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Classical KC: A New Music Platform for Kansas City

KCUR at UMKC creates second radio station to provide 24/7 classical service

Kansas City, Missouri, July 06, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- At a time when we most need it, classical radio has returned to Kansas City.

91.9 Classical KC began broadcasting June 30 and is now operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The music service also can be streamed through a new website at classicalkc.org.

The station is an enterprise of KCUR 89.3, Kansas City’s public radio station, which purchased the signal at 91.9 FM from William Jewell College in late June. KCUR is an editorially independent community service of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which holds its broadcasting license.

Adding a second radio station to its portfolio fits well with KCUR’s history of supporting Kansas City’s rich arts culture, said Sarah Morris, interim general manager.

“We see Classical KC as a cultural institution in the making,” Morris said. “Over time, we want the new station to be Kansas City’s ambassador for all things classical, and this is a fundamental step in that direction.”

Morris pointed out that the purchase of the station would not have been possible without the generous support of several key funders in Kansas City.

“We are supremely grateful to those wonderful funding partners who enthusiastically agreed to make initial investments in this vital project,” Morris said.

For the past 20 years, Kansas City has been one of the few metropolitan areas of its size without a full-time classical music radio station. But, with the launch of the new music platform, KCUR intends to do more than simply play classical compositions.

91.9 Classical KC will be a local service with a focus on Kansas City, its arts institutions, its home-grown musicians, its audiences and its schools. The new station will act as an ambassador for the classical community and will partner with area arts organizations such as the UMKC Conservatory, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and the Kansas City Symphony to promote their work.

Danny Beckley, executive director of the Kansas City Symphony, said he looks forward to working with the staff at Classical KC to develop innovative ways to share classical music with as broad an audience as possible.

“We must democratize this music just as the ‘foodie’ movement has democratized our cultural taste buds,” Beckley said. “If we could commit to a collaborative partnership unburdened by more traditional siloed models of radio and orchestra, I believe such an effort could be transformational for Kansas City’s appetite for classical music.”

Even before the purchase of 91.9 FM, William Jewell College and KCUR have enjoyed a longtime relationship that has included collaborative events involving the college’s Harriman-Jewell performing arts series. The launch of the new station allows that partnership to continue to flourish, says Elizabeth MacLeod Walls, president of William Jewell College.

“William Jewell College has a proud history as a supporter of the arts, from helping grow aspiring performers on our campus to bringing the best artists to Kansas City through the Harriman-Jewell Series. We believe music inspires creative thought, and this new station is a valuable addition to our culturally rich city.”

Stephen Steigman, KCUR’s longtime chief of broadcast operations, will lead Classical KC as its director. Over the next three years, the new station plans to expand its dedicated staff, including announcers, a social media/digital editor, a membership director and a community outreach coordinator.

Steigman reiterated the importance of bringing Classical KC to life at this time.

“While concert stages are dark, we can help classical arts organizations and musicians remain in front of their audiences at a time when they need to be in front of their audiences,” he said.

“I’m looking forward especially to working with Kansas City’s musicians and organizations to find innovative ways to reach audiences through the broadcast of small-scale performances, living room concerts, interactive interviews and the airing of great archival content,” Steigman said, adding that classicalkc.org will provide a choice platform from which to share the work of local performing arts organizations.

While most commercial classical stations in the country have gone out of business in the past two decades — including KXTR in Kansas City — classical music is flourishing on public radio. More than 11 million listeners in the U.S. tune in to classical music on 71 public radio stations nationwide.

The new station will be operated by KCUR as a community service of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and will reinforce the university’s long-standing commitment to the arts in Kansas City. Classical KC will be funded exclusively by private donors, partner marketing and a membership program modeled after the one that helps sustain KCUR. No state or tuition money will be involved in this enterprise, Morris said.

Although the new station’s signal is located in Independence, Missouri, it will be run out of KCUR’s offices at UMKC.

“We are thrilled by this new partnership and celebration of the arts,” said UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal. “Classical KC will not only be a major asset to our world-renowned UMKC Conservatory, but to our entire Kansas City community at a time when the spirit of music is needed more than ever.”

About KCUR
KCUR 89.3 is a public radio service deeply rooted in the Kansas City metro area since 1957. It is the flagship NPR station in Kansas City, connecting people to ideas and to each other through news reporting, thoughtful conversation and vibrant expressions of arts and culture. The station serves the public by reporting on and sharing information about local governments, politics, education, health care, arts and culture through the voices of the people living those stories. It spotlights the creative works of artists, musicians and innovators who make the world and our community more vibrant. It brings people together through events intended to inspire and engage. The station is operated as an editorially independent community service of the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), which holds the station's broadcast license. The station broadcasts 24 hours a day in a 90-mile radius of Kansas City. Its audio stream, archived local programming and podcasts are available at kcur.org. The station leads three public media collaborations: Harvest Public Media, the Kansas News Service and America Amplified, a national project for the 2020 election year.

Stacy Downs
UMKC
8162351441
downs@umkc.edu