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Random Thoughts: A community conversation with Kathy Lawton Brown

Kathy Lawton Brown in studio

Kathy Lawton Brown in studio [Sherrie K. Nelson photo]

This week, West Newsmagazine talks with Kathy Lawton Brown, one of the hosts of St. Louis’ only classical radio station – Radio Arts Foundation 107.3 FM. Lawton Brown also is a professional singer who is the principal contralto with the St. Louis-based baroque ensemble, The American Kantorei.

What movie can you watch over and over without tiring of it?

I never fail to be inspired by “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The King’s Speech,” “A Patch of Blue,” “Pay it Forward,” “Hidden Figures” …  Not only is each a beautiful story thoughtfully told, these films all speak to the immense power we hold within ourselves to triumph over adversity, plus the importance of believing in ourselves and others … But when it comes to sheer, outright silliness that makes me laugh till I cry, Mel Brooks has my number with my top fav – “Young Frankenstein.”

What has today’s society blown way out of proportion?

Our quickness to take offense … and so often over trivial and/or unintended things. I think we would do well to listen to the intent behind another’s words, rather than assuming that they have an agenda to insult us or do us harm. Anonymity on the internet probably contributes to this. It might be good for us all to just take a great big breath, exhale and practice a bit more understanding, acceptance and kindness.

Name three interesting facts about you.

I like making things. From arts to cooking to assembling furniture to songwriting, I derive great satisfaction from the creative process. I love being in that mode of “What can I do with this that’s new and different?”

One of my strengths is solving puzzles, cryptographs and mechanical challenges. My husband calls me “Handy Anna” when I do stuff like installing a kitchen faucet or assembling a barbecue grill. Probably got it from my dad, a mechanical engineer, who instilled me with the notion that I should know what was under the hood of a car and other practical stuff like that.

I love animals. They’re a huge part of my life. At one point, I was on the path to becoming a veterinarian, but music won out. But I’ve been a touch therapy dog handler for children with disabilities, and for kids and moms in a safe house – one of the most rewarding things I ever did.

What’s the biggest realization you’ve had about yourself?

That I am a teacher and a healer. Not a healer in the traditional sense of the word, but one who makes others feel better, nonetheless – with a smile or music or encouragement or simply a kind word. We all need them, you know? I try to keep in mind a motto from the Pilot Club volunteer service organization … “wanting those whom I touch to be ennobled by that touch.” Powerful concept.

If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would you choose?

Ross Rosazza, my first voice teacher from my undergrad years, whom I never adequately thanked for everything he did for me. And that doesn’t pertain solely to singing – it encompasses life lessons of the most important sort. He was a sterling example of a truly gracious human being.

Composer, musician, playwright and author Meredith Willson, whom my husband and I knew years ago. I would love to speak with him again, now that I have more life experience. I’d like to express my appreciation for him, learn more from him, laugh with him again, and simply compare notes after all these years. It would be a revelation, no doubt.

My grandmother, who was a remarkable example of a person who lived her life with quiet dignity, great humor and grace. She had the opportunity to live all over the world, and she taught me countless lessons about respecting and accepting others for who they are. When I grow up – if I ever do – I want to be just like her.

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