Their own drum
Austin's classical music station tunes up with new CEO and unconventional series
Classical doesn’t mean safe and the same. KMFA 89.5, Austin’s classical music radio station, is proving it with two announcements: first it appoints George Preston as its first new CEO in a decade, and further interrupts the status quo with the newly announced lineup of its “Offbeat Series,” featuring creative contemporary performances that pull input from pop styles, play with listening spaces, and transform the typical experience listening to live classical music. The station hopes to draw new listeners who may not actively engage with classical music already.
“George comes to us with exceptional experience leading a classical radio station,” said KMFA board chair Soriya Estes in a press release. “One of KMFA’s central goals is to increase our community partnerships as a collaborator both inside and outside the Austin arts community. He has a deep understanding of the classical music landscape and possesses the qualities needed to expand and engage our listening audience size and diversity in the coming years in Austin, Central Texas, and beyond.”
Preston’s most recent experience in radio comes from WFMT, Chicago’s classical and folk station, where he served as VP of Radio and general manager. He started at the station on-air in 2009, and is still involved in heading its national syndication division. New York City, Boston, Colorado Springs, and Safety City, Florida, all make appearances on Preston’s résumé in radio. He succeeds Ann Hume Wilson at the end of her decade at the helm of KMFA.
“The potential for growth at KMFA is unlimited,” said Preston. “The station already has an impressive legacy in one of America’s great music capitals. The gorgeous facility, including the spectacular Draylen Mason Studio, and the dynamic and talented team of staff and board, have KMFA positioned to be a national leader in Classical Radio. I can’t wait to get started!"
Kicking off both the future of the Daylen Mason Studio and the “Offbeat Series” on February 18, Austin choral collective Panoramic Voices presents “Borderland,” an immersive experience based on the work of local composer Nathan Felix. Singers will be positioned all over the KMFA building, singing “vignettes” inspired by Hispanic history, namely migration stories between Mexico and Texas. “Audiences can expect an experience akin to visiting a museum, while enjoying powerful opening and closing pieces that bring the choir together,” according to a release.
Next up on April 8 is “Close To Home,” a collection of arrangements based on Austin local Daniel Fears’ R&B artistry. A chamber ensemble plays pieces reworked by local and international composers like Austin’s Mobley and Nate Laningham, and Virginia’s Anthony R. Greene. Laningham and Fears created the collaboration with special attention to Fears’ past as one of few Black students studying classical music at Yale, and the arrangements are performed by an ensemble of musicians of color.
“We all know that Austin is a mecca for live music, but a lesser-known fact is that there is a vibrant new music scene happening here,” said KMFA Director of Events Stacey Hoyt. “KMFA is excited to elevate the work of the talented artists that are composing and performing new works that are shaping the future of the contemporary classical music sub-genre. As KMFA looks to the future, we hope to help create a pathway for the next generation of classical music listeners.”
More information about the “Offbeat Series” and tickets ($25 or $10 for students) are available at kmfa.org.