MISSION: “We’re not only a classical music station, we’re also supporting the arts in St. Louis,” says Radio Arts Foundation – St. Louis GM Jim Connett. “Most radio stations just play music and sell advertising; we support the local community and the arts in all disciplines. It’s a mission for us to improve awareness of all the arts organizations throughout the St. Louis community.”
HISTORY: After longtime favorite Classic 99 (KFUO) exited the airwaves in 2010, St. Louis was left waiting for a new classical music outlet. In April 2013, RAF-STL filled that void. “It’s been like lightning,” says Connett of the first year. “When you start building a radio station and you start at a dead run, it doesn’t seem like you stop—you’re always trying to out-do yourself because there’s a lot of things to do. It’s been a blur.”
COMMUNITY IMPACT: With its initial mission to 'Bring Bach Back,' RAF-STL has proven to be much more than an entertainment outlet. Current programming includes not just classical music, but jazz, opera, blues and more. Additionally, RAF-STL works to promote musicians and other artists through live interviews and other on-air mentions.
On the radio dial, RAF-STL can be found at 107.3 FM; 96.3 HDZ on HD radio; and streaming live on rafstl.org.
Looking forward, Connett has plans for other areas of growth for the station's second year, including possible new programming. Additionally, broadcasting live performances is on the horizon, streaming in from Powell Hall, Jazz at the Bistro and the Centene auditorium.
“We’re here to grow,” Connett says. “We’re here to bring classical music even further out into the community." To reach their goal, Connett says RAF-STL is trying to raise more money for a stronger signal. It's also trying to grow a youth-based support group. "We have great, young volunteers who are doing fantastic jobs—some of them are on the radio right now. We’re trying to build youth support to one day take over the station to carry it on.”
WHAT/WHEN/WHERE: A CELEBRATION OF THE SOUND OF ART, MARCH 19, THE SHELDON CONCERT HALL
This inaugural event will feature performances by acclaimed musicians Gil Shaham and Orli Shaham, as well as St. Louis Symphony music director David Robertson.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED: To find out more about RAF-STL, call 881-3523 or visit rafstl.org.
ON THE BOARD: WILLIAM RUSNACK
Board president William Rusnack has been involved with RAF-STL from the start. “The group has been working together for over three years to try to bring back support for the arts—and in particular, classical music,” Rusnack says. “It’s been amazing that the group has been able to get this far along, basically starting from scratch.” His wife, Marsha, also is involved with the organization; and will serve as co-chair, along with Peggy Ritter, of the upcoming gala.
“We want to continue to support all forms of performing arts as much as possible,” says Rusnack. “It is vital to the long-term health of St. Louis.”
Rusnack, a retired executive, works with a multitude of other area nonprofits, including the Saint Louis Science Center, the Missouri History Museum, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.