GR8 Acts of Kindness winner shares her passion for music

Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 11:01 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 27, 2023 at 11:46 AM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - If anyone knows the power of music, Julia Lansford does!

July’s Gr8 Acts of Kindness winner has spent a lifetime working to bring a sweet melody to many people’s lives.

Lansford’s impressive operatic voice landed her roles in the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and an opera in Freiburg, Germany, at the Reagansburg Opera House.

The Jonesboro High School graduate had never seen an opera until she was in college.

Her soprano voice was her ticket to the professional world of opera. But she chose married life with her husband, James, and son, Jonathan.

“Arkansas State was good to me. I was able to do a lot of performing and teaching at the same time I had my family. so I had the best of all worlds, teaching, performing, and family.”

She took a job that was supposed to be temporary at Arkansas State. It lasted 44 years. And her students? Well, they have found success too: Phillip Sweet of Little Big Town, Kyle Dean Massey from Broadway and ABC’s Nashville, Matt Cavenaugh, appearing on Broadway and now a local businessman, and Gene McDonald of the Gaithers.

“I’ve always told my students to be sure every performance you perform is the best you can do at the time because you never know who is in the audience,” Lansford said.

The audience and performers have shifted focus for Julia in recent years.

“She pushes us to the point where we know we can do it,” Darren Lane said.

Lane is one of several performers. July has helped through programs for special needs students.

“It’s wonderful how you feel when something clicks and it works for them and whatever you said made it easier for them,” Lansford said.

She and another Gr8 Acts of Kindness winner, Pat Qualls, made the annual “Role of Music in the Lives of Special Needs Children and Adults” concerts possible until COVID-19 hit.

“We do a concert every now and then at different churches or things like that,” Lane said.

“She makes sure everybody has a place,” Peggy Havdala said. “Everybody has a place at the table.”

“Maybe we should sing our way in,” I said to the camera as representatives from First Community Bank, KAIT, and parents made their way to the front door of Lansford’s home.

So, as Lansford hosts song practice at her home, we are about to stop by.


“For you, music is life,” I said to Lansford. “And for all the ways that you have shared that passion we want to thank you with the Gr8 Acts of Kindness.”

“Hip-hip! Hooray!”

What better way to celebrate than with a song?”

“Don’t stop the music!” members of Lansford’s afternoon choir practice sing.

“They just live for music,” Beverly Pierce, grandmother, former choral director, and former student of Lansford, said.

Former students even Facetimed with Lansford.

“He loves her dearly. She really made a difference for him,” Sandie Harper said of her son, Perry. He now works as a worship pastor in Minor, MO.

“I have been very fortunate with friends and students, too. Nothing like it! Wonderful friendship,” Lansford said through tears.