pearson and Meg Cabot are in town Monday and Tuesday to promote their separate DC Comics graphic novels aimed at middle-grade readers.

Chris Clark (at left) and Ben Scholle joined Friday's talk show to talk about this year's St. Louis International Film Festival. Michael Bertin joined the conversation by phone.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

The 28th St. Louis International Film Festival returned this week to offer local moviegoers the chance to view international films, documentaries, American indies and shorts over the course of 11 days. On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with Cinema St. Louis artistic director Chris Clark about some of this year’s highlights. 

Joining the discussion were two film directors whose works take a look at issues pertaining to the region, albeit vastly different ones. 

Steve Ehlmann

The exploration of the potential privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport continues — request for qualifications submissions from interested companies were due today. 

The city of St. Louis will now begin screening potential bidders to gauge whether they can financially and operationally move forward in the process. But now both St. Charles County and St. Louis County have entered the debate on airport privatization. They want the Port Authority to study regional control of the airport and whether privatization is a good idea. 

R.J. Hartbeck (at left) and Mary von der Heydt joined Thursday's "St. Louis on the Air" to talk about their "Small Circles" recipe book.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

The holiday season often signals a time when people gather together and aim to impress their friends and loved ones with their cooking skills. And now, home chefs can try some recipes not found in the Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray cookbooks. 

R.J. Hartbeck and Mary von der Heydt have launched a series of short cookbooks titled “Small Circle,” each showcasing about 10 recipes from noted chefs around St. Louis. 

File photo | Washington University

All month long, families have channeled their spooky senses and prepped their homes for Halloween. Decorations, costumes and candy all have to set the right vibe. But parents of children with intellectual or developmental disabilities have additional things to consider when preparing for the holiday, particularly for children whose disabilities aren’t visible. 

An estimated one in 59 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder each year, so it’s likely that a child with a disability will be stopping by households that aren’t aware of their condition this Halloween. 

To help ensure a successful holiday for children with disabilities, Jeanne Marshall and Melanie Mills of Easterseals Midwest joined Friday’s St. Louis on the Air with guest host Jeremy D. Goodwin. Marshall is the organization’s executive vice president of services and chief program officer. Mills is the director of autism services. 

Emily Woodbury | St. Louis Public Radio

Since 2012, Faizan Syed has been a key figure in Missouri’s Muslim community, serving as the executive director of the state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. When he first started, CAIR-MO was a small organization with just one board member and a budget of a little more than $10,000. But the group has since become a leading voice in the community. 

Syed recently left the organization to become the new executive director of CAIR-Dallas-Fort Worth. Taking over as director this month is Mojda Sidiqi, who was previously CAIR-MO’s communications coordinator. There will be a farewell banquet and fundraiser for Syed at the organization’s 7th Anniversary Gala on Friday, Nov. 8. 

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, both Sidiqi and Syed joined host Sarah Fenske to discuss the organization’s past and its future. 

Instructor Mike Pagano works with participants of Continuity's film-training program on interview techniques.

On Nov. 2, Continuity will host a “first-of-its-kind” conference bringing filmmakers to St. Louis to meet its trainees and other people interested in media production. The local nonprofit organization trains St. Louisans of color and underrepresented communities, teaching them filmmaking skills and preparing them for jobs in media production.

Continuity’s executive director and co-founder, Dan Parris, joined host Sarah Fenske to talk about the organization’s efforts on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air.

Also joining the conversation were Erica Renee Walker, a recent graduate of the Continuity Media Training Program, and Letisha Wexstten. Wexstten, who was born without arms, has developed a following for her YouTube channel, Tisha UnArmed. She will be featured at Continuity’s In Motion Filmmaking Conference.

Volunteer bike class instructor Annie Yarbrough (center) and BWorks students celebrate receiving a 2019 Quality of Life award from St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson.

Three decades ago, Bicycle Works launched in St. Louis with the goal of teaching bicycle safety and maintenance to children in the area. 

Through a “learn-and-earn” method, the organization — now known as St. Louis BWorks — helps about 500 kids each year, and has expanded to include instruction in creative writing and computers as well. The organization was recently awarded a Quality of Life Award from St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s office. 

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with St. Louis BWorks Board President Wayne Brinkman and volunteer Earn-A-Bike instructor Annie Yarbrough about the organization’s work ahead of their 30-year celebration on Saturday. 

Sauce Magazine founder and publisher Allyson Mace.
R.J. Hartbeck

Each month, staffers at Sauce Magazine join our program for a regular Sound Bites segment that showcases the area’s latest food trends and highlights local chefs, farmers, restaurateurs and more. But during Friday’s show, the topic wasn’t just the people and places covered within the magazine. It was the publication itself.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske delved into the history of Sauce, which first launched as a website in 1999. Twenty years later, Sauce Magazine is still going strong. A huge reason is publisher Allyson Mace, who remains with the publication to this day. 

(L-R) Jennifer Owens, Ning Lun and Luzmila Buechler joined Thursday's "St. Louis on the Air" to talk about Forai's efforts to help connect St. Louisans with refugees.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

For 10 years, an organization based in Maplewood has helped refugees attain the skills they need to earn an income, often without leaving their homes. It all began when Jennifer Owens and her family hosted some refugees from Nepal for Thanksgiving dinner. Her church had sought American families willing to connect with newcomers for the holiday. Owens was happy to help.

Inspired by her conversation with the single mother at her dinner table, Owens started an effort that would eventually become the nonprofit organization Forai, an acronym for Friends Of Refugees And Immigrants. From humble beginnings, it’s helped dozens of refugee women in St. Louis make friends — and money — through sewing and making jewelry. 

Dr. Christopher Lewis (at left) and Jordan Braxton explain the intersex condition and its nuances on Thursday's "St. Louis on the Air."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Being born intersex isn’t limited to ambiguous genitalia. There’s a plethora of intersex conditions, about 150. Some of them require surgical intervention, some don’t. And while the condition is common, there are still a lot of misconceptions about it. Ignorance can lead parents to allow surgical interventions that strip away the autonomy of individuals and expose them to irreversible physical damage. 

]Senegalese artist Modou Dieng's work titled, "la rue du fleuve," references scenes near his childhood home in Saint-Louis, Senegal.
Modou Dieng

Thousands of miles across the Atlantic — 7,505 miles, to be exact — is a city St. Louisans can feel a connection with. In the West African country of Senegal, there is a bustling coastal arts city named Saint-Louis. Known to locals as Ndar, it’s the oldest colonial city on Africa’s western coast. 

A new contemporary art exhibition opening this week at Barrett Barrera Projects in the Central West End surveys the art scene in Senegal’s Saint-Louis — and notes the parallels between the two cities named for St. Louis the King. 

St. Louis Recorder of Deeds Michael Butler joined Friday's talk show to discuss Open Concept, his new bar on Cherokee Street.
Adam Rothbarth for Sauce Magazine

An open bar at an affordable price in a hip area offering quality drinks and an accommodating atmosphere might seem like too much to ask for. But a St. Louis official says he’s offering just that. 

Butler has drawn upon his party organizing skills from his college days to found Open Concept — a Cherokee Street bar where patrons pay $10 an hour for access to batched cocktails, draft beer and wine. The St. Louis recorder of deeds promises there’s no catch — no skimping on alcohol or cups filled to the rim with ice.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson poses for a photo at St. Louis Public Radio. 10/10/19
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For 17 months, St. Louis has been weighing the idea of leasing its airport to a for-profit entity. As a member of the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment, Mayor Lyda Krewson is among the three city officials who have the ultimate say in whether any deal goes through — the others being Comptroller Darlene Green and Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed.

Cassie Boness (at left) and Dan Kolde joined Tuesday's "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss the role of emotional support animals and the legalities that surround them.
Cassie Boness & St. Louis Public Radio

Do a quick Google Image search of “emotional support animals,” and you’ll see various photos of animals on planes or in airports dressed in vests denoting their purpose. Under the Air Carrier Access Act, passengers needing to travel with an emotional support animal can do so with some basic documentation. 

There are limitations. 

Missouri Botanical Garden's Glenda Abney (at left) and StraightUp Solar's Eric Schneider joined Monday's program to discuss a pilot project for St Louis residents that helps pool their buying power for discounts on solar panels.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

While the sun’s rays were at full effect this August, the Missouri Botanical Garden launched its Grow Solar St. Louis program for St. Louis-area home and business owners. In partnership with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and Washington University, property owners throughout the city and county can participate in this pilot program to pool their buying power for discounts on solar panels.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske was joined by Glenda Abney, director of the Garden’s EarthWays Center, to delve into why the initiative was started and how interested St. Louisans can use green energy to power their homes. 

The patio at Bluewood Brewing, located on Cherokee Street in south St. Louis.
Lauren Healey | Sauce Magazine

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with guests from Sauce Magazine about the latest additions to the St. Louis region’s food and beverage community. 

Among the establishments that made it on this month’s Hit List are Taco Circus on the Hill and Bluewood Brewing on Cherokee Street. Joining Fenske to discuss the full list were Catherine Klene and Meera Nagarajan, Sauce’s managing editor and art director, respectively.

(Oct. 01, 2019) St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed joined Tuesday's talk show to share his thoughts on airport privatization.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Among the local politicians with huge sway over the potential privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport is St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed. He’s one of three members on the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment, which signs off on all city contracts. He also holds one of four votes on the St. Louis Airport Advisory Working Group.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske sat down with Reed, who could ultimately prove the swing vote that determines whether an airport lease is approved, to get his thoughts on the city’s exploration of a controversial experiment in privatization.

Daria McKevley is the supervisor of home gardening information and outreach at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Adam Smith is the assistant scientist at the Missouri Botanical Garden's Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development.

With the United Nations and New York City hosting Climate Week 2019 this week, climate change has been on the minds of many. But what does climate change mean here in the Midwest? The Missouri Botanical Garden isn’t just asking that question. Its scientists are also developing answers by closely surveying Midwestern plant life.

Joining host Sarah Fenske on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air to explain climate change’s effects on the region were Missouri Botanical Garden's assistant scientist, Adam Smith, and Daria McKevley, a supervisor of home gardening information and outreach at the center. 

Lisa Haddon (at left) is a server at Trattoria Marcella, and Peggy Conley is a bartender at Sidney Street Café. Both joined Thursday's talk show alongside Sauce Magazine staff writer Matt Sorrell.
Greg Rannells | Sauce Magazine

For many, restaurant work is a temporary gig to make money in college or pick up shifts as a bartender between periods of more permanent employment. But among restaurant veterans, service industry jobs are a profession. And they often bring all the opportunities for accomplishment — and financial benefits — of jobs thought of as more prestigious. 

Sauce Magazine’s latest issue features local career servers at some of St. Louis’ oldest establishments, like Tony’s and Sidney Street Cafe. On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with two of themabout why they love what they do, how they’ve made a living in a job so dependent on gratuity and why the job is something for others to consider.