South Florida has a lot going for it in terms of cultural expression: good museums, a lot of theatre, and a lot of places to see and hear art and artists. We have a Design District, an area called Wynwood that is part of the Art Basel events, and a new performing arts center that includes a concert hall, ballet stage, and a theatre big enough to stage opera and host national tours of Broadway musicals. We’re not exactly Lincoln Center, but we do all right. But what it can’t seem to hold on to is a classical music radio station.
About fifteen years ago the commercial classical station WTMI was sold off to a “dance” music format which was basically endless nightclub noise. Those of us who like a little Mozart or Copland with our day had to do without. Then in 2007 a Christian non-commercial station was sold and switched over to be a repeater for the Classical 24 format put out by Minnesota Public Radio and PRI, and classical music was back on the air calling itself Classical South Florida. It was not a station in the sense that it had live DJ’s here in Miami or Fort Lauderdale sitting in a studio and playing the music. Frankly, that style of radio went off the air years ago in favor of packaged satellite formats covering everything from rap to oldies. But it was classical music (albeit a limited variety; lots of the same warhorses played over and over), and it made a nice contrast to the noise on the FM band.
Now the word has come down that Classical South Florida will end its run tomorrow and revert to the “Christian music” format. (I have always thought that “Christian music” has been an oxymoron since the end of the 19th Century, but that’s just me. YMMV.)
I’m sorry to see it go. I was an early supporter of the station and it provided a touch of class even if it was just a repeater. Its demise also adds to the myth that classical music can’t make it as a broadcast format. I’ve lived in cities and towns big and small, and everywhere else, including Denver, Albuquerque, and Petoskey, classical music was available either through commercial or non-profit outlets. It works if it’s done right: with local people who know their music and care about what their audience likes to hear. Perhaps that’s one reason this latest effort failed; you can only hear Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks so many times.
Fortunately there are outlets available to me via the internet, and while my cars are still mired in 20th century technology, I can listen to Interlochen Public Radio at work and at home, and the stylings of jazz station WDNA. But it’s sad that once again South Florida shows that when it comes to class, we have a lack of it sometimes.