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New VPR station plays classical 24/7

MIDDLEBURY — Classical music enthusiasts in Addison County can sit back, relax and enjoy the show: The music of Schumann, Chopin, Beethoven and Bach will be back on the air next week after a two-and-a-half-year dearth of classical music on the region’s radio waves.
Vermont Public Radio (VPR) is launching WOXM 90.1 FM in Middlebury on Tuesday with a live performance and radio broadcast by Vermont pianist Annemieke Spoelstra at Middlebury College’s Mahaney Center for the Arts. The launch comes after VPR Classical went off the air in Middlebury in the fall of 2007, when VPR split its news and classical music broadcasts onto separate frequencies.
“We’ve been hearing from listeners for two and a half years who were dying to hear classical music on the radio,” said VPR President Robin Turnau.
The launch also comes after a nine-month fund-raising effort to drum up money for the new transmitter. In a campaign chaired by John and Bonnie McCardell, VPR raised $346,000 from local listeners in the broadcast area. That helped pay for the full-power transmitter installed last week on Chipman Hill.
The new frequency will bring classical music to more than 83,000 people, covering a broadcast area from Vergennes south to Brandon and from the spine of the Green Mountains west to New York State. It also marks a step forward in VPR’s efforts to expand VPR Classical coverage to the entire state. Right now, around 60 percent of the state can tune in to the 24-hour classical music station, and Turnau said the new Middlebury transmitter will help bring coverage up substantially.
Turnau also said that keeping VPR Classical going strong — in as many parts of the state as possible — will also help protect classical music on the radio in the state. While one commercial classical station operates out of Stowe, that station is an anomaly: Nationwide, classical music stations are being sold because, by and large, they are not profitable to operate.
“If it wasn’t for public radio, there wouldn’t be classical music in a lot of markets around the country,” Turnau said. “It’s going to be up to us as a public radio station to make sure that it remains on the airways in Vermont.”
VPR Classical is Vermont’s only classical music network featuring local hosts throughout the day. Hosts Cheryl Willoughby, Walter Parker and Joe Goetz broadcast Monday through Friday, and Turnau said listeners can look forward to learning about classical music that is relevant in their lives and relates to the Vermont arts scene.
Other features include Saturday afternoon broadcasts of operas from the Metropolitan Opera House, and “From the Top,” a popular show featuring young classical musicians that has included local talent when taped in Vermont.
VPR Classical also highlights the work of local musicians — as will be the case on Tuesday during Spoelstra’s live performance. Spoelstra will play at 9 a.m. at Middlebury College, and her program will feature the music of Frederic Chopin and Robert Schumann. In between pieces, Spoelstra will discuss the music with VPR host Willoughby.
The free concert will be followed by a breakfast reception at the Center for the Arts.
In Middlebury, college staff at the Mahaney Center expressed enthusiasm for next week’s live broadcast — though, as Marketing Manager Liza Sachelli Lloyd pointed out, there’s always a bit of stress that accompanies a live broadcast.
Event organizers can keep their fingers crossed that a patron won’t sneeze during the broadcast, she said, but such things simply can’t be controlled.
“That’s the beauty of a live broadcast,” Lloyd said. “You’re really going to hear what’s happening. It won’t be polished and it won’t be contrived. That’s pretty cool.”
Guests will need to be seated at the Center for the Arts at 8:30 a.m. in order to listen to the performance, and once the broadcast begins no one will be allowed in or out of the concert hall except in the case of any emergencies.
VPR is asking that concertgoers RSVP by calling 1-800-639-2191.
Reporter Kathryn Flagg is at kathrynf@addisonindependent.com.

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