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Open ears and hearts 

We have a responsibility to keep our classical culture alive

The recent announcement by KCBX of its proposal to eliminate afternoon classics has come as a shock to those of us who have come to rely on this station as the voice of classical music on the Central Coast. KCBX has long been the source of listener pride when it comes to an eclectic slate of programs, many of which are homegrown and provide a rich diversity not often found on local radio. For decades, listeners have had an opportunity for musical enrichment and spiritual fulfillment because of KCBX’s commitment to a higher level of programming that reflected the cultural interests and needs of our community (something nationally syndicated shows can never do).

The key to KCBX’s success has been its willingness and drive to be in the forefront of innovative broadcasting. Over the years, hundreds of volunteers have spent thousands of hours taking pledges from around our county and beyond in an effort to ensure that KCBX would survive in the wake of fiscal challenges, competitive markets, and political pressures. The changes that KCBX proposes, from grassroots shows to nationally distributed ones, seem uncharacteristic with its identity.

San Luis Obispo has embraced KCBX as the “little station that could” for the very reasons it fosters outstanding community orchestral and vocal ensembles, an opera company, several dance troupes, an international choral competition, and a highly acclaimed Festival Mozaic. It is the reason we built the Performing Arts Center. These things all exist here because they are important to the fabric of our being, and we treat them with great care and nurture them like our children, because we know of many places in this beautiful country of ours where they do not exist.

Nationally we have seen the survival of all arts groups in question and we know our future depends, in part, on the continued impassioned advocacy that KCBX has repeatedly shown toward us and toward classical music in the past. Just as our groups need to make adjustments without sacrificing the sound of our individual voices, we hope KCBX can do the same.

A few years ago, Liane Hansen and Neal Conan came to San Luis Obispo to share in an anniversary celebration. After spending several days here, getting to know the community, sharing tales and adventures with many of its people, and seeing KCBX for the cultural force it had become, Ms. Hansen noted, “If only we could be as creative in Washington as you are here in San Luis Obispo!”

We encourage KBCX to reconsider some of its plans to eliminate vital programming. As we, your listeners, continue to support your efforts, please don’t forget to support ours. Together, we have an enormous responsibility to keep our classical culture alive and meaningful; a tradition passed down from the masters to us, and from us to anyone with an open ear and an open heart.

We ask KCBX to consider a compromise. We propose inviting donors, listeners, and local affected musicians to a presentation of the facts by your staff. This meeting should include an open discussion of ways to help KCBX to continue to serve the public, support local arts groups, and establish a stronger local public radio station for all of us here on the Central Coast.

Gary Lamprecht is founder and music director of the Vocal Arts Ensemble. Michael Nowak is music director of the San Luis Obispo Symphony. Craig Russell is a professor of music at Cal Poly. Send comments to the executive editor at

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