Laura Kennedy, the one-time classical and jazz music host who turned into one of GLT’s best storytellers, will retire later this month.
Kennedy first joined GLT as an intern in 1986. She became a classical-music announcer, and then hosted jazz. More recently, she’s been an arts and culture reporter and host of “All Things Considered.” Her intimate Q&As are a GLT staple, as are recurring features like GLT’s Grow, Culture Maven, and Psych Geeks.
Kennedy said she embraced the shift from music to reporter, taking pride in her versatility.
“I asked questions (during my interviews) that I’d ask at a cocktail party,” Kennedy said on GLT’s Sound Ideas. “I wanted to make the interview sound like a conversation. I wanted the listener to feel like they’re eavesdropping on a conversation. I wanted that level of intimacy, information, and satisfaction.”
The arts were a natural home for Kennedy. The Illinois State University mass media grad was raised on the arts. She’s also a movie buff—especially classic film and silent movies.
“The arts help us explore who we are. They help us grow as people. You can learn a lot when you study politics or history. But art goes deeper. Art can break down walls rather than build them,” she said.
Kennedy’s voice—that deep, velvety voice—is worthy of a retirement party itself. As a kid, Kennedy actually had a lisp, something she kicked with speech therapy.
“I loved using (my voice) when I was a kid, because it always made me seem older. So I could order a drink when I was 15 years old and get into R-rated movies,” Kennedy laughed. “It’s just how my voice is. I’ve never had any vocal training, believe it or not.”
Off the air, Kennedy would seem right at home in the 1920s—a favorite era of hers. She’ll casually drop in old-school lingo in conversation. “That’s jake,” she’ll say—a 1920s-era word for “OK.” (She’ll also occasionally affect an English accent just for the heck of it.)
Kennedy has lent her voice to Illinois State—her employer and alma mater—while off the air too. She regularly reads names at commencement ceremonies, and she’s done voiceover work for ISU recruiting and promotional videos.
Kennedy’s last day will be May 31. She’s still making post-retirement plans, but she’ll likely continue to do professional voiceover work. (And yes, she knows she looks too young to retire. “Sunscreen,” she says.)
GLT will recognize Kennedy at a retirement open house from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, May 24, at University Galleries. There will be live music and light refreshments. Cash bar. The public is invited, but please RSVP to help us plan for food.
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