Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Classical music


Are classical music lovers a dying breed? I have no idea of course, but I do know that all over the country all-classical FM radio stations are changing their broadcasting format from classical to contemporary rock or (even worse) talk-talk-talk. I understand that many cities now have no classical music stations. KFUO-FM in St. Louis, for instance, no longer broadcasts classical music.

My favorite holdout is WCPE-FM, “The Classical Music Station” in Wake Forest, NC. They stream their all-classical format over the Internet 24 hours a day and by satellite feeds to many local FM stations across the country, as well as over-the-air to their Wake Forest/Raleigh-Durham listeners.

Their operation is unique, as far as I know, and I have long been fascinated by their business plan. It is a non-profit organization managed by Deborah S. Proctor. Somehow she has kept WCPE-FM afloat without a cent of public money. It is fully listener-supported. Over the years, the proportion of their annual budget that comes from contributions from Internet listeners worldwide has grown to over 50%. It takes new Internet listeners three years before they make their first contribution, so they could well be on the path toward being a self-sustaining global source of classical listening.

I caught the classical music bug almost from the time I started tootling a clarinet while in Junior High in Topeka, Kansas. My best friend, Larry Ingemanson, also played the clarinet, and I always envied the smooth and mellow tone of his more-expensive wooden instrument. Mine was metal, and it sounded anything but mellow.

As a high school junior in St. Louis, MO, I auditioned for and was accepted by a city-wide concert orchestra as an E-flat alto clarinet player. That is where I cultivated my taste for classical music. On the evening of the Big Concert, I had a brief solo part while the violins and brass held their fire during a number whose title I just cannot remember. I got a little swell-headed after this, especially with mom and dad in the audience.

My musical career went downhill after that. During my high school senior year I played with a small swing band we called The StarDreamers, named after a popular 1949 song. I played alto saxophone and clarinet, and as I recall there were three saxes in the front row of music stands, two trumpets and a trombone behind, and of course a drummer. We even had a pert female vocalist we called “Jellybeans” (don’t ask). We played for school dances and a few wedding receptions.

In college I swapped my clarinet for an M1 rifle and led a close-order drill team during football half-times. Our marching unit was called The Pershing Rifles. I digress. Sorry.

Now, a few years later, I fill my listening hours with Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Handel, and all the rest of those dead guys. Never tire of it.

Dave, still wondering about the fate of classical music.


7 Responses to “Classical music”
  1. linda says:

    Ah… love learning new stuff about DOD. Your best friend’s name at one time was Larry and you were in a city wide concert orchestra in STL.. and wooden clarinets have better sound. Of course that makes perfect sense but I loved granddad’s old silver clarinet, thought I was a cut above my friends with wood clarinets, now I know better. Oh… and Jellybean was pert. hmm….

  2. Dave says:

    Whaddaya mean “new stuff?” That was 62 years ago! And I still can’t remember the piece with the alto clarinet solo part, even though I hear it every now and then on WCPE.

  3. Leslie says:

    I love that part of your history, Dad! Well, in my world, classical music is still very much beloved. If the fact that the Academy Award winning movie, “The King’s Speech” had a beautiful classical music score is any indication, it’s still alive and well. The St. Louis orchestra at Powell Hall sells out seats for nearly all concerts I think.

  4. Dave says:

    Maybe my feeling lonesome comes from living away from the influence of the Big City. Maybe there are still many listeners to the classics via the Internet. Maybe I am indulging in being wistful for a past that really never was. Maybe I’m growing old .

  5. Hello Good and Kind Orlop,

    Today was one of those difficult and depressing days when one can get caught wondering if all of the problems and trials are worth it.

    Then a son drives his dad over to the station because his dad had just regained the ability to walk again after doctors six years ago told him he’d never be able to even move his legs after having such a massive stroke. He wanted to walk into the station by himself and tell us as he stood unassisted save for a cane. He told me that throughout all the physical therapy sessions, all those years of working to regain what he lost in the blink of an eye, he drew some of his will to endure from being able to listen to WCPE.

    It put my petty concerns of the problems of running a community-supported station into stark contrast; that overloaded inbox full of what moments before seemed “just too much” into true context. I have a great staff and an even greater family of listeners and devoted friends and supporters. Once again, I had to be reminded that of the hundreds of thousands who come to our station to hear and escape to this music that I am the fortunate one who has been helped over all these years.

    You and so many others just somehow know exactly what to say when doubts creep in after a long and sometimes lonesome moment in that office when the seemingly impossible task, or the unfair and unjust letter, lands upon my desk and I know there is no one but me to solve it, or to try to ameliorate a listener over something for which I am guilty simply because I have the corner office.

    Your kind words today must also have been given to me by One special Friend who has always seen to it that something is truly needed, something against all odds just appears, and it is always so welcomed, so just in time, and always cherished and appreciated.

    Thank you and bless you for the wonderful way you made these tiny specks of light brighten up my evening.


  6. Deborah says:

    Dave, would you correct my spelling and missing words for me. I miss some words and such around migraine time. One of the better ones was “Why can’t you push a dead horse into the water and beat it.?”. DSP

  7. Dave says:

    Hi Deborah,

    I didn’t have the heart to do much editing–just a few obvious things. I’m glad that you added your comment, and I appreciated it very much.

    I am one of your biggest fans and benefit a lot from your labors. Your WCPE stream is on almost all the time when I am sitting at the keyboard.


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