Stephen Steigman, chief of broadcast operations, KCUR 89.3 (photo by Luke Martin)
Twenty-four-hour FM classical music has returned to Kansas City after a 20-year hiatus. Classical KC — located “at 91.9 on the FM Dial” — is operated by KCUR-FM as a standalone entity following the station’s purchase of KWJC-FM from William Jewell College.
High-quality digital access — a must for classical music listeners, is available at ClassicalKC.org, and plans are afoot to add HD on KCUR HD-2 by 2021.
“We envision our new service as much more than a classical music radio station,” said Stephen Steigman, KCUR’s chief of broadcast operations. “This project is intentionally designed to be local, bringing exposure to the numerous high-quality performing arts organizations in Kansas City.”
Sarah Morris, KCUR’s interim general manager, explains why now, rather than waiting for the traditional “season opening” in the fall: “We believe the music must start playing immediately. Our community needs the emotional relief and hope classical music can provide, and our arts organizations need the service of a classical radio platform as they rebuild their programs.”
Classical KC will provide area classical music organizations with an on-air venue to showcase their music, as they move toward an eventual reopening in concert halls across the city. It is a work in progress, however, and until that is fully realized Classical KC is already airing some of the highest quality syndicated classical music offered anywhere.
Its schedule is loaded with symphony performances. At 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, you can hear performances of the Minnesota Orchestra, the Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Milwaukee Symphonies, and the New York Philharmonic.
Monday through Saturday at 5 p.m. you can hear “Performance Today,” a Peabody Award-winning classical music radio program hosted by Fred Child and the most listened-to daily classical music radio program in the United States, with 1.2 million listeners on 237 stations.
For early risers on Sunday, at 7 a.m. there is “Sunday Baroque,” hosted by Suzanne Bona, which focuses on composers such as Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and others. “Sunday Baroque” is currently heard by more than a quarter million listeners every week on approximately 200 public radio stations and networks across the United States.
For those interested in Chamber Music, Classical KC offers music from The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center every Sunday at noon. The broadcast features live recorded performances by leading chamber music musicians from around the world and commentaries by CMS’s co-artistic director David Finkel and performers.
For those seeking to be introduced to musical talent in its earliest stages of individual careers, on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. look for “From the Top,” which celebrates the talents, stories and character of young classically-trained musicians.
And, on Saturdays at noon, opera fans can listen to a variety of operas presented by the WFMT Radio Network, including productions from Munich, Vienna, and Chicago, with exceptional casts and stunning performances.
Classical KC’s goal is to become “the champion of Kansas City classical music,” as Steigman puts it — to be the venue for the area’s many classical music organizations, hosted by the best informed full-time announcers and including not only area performers and performances, but also informative interviews and related activities that will keep listeners current and promote Kansas City’s vibrant classical music scene.
Existing programming with a local connection already includes Frank Byrne, who recently retired from the Kansas City Symphony after nearly two decades as its executive director. “From the Archives” airs on Saturday at 11 a.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m., wherein Byrne draws on past recordings that provide insights into various composers and performers through their own words and performances, often featuring artists at the start of what came to be illustrious careers.
Listeners may remember Bill McGlaughlin, music director of the Kansas City Symphony from 1986 to 1997, who on Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. hosts “Exploring Music.” McGlaughlin — a Peabody Award-winning broadcaster, musician, conductor and composer — offers up creative explorations of classical music, each program unified by a central theme, which might be a composer, a period of history or a musical form.
Classical KC is already airing broadcasts of the Kansas City Symphony on Thursday at 8 p.m. with repeats on Sunday at 4 p.m., but more from the Symphony is yet to come.
Once the myriad of details of scheduling and contractual agreements can be worked out, Classical KC is planning to air productions by the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and the UMKC Conservatory.
Continuing to look to the future, Classical KC is in conversation with Kansas City’s Friends of Chamber Music, looking to host performances by, and interviews with, visiting artists — perhaps even “living room concerts.”
And among other plans for local programming are recitals and interviews by classical musicians and singers of all types brought to Kansas City by the Harriman-Jewell Series, the performing arts presenter of international importance founded by William Jewell College in 1965.
“KC Studio” contacted some of Classical KC’s partners and received glowing endorsements: Clark Morris, executive and artistic director of the H-J Series, said, “We are thrilled and excited to be in partnership with KCUR and Classical KC. It is an incredible asset to the arts in Kansas City. It will not only provide an expanded opportunity for Harriman-Jewell and the other outstanding classical music series in Kansas City to be heard locally, but it will also broadcast that music to the world.”
Deborah Sandler, Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s general director and CEO, responded: “What a wonderful source of joy and comfort a new classical music station will bring to music lovers in Kansas City. What a wonderful opportunity for those who have not yet found classical music to hear a diversity of musical offerings and perchance make a discovery that will lead to a new pursuit. We look forward to partnering in the development of programming about all things opera and more.”
For more information, visit ClassicalKC.org.