Maestro Peter Bay kicks off the Spring Membership Drive!

OK, it’s the first day of our pledge drive, and Peter Bay is on the air making us laugh! He is a riot. He just dropped by to give us a hand as we raise funds to keep KMFA broadcasting commercial-free music in Central Texas.

Maestro Bay put out a challenge to listeners: Rich played the theme song to Star Trek, and Peter asked KMFA listeners to call in and tell him why we were playing that piece today. If someone guessed correctly, then he would donate $50 to the Pledge Drive…. can you guess the answer? 🙂

If you haven’t yet renewed your membership, or if you have considered becoming a new member,  then follow his example and help keep KMFA strong and on the air for another 44 years!

~posted by Alison @ KMFA 🙂

Bemused at the Blanton

I took advantage of Austin’s pleasant springtime weather to visit the Blanton Museum last weekend… and found a greenbelt of 99 trees covered with knitting, right in front of the entrance!

It was all part of the “Knitted Wonderland” that is officially referred to as a “site-specific installation,” designed by textile artist Magda Sayeg, and crafted by over 170 local volunteer knitters. I confess that when I saw it, I’m old enough to be reminded of toe socks. 😉 The bright knits added vivid color to the yet-leafless trees.

The industriously whimsical tree knits matched the current exhibit going on inside the Blanton: Recovering Beauty. I’ve often encountered literature and art that resulted from societal repression and revolution…. but this exhibit reflects the brief period of freedom from oppression that Argentina experienced during the 1990s.

The exhibited items within are delightful, expressive, metaphorical, and deceptively youthful. Some things appear simply decorative; others tell visual stories, and even provide specific tools for perspective, such as peep-holes on viewing boxes. The imagery and layers of meaning reminded me of literature’s greatest short stories: entertaining and appealing on the surface, rendering deeper content upon greater scrutiny.

I highly recommend visiting the Blanton for this wonderful exhibit. It has been one of my favorites! And the trees will be de-nitted March 25th, so swing by on your lunch hour.  You can find more info on the Blanton website.

~ posted by Alison @ KMFA 🙂

KMFA in the news

Last Friday, KVUE’s Martin Bartlett stopped by the radio station, with a specific question in mind: how are local public media stations coping with the threat of federal de-funding, now that the House of Representatives has passed a bill doing just that?

KMFA’s General Manager, Joan Kobayashi, spoke with Bartlett about the different needs of public radio stations, such as rural vs. metro stations, and university licensees compared to community licensees. You can see the resulting broadcast here:

~posted by Alison @ KMFA 🙂

In the KMFA Studios: Matt Haimovitz drops by during SXSW

Dianne chats with Matt about classical music and SXSW

Matt Haimovitz: a musical visionary, cellist extraordinaire, and busy performer at SXSW this week, dropped by the KMFA studios today! He chatted on the air with Dianne Donovan about how classical music is not just a niche of music from prior centuries, but a foundation of music for all genres and future composition.

Short bio: From his debut (at age of 13!) as soloist with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic, and his first recording for Deutsche Grammophon, Haimovitz is considered a modern cellist virtuoso. In 2000, he made waves with his Bach Listening-Room Tour, wherein Haimovitz took Bach’s beloved cello suites *out* of the concert hall and into clubs across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.  ….He was the first classical artist to play at New York’s infamous CBGB Club, in a performance filmed by ABC News’ Nightline. He is Professor of Cello at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University in Montreal.

Matt Haimovitz is acclaimed for his visionary approach, groundbreaking collaborations and innovative recording projects. We learned from him today that on March 22nd he will premiere a new cello concerto by Denys Bouliane with the Montreal Symphony and Kent Nagano.

If you missed his on-air interview, you can still listen to it on our website.

~posted by Alison @ KMFA 🙂

Texas Choral Consort offers an oratorio for all seasons

~posted by Dianne Donovan, KMFA mid-day host

Texas Choral Consort’s presentation of Die Jahreszeiten — “The Seasons” — (February 26th & 27th)

If you missed the opportunity to hear Franz Joseph Haydn’s “The Seasons” this past weekend, I’m sorry, really sorry. This masterwork is rarely performed in this part of the world. Although it was written three years after his blockbuster, “The Creation,” it never caught on like its predecessor.

photo credit: Robert Kelly

Much of the neglect rests with what was once an unwieldy English libretto (translated from a German translation/adaptation of an English poem by James Thomson titled, “The Seasons”). Over the centuries, some much-needed changes have improved the original libretto, and for this performance, Artistic Director, Brent Baldwin, deftly selected some of the best texts of the English versions.

photo credit: Robert Kelly

Having never heard this piece live, I wasn’t sure just how the music would “take flight.” Brent Baldwin led his chorus (the un-auditioned chorus, I might add!) to deliver a very strong and joyous performance. The orchestra was superb tackling this challenging piece and the soloists (soprano, Kirsten Watson as Jenny, baritone, Chaz Nailor as Simon and tenor, Jos Milton as Lucas), sang their arias/ensemble pieces with elegant facility and managed some tricky recitatives with great aplomb.

The other star of course, was Haydn. He was in his element here, with dazzling orchestration and some magnificent tone painting (was that a quail I just heard?). The summer sunrise and the shuddering storm scenes were standouts. As well, he provided inside jokes, as only Haydn could do. With the achingly beautiful opening of “Winter,” it was hard not to think of one W.A. Mozart. Also written into the music were moments of clever interplay between the soloists and chorus, and between the singers and the orchestra.

Cheers to the good folks at Texas Choral Consort for these performances, and to Brent Baldwin in particular for programming and delivering this piece.

Learn more about Texas Choral Consort performances and auditions at

~posted by Dianne Donovan, mid-day host, and producer of Classical Austin

KMFA Music Director Sara Hessel wins prestigious Gracie Award®!

photo credit: Todd V. Wolfson

The Alliance for Women in Media (AWM) has announced the 2011 winners of the annual Gracie Awards®, and Classical 89.5, KMFA’s own Sara Hessel is among them! Ms. Hessel is a 2011 Gracie Award winner for her program, Michael Nyman: Motion and Emotion, produced and broadcast from the studios of KMFA. [You might remember the blog entry with links to hear the interview portion of the program.]

“In producing Michael Nyman: Motion and Emotion, I hoped to draw attention to the full scope of his activities as a composer, beyond his famous score for The Piano. His music is so immediately appealing, and his musical language manages to be contemporary and timeless all at once,” says Ms. Hessel. “It’s an incredible honor that this program was chosen by the Alliance for Women in Media to be the recipient of a Gracie Award!”

The Gracie Award promotes programming created for women, by women and about women, as well as individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the industry. Ms. Hessel won in the Outstanding Portrait/Biography category, and will accept her award at the annual Gracies Luncheon on Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 at Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California.

Sara Hessel earned her master’s degree in historical musicology from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands in 1999. She has been employed as Music Director of KMFA-FM, Classical 89.5 in Austin, Texas since 2005. As producer and host of KMFA’s Ancient Voices, she has interviewed numerous early-music superstars, including Dame Emma Kirkby, Ton Koopman, Gustav Leonhardt, Jordi Savall and Anonymous 4. Ancient Voices was named a Critics Pick in the Austin Chronicle’s “Best of Austin” issue in 2010.

KMFA’s General Manager Joan Kobayashi says, “KMFA is proud to be part of the production and broadcast of this important programming, and congratulates Ms. Hessel for receiving this well-deserved award.”

The Gracie Awards benefits the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation, a charitable non-profit. For more information about the Gracie Awards, please visit

~posted by Alison @ KMFA 🙂