Dig the radio out of the garage and wipe the dust off your car’s tuning knob—classical music is making a comeback on the St. Louis airwaves. The much-anticipated Radio Arts Foundation – St. Louis (RAF-STL) is set to go live on Monday, April 8.
RAF-STL is a nonprofit organization hoping to be a ‘nucleus’ for the local arts scene. The station will showcase an entire array of radio programming for classical music fans, including interviews, behind-the-scenes features and live performances.
“Our mission is to share arts news and what’s happening in the community,” says the new station’s GM, Jim Connett, who served as program director for the beloved Classic 99 (KFUO), which went off the air in 2010 after a 62-year run. “Every artist has a story. It’s not just about their art, it’s about their story.” In addition to playing the classics, Connett says RAF-STL will utilize its web presence to make even the visual arts come to life in the radio realm. “With the Internet, the radio is now television.”
On-air personalities will include Kathy Lawton Brown, Jim Doyle and Tom Sudholt. And as for Connett and his familiar voice? “I’m sure they’re going to drag me into the studio at some point and make me do what I used to do, but I’m really going to try to coordinate with the community as much as possible.”
Retired business executive and philanthropic leader William Rusnack is the RAF-STL board of directors president. “The members of the board of directors of the Radio Arts Foundation have built this station from the ground up,” Rusnack says. “Everything about this station, from its nonprofit status to its state-of-the-art studios, to its dedication to serving the arts organizations in the region, is revolutionary. The St. Louis community will truly be enriched because of their innovative vision for this station.”
Founding members, which include Noémi Neidorff, Donna Wilkinson, Mabel Purkerson, Babette Meiners, Thriess Britton, Deanne Lane and Lisa Nouss, as well as the Radio Arts Advocacy Council, played an important part in making that vision a reality—a vision that was no walk in the park, according to Connett.
“Try leaping off a cliff at midnight, hearing waves but not knowing how far away they are or how deep they are. It’s exhilarating until the last three inches. We’re getting down to that, and there’s a lot of pressure.”
RAF-STL will reach analog radio listeners within 20 miles of Brentwood on 107.3 FM; HD station, KIHT 96.3 HD2, will stretch 50 miles outward from Shrewsbury. Additionally, content will stream live online at rafstl.org.
All of these details can’t answer the million-dollar question: What will be the first piece of music played on the station? “I have received a lot of opinions on that, from just about everybody,” laughs Connett. “I know exactly what it is, but I can’t tell you—or else I’d have to come over and do a Jimmy Bond on you.”