Classical Spark: What Stations Are Doing

Classical Spark: What Stations Are Doing

Dear Friends of Classical Music Rising:

We are jazzed and inspired by how Classical Music Rising station partners are jumping into Classical Spark this fall: cleaning up identification, clarifying positioning, using liners and producing spots that encourage listening to classical music every day on your station – and promoting the heck out of it. What message is more important than why your station is a great daily destination and classical companion? This bears repeating. Taking our lead from NPR’s Spark project, we suggest promoting listening with mentions, liners and spots 100 times per week.

Here are just a few samples of what classical stations are doing this fall with Classical Spark:

  • KBAQ Phoenix: Promos using the tagline, “Calming and refreshing, we are Classical KBAQ.”  Assistant PD Brian Smith notes: “In going back over comments made by members at fund drives and during the last couple promotions, those two words popped up more than others in describing our programming.
  • WDAV Charlotte: A series of new “Classical Companion” liners that refer to the daypart in which they appear, then promote middays − i.e. “Your classical companion for your downtime [i.e. evening] and your worktime.”
  • WFCL Nashville: New positioning: We’re 91 Classical, Nashville, Music City’s Classical Companion. Liners such as “The soundtrack to your midday” and “Perfectly tuned to your midday,” and promoting local musicians at 12:06 PM daily to encourage listening at lunchtime.
  • WOSU Classical 101 Columbus: A series of spots around the theme, Compose Yourselfsuch as, “The music that keeps you calm on your morning commute can also be a great companion during your workday. Compose yourself at the office with Classical 101.”
  • WXXI Rochester: A digital ad in WXXI’s e-newsletter encouraging at-work listening, and spots promoting midday host Julia Figueras“You’re not a morning person? Neither am I. Join me midday…”


See much more! We’ve posted a PowerPoint presentation for you on with more examples, scripts, liners, sample scheduling grid, and audioDownload Classical Spark #4: What Stations Are Doing.

WXXI’s digital ad

In other Classical Music Rising project news…

Consultant Deborah Lein, former COO of Greater Public, has spent the last month conducting a competitive analysis of fourteen arts organizations − ranging from the Metropolitan Opera Opera to the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival – and grounding herself in current “hot buttons” in arts funding and education fundingcircles. She is identifying Classical Music Rising station leaders doingsignificant philanthropic fundraising, spelunking through every CMR station website, compiling a list of community engagement activities with proven track records across markets, and brainstorming ideas for multi-market collaboration.

What’s next?  Bringing it all together in intensive conversations with stations (now underway) to create practical and strategic resources that advance the philanthropic ball locally and collectively.  Want to know why donors give $10,000 to the local symphony but only $65 a year to your station?  Deborah will be providing some answers to that question, along with ready-to-use philanthropic case language, at least three recommended engagement activities (with notes on best-practice execution) and initial concept plans for a potential multi-station project or two to provide visibility opportunities for classical stations at home and across the country. Stay tuned!

Classical Music Rising’s Digital work is also well underway, led by consultant Judy McAlpine, former Senior VP of International and Affiliate Content Partnerships at American Public Media. The digital advisory group of station leaders includes USC Radio Group’s Brenda Barnes, Colorado Public Radio’s Monika Vischer, Louisville Public Media’s Daniel Gilliam, Minnesota Public Radio’s Nick Kereakos, WETA’s Dan DeVany and WQXR’s Shannon Connolly.

Judy reports: “So far, we’ve looked at audience research for various digital services such as streaming, websites and podcasts. We’ve also had some initial discussion about which digital metrics matter most. In coming weeks, we’ll look more closely at station data to surface best practices that drive audience growth and engagement.” She thanks all the classical stations that have shared information on streaming at your stations. “It’s exciting to see the digital picture for classical emerge.” 

Scroll down for classical fundraising ideas, station news, job opportunities, November’s Classical Datebook, and more…


Wende Persons, Managing Director
Classical Music Rising | | cell: 917-691-1282


“Drives should be a great time to listen.” Right? This quote by MPR’s Regional Fundraising Manager Liz Meyers is in an excellent presentation from Greater Public’s PMDMC 2016 conference, and it’s packed with ideas and tips. Download Fundraising Success at Music Stations.  This fall classical stations have been doing new things to make drives enticing listening experiences:

WQXR’s Classical Spark Pledge Premium
WQXR launched its October fundraiser in New York City with a new, exclusive premium that tips its hat to Classical Music Rising’s Classical Spark promotion campaign. Classical Spark: 50 Tracks to Inspire and Motivate was programmed by the station’s Music Director, Jenny Houser, and Naxos made the 3-CD set. Each of the three discs has a separate sound, based on the themes Ready, Set, Go! Program Director Matt Abramovitz said the custom compilation brought in more than 350 donations over the course of the drive.

WFMT Finishes Fall Pledge Two and a Half Days Early
Chicago’s Classical WFMT used a number of enticing premiums to help reach its fundraising goal two and a half days early. Program Director David Polk says the most successful thank-you gifts included a WFMT T-shirt and mug designed by a local Chicago artist, a choral album called Jubilate from St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, and The Ultimate Classical Christmas album. Some “relaxing” CDs and Pavarotti also did well. The most popular of the CDs were the final three installments in the Discovering a Legend: Vera Gornostaeva series. David notes, “This late Russian pianist is our reigning pledge queen and we’ll be sending out around 3,500 of her albums. Her Beethoven album helped us set a new record for most number of pledges in a single day. The previous record was set by a previous album of hers featuring all Chopin!”

All Classical Portland Nourishes Soul and Body
In an unprecedented effort, All Classical Portland partnered with Olson & Jones Construction and the Oregon Food Bank to help raise the funds needed to support its service AND it provided 30,000 meals to those in need. During its fall fundraiser, the station talked about its commitment to providing music that nourishes heart and soul, and through a special collaboration throughout September (Hunger Action Month), All Classical Portland helped nourish bodies. Each donation made to the station triggered a third-party donation from Olson & Jones Construction directly to the Oregon Food Bank. Interim CEO Suzanne Nance was inspired by Maine Public where she was involved in launching a similar initiative years ago. Nance said, “I hope other stations consider this type of fundraising. Hunger is a solvable problem and if All Classical Portland is to truly be a community treasure, we must go beyond the CD player and actively address community issues. Together, we can make a difference!” Read “We did it!”

Capital Public Radio Separates Classical & News Drives 
For the first time in its 38-year history, CapRadio in Sacramento held separate fundraisers for news and classical, allowing staff to focus their appeals and produce spots to be more format-specific. Paul Conley, Managing Editor, Music & Arts, said pitches on the classical (and jazz) side emphasized matters of the “heart” more than the “head,” underscoring the emotional power of music. They organized daily themes for the drive: Family, Fulfillment, Friendship, Future and created messaging to illustrate classical music’s role within these topics. “The alliteration is a little hokey, but it worked,” Paul reports. “With regard to Future, we focused a lot on music education, community engagement − things we want to do more of. Spots and pitches encouraged listeners to contribute ‘for the love of the music,’ a theme we’ll definitely develop in Classical Spark.” Both drives exceeded financial goals. The Station Resource Group is curious if other organizations with more than one station are holding separate pledge drives for classical – and what you’ve learned from this? Contact Terry Clifford.

Classical MPR Appeals to Listeners via Facebook Video
Minnesota Public Radio has put the “fun” in fundraising by airing Top 50 listener favorites during its pledge drive. Classical MPR is also reaching out to new members on Facebook with a fabulous fundraising videoClassical Music Plays On touches on the messages that make Classical MPR – and by extension classical radio – great. Classical music plays on. Not because of what it is, but because of what it does. It’s music to escape the noise of the now, to feel better, bigger, focused, a little more human. And right now we need that more than ever…”  Watch MPR Classical’s fundraising video on Facebook.

From The Top Offers Stations Pledge Testimonials
From the TopNPR’s long-running radio show showcasing young musicians and hosted by pianist Christopher O’Riley, has created a series of spots for stations to run during pledge drives voiced by FTT alumni. Each is a personal take on why it’s important to support your local classical station. One 15-year-old violinist who performed on FTT at age 11 says, “A lot of people think people my age don’t listen or care about public radio, but in fact it’s not at all true. I listen to the radio every day and it’s actually a big part of my life … I hope you’ll consider giving money this season so that public radio can continue to inspire classical music-loving kids like me and the world in general.”  This and more next generation testimonials are available to stations for upcoming drives. Contact From The Top Tour Producer David Balsom


What is your station doing to stimulate pledges of support? Send links to


Musical Chairs: Brenda Barnes Named CEO of KING-FM
Brenda Barnes, President of the USC Radio Group (which runs KUSC in Los Angeles and KDFC in San Francisco) is to be the new CEO of KING-FM in Seattle, effective January 8. She succeeds General Manager Jennifer Ridewood, who has led the station for 19 years, including its successful transition from a commercial to public radio station. Both are founding Steering Committee members of Classical Music Rising, and Brenda is Chair of the Station Resource Group board. She has worked in public radio since 1985, and this month marks 20 years as President of the USC Radio Group. When you have been in a role as long as I have, it is important to time your departure carefully when the organization is at its strongest,”Barnes told her SRG colleagues. I am a builder at heart, and I look forward to building on the great foundation my friend and colleague Jennifer Ridewood has created at KING.”  


Elsewhere on the Executive Turntable… 
Robin Turnau, President and CEO of Vermont Public Radio, has announced plans to step down in March 2018 after nine years in the post. And Max Wycisk, President of Colorado Public Radio (CPR), is retiring on June 30, 2018. He has held the post since 1978, and a search for his successor is underway. As with Brenda Barnes, they leave big shoes to fill…


Salt Lake City Drops Classical Format and PBS
A major overhaul is underway at Brigham Young University’s BYU Broadcasting. It is dropping its PBS affiliation, and Classical 89 FM (KBYU) will switch from airing classical music on June 30 to locally hosted talk and public affairs programming. Branded as BYUradio, these programs are currently airing on SiriusXM and various digital platforms, and will include FM after the format switch. GM Michael Dunn told Utah’s Deseret News, “We’re just crazy and audacious enough to believe that we can create world-class, values-oriented family entertainment that will resonate with the world.” Classical 89 consistently has been in the top rankings of U.S. classical stations for share of listening. Read more: Inside Radio.


WGUC Hires Veteran Cincinnati Enquirer Music Critic
Cincinnati classical station WGUC 90.9 last month hired longtime classical music writer Janelle Gelfand, two weeks after she was laid off by the Cincinnati Enquirer in its latest downsizing moveThe station will publish Gelfand’s blog, Janelle’s Notes, on, and she is also expected to comment about the local arts and music scene on sister news station WVXU-FM. Gelfand was the last of the Enquirer’s arts writers to be let go. At its peak, the Gannett-owned paper had theater, art, film, classical, pop and books critics. The latest move came two weeks before the city’s Music Hall reopened after a major renovation. Read more…


New Classics for Kids Website
In other WGUC news, on November 1 the station launched a new and improved Classics For Kids® website for its educational outreach program. The site, which includes an enhanced experience for phone and tablet, has new games and interactive features to create an entertaining way for parents and teachers to share their love of classical music with their kids and students. WGUC offers special thanks to Hookshot Creative LLC for development of the interactive features.


Minnesota Orchestra Celebrates MPR’s 50th Anniversary
Minnesota Public Radio is marking its 50th anniversary with a celebratory concert by the Minnesota Orchestra on Nov. 11, to be broadcast live and hosted by Brian Newhouse. The program, conducted by Osmo Vänskä (who recently signed a new 3-year contract) will feature highlights from the orchestra’s broadcast history. The Minnesota Orchestra is one of the few American orchestras to broadcast each of its classical season concerts live. Newhouse hosts from a booth above the stage, connected by audio and video monitors. Visit for more about MPR’s 50-year history.


KMFA’s Jingle
Austin’s classical station KMFA 89.5 is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. And now the station has a musical ID, following in the tradition of broadcasters of yore (think NBC). Composer Dan Welcher, who wrote KMFA: A Celebratory Overture, performed in January by the Austin Symphony, chose KMFA’s four-note theme. The recording of the KMFA Theme ID is supported by a grant from the Eva and Martin Womack Foundation. Read the informative piece − “A Jingle, A Jangle” − by Anthony McSpadden, Director of Broadcasting and Content, on KMFA’s website.


A Really Bad Week for WXXI’s PD
From hurricanes to forest fires, natural disasters have been up-ending lives across the nation in recent months. WXXI Program Director Ruth Phinney experienced more than her share in Rochester, NY last month. On October 15, a 40,000-pound tree fell on her house during a tornado-force windstorm, requiring months of restoration work. Watch the local TV news story“To add fuel to the fire,” Ruth emailed, “three days later WXXI’s entire ENCO system had a major failure and we had to do old school live radio 24/7 – with no pre-recorded material at all, no Classical Spark spots, and all during our radio pledge drive. (Having your house crushed is not a good way to get out of 6 a.m. pledge shifts.) I want to credit our great engineers who worked around the clock to get it back up in two days.”


Webinar: Alexa and the Vanishing AM/FM Radio
Integr8 Research recently posted the link to a fascinating webinar held in late October about how new devices and new listening options are impacting radioWatch Alexa and the Vanishing AM/FM RadioAlso check out Integr8’s related blog posts: The Three Threats to Radio’s Role in New Music Discovery, and Do People Really ask Alexa to Play Local Radio? Here’s the bottom line from Integr8 Research President Matt Bailey“Local FM radio stations are wise to secure their place in the smart speaker ecosystem, but they face stiff competition for listeners’ ears on the platform.” 


On a related note, Jacobs Media cites the growing threat of SiriusXM Satellite Radio, now available on Amazon’s Alexa voice service. In Radio Can’t Just Check Off the BoxesFred Jacobs points out: Once enabled, their ‘skill’ allows satellite subscribers to access all channels with a simple, ‘Alexa, play Bruce Springsteen Radio on SiriusXM’ – in kitchens, bedrooms, garages, and wherever these devices are placed in people’s home and offices.” And also watch out for those connected cars! Integr8 reports that automotive experts predict by 2020 three-fourths of all cars sold worldwide will be connected cars.


Just Released: Culture Track Study on Consumer Behavior: 
The ongoing series of Culture Track reports from LaPlaca Cohen are dynamite sources for understanding consumer behaviors, motivations, and barriers to participation in the arts. They are also useful for looking at classical radio’s place in the cultural ecosystem. For example, people donate to cultural organizations, above all, because they want to make a strong social impact. The Culture Track 2017 report zeroes in on key motivators for giving. The top cited is “Belief in Mission,” followed by “Want to Impact the Community” and “Want to Impact the World.” Don’t miss Part 5: The Digital Dilemma, and Part 7: The Case for SupportDownload PDF: Culture Track 2017.


USC Radio Group President – Los Angeles
The USC Radio Group seeks a President to lead a successful, thriving organization with an ambitious vision. The USC Radio Group has 12 FM stations and a robust digital presence in Southern California and the Bay Area providing the only classical radio service for 1.5 million listeners. The stations are licensed to the University of Southern California (USC), one of the leading research universities in the nation with an unparalleled commitment to classical music and the arts. With an annual budget of $15 million, a $130 million comprehensive campaign underway, talented staff, and a strong strategic plan the USC Radio Group is well-positioned for future success. Learn more/apply

Program Director – WNED, Buffalo
Celebrating its 40th Anniversary, Classical 94.5 WNED FM is seeking a creative, energetic, and experienced leader with a thorough knowledge of classical music and a firm grasp of today’s media landscape. The station is part of WNED | WBFO in Buffalo, NY, which also includes WNED-TV and WBFO Radio (NPR station). The stations serve Western New York and Southern Ontario. The Buffalo area is undergoing an economic and cultural renaissance and the Canadian market enhances the station’s mission and fundraising opportunities. Learn more. To apply, submit cover letter and resume to WNED/WBFO – HR Dept., P.O. Box 1263, Buffalo, NY 14240 or email to

Sirius XM Classical On-Air Host – Part-Time
NYC: SiriusXM Satellite Radio seeks talent to develop and host an informative, topical and entertaining daily classical music show that incorporates music and content that enhances listener’s enjoyment and understanding of classical music, with current events, and lifestyle appropriate content within each air shift. Learn more/apply

Program Host – KUSC, Los Angeles
America’s #1 Classical station is looking for America’s next great classical announcer. Can you connect with a broad audience of music lovers of all kinds? USC Radio Group’s Los Angeles division, KUSC, is seeking a Program Host with a passion for and basic knowledge of classical music, someone that has an engaging personality that can weave topical elements into a show effortlessly beyond classical music. Come to beautiful California and celebrate classical music! Learn more/apply

Chief Engineer – WFMT, Chicago       
WFMT in Chicago seeks a Chief Engineer to maintain and improve broadcast and production facilities and processes for WFMT, the WFMT Radio Network and related digital initiatives. The Chief Engineer will set long-term strategic plans and will oversee the Operations Manager, Production Assistants and other staff. Learn more/apply


Where do you find classical music trivia and “on this day” items for programming tie-ins? Here are our offerings for November, contributed by radio producer and writer Brian Wise.

November 7
On this day in 1994, WXYC in Chapel Hill, NC, became the first terrestrial radio station to broadcast its signal over the Internet. Other stations, including KJHK in Lawrence, KS and WREK in Atlanta followed suit later that year. WXYC is the student-run radio station of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

November 10
On this day in 1969, the pioneering children’s TV show Sesame Street made its debut. Many classical musicians have shared the stage with Big Bird and the gang over the years, including Yo-Yo Ma, Plácido Domingo, Gustavo Dudamel, Renée Fleming, James Galway and Joshua Bell. Watch 10 amazing times when Sesame Street went classical. But especially worth seeking out are Philip Glass’s set of pieces for the show’s quirky animation sequences.

November 11
In 1989, two days after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mstislav Rostropovich gave an impromptu performance in front of the newly dismantled wall. The Soviet-born cellist, then living in Paris, flew into Berlin as soon as he’d heard the wall was coming down and he stationed himself in front of a graffiti-covered slab. A videoshows his performance drawing a crowd of admirers, some getting their first taste of freedom.

November 13 
On this day in 1840, 36-year-old Hector Berlioz spent 24 hours in the prison on the Quai d’Austerlitz in Paris for failing to show up for National Guard duty. The French composer was jailed despite the fact that a day earlier, he had directed 200 musicians in a five-hour state ceremony. He spent his brief incarceration writing a letter to his sister and sleeping in.

November 14 
On this day in 1943, a then-unknown Leonard Bernstein made his debut conducting the New York Philharmonic, substituting for an ill Bruno Walter at Carnegie Hall. The program had been planned to fit the time slot of CBS’s national radio broadcast. Bernstein led Schumann’s Manfred Overture, Rosza’s Theme, Variations and Finale, Strauss’s Don Quixote and Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger. The debut was a success, drawing front-page coverage in the New York Times.

November 17
Verdi’s first opera, Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio, opened at Milan’s La Scala on this day in 1839. The two-act drama was well received and the company’s impresario, Bartolomeo Merelli, hired him to write three more operas. After a brief sophomore slump — the comic Un giorno di regno — Verdi delivered his breakthrough opera, Nabucco, in 1842.

November 18
On this date in 1791, Mozart gave his final public performance, conducting his Kleine Freimaurer-Kantate, K. 623 (Little Masonic Cantata) for the opening of a new temple of the Freemasons. Mozart was a member of this fraternal society associated with ideals of the Enlightenment, and he composed several pieces for their ceremonies. He died 17 days later on December 5, at the age of 35.

November 22 
It’s St. Cecilia’s Day, honoring the patron saint of music. The first known musical event in celebration of St. Cecilia took place in 1570 in Normandy, France. St. Cecilia was venerated as a martyr from the Fifth century, and in early Italian paintings, she’s portrayed with a harp or organ. Handel, Gounod, Boyce and Lou Harrison are among the composers to wrote odes to her.

November 23
For radio programmers, Thanksgiving often means music on themes of gratitude and Americana. Check out an archival playlist from KING-FMsample music and food pairings from WFMT, tune in on Thanksgiving night for the grand finale of WETA’s Classical Countdown, its annual listeners’ choice survey.

November 28
In 1909, Sergei Rachmaninoff premiered his notoriously knuckle-busting Piano Concerto No. 3 with the New York Philharmonic. He wrote it for his U.S. tour and practiced it silently on a mock piano aboard the ship while crossing the Atlantic. Walter Damrosch conducted the premiere and Gustav Mahler brought it back a few months later. The piece didn’t truly catch on until Vladimir Horowitz championed it in the 1930s. “Rach 3” starred in the 1996 Oscar-winning movie Shine, inspired by the life of pianist David Helfgott, who was portrayed by actor Geoffrey Rush.


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About Classical Music Rising

Classical Music Rising aims to shape the future of classical music radio against a backdrop of multiple broadcast and digital platforms, demographic and cultural change, and significant disruption throughout the music industry. The initiative centers on strategy, innovative tactics, and collective action – all informed by ongoing research and analysis. Classical Music Rising is a project of the Station Resource Group and is supported by participating stations and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Visit