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Art on the Airwaves

Creative station KUCO’s golden anniversary



 



“Art on the radio.” That’s how Brad Ferguson, general manager at KUCO-FM 90.1, tags the classical radio station, which broadcasts from the University of Central Oklahoma and is commemorating its 50th anniversary. Ferguson, a 33-year KUCO veteran, reflected on the station’s beginnings when it was little more than a glorified megaphone using its original call letters, KCSC.
 

In 1966, Central State College students ran a lone turntable that, combined with a 10-watt transmitter and an antenna on top of a classroom building, broadcast a little classical, some middle-of-the-road pop and CSC football games. By 1969, the station increased its signal to 30 watts, its reach dependent on weather and vibrating walls caused by students exiting classes. A decade later, a $100,000 grant resulted in a signal boost to 100,000 watts. Today, the station is considered by many to be one of the top classical public radio stations in the country.

“We are the only station that does what we do in Oklahoma,” Ferguson says, “and nationally, few stations in the country still have local announcers who bring you the variety of classical programming we do.

“It’s like having a good museum or theater,” he adds. “All music is entertainment, but classical music is high art, a manipulation of themes and layers … it’s mathematical, yet emotional.”

Ferguson arrived in 1983, a pivotal time for university-licensed radio stations. NPR programming and the new public radio model were the trend. Students were replaced by professionals, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and annual on-air fund drives became major revenue sources.


(pictured above)

Brad Ferguson, general manager of KUCO 90.1 FM, interviews Clint Rohr, director of the University of Central Oklahoma Jazz Lab. The show, “Spotlight on the Arts,” airs from the second floor of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.


The state’s other four public radio stations aired the standard NPR model: music and news. To prevent duplication, Ferguson and KGOU manager Karen Holp agreed one station would take on all classical, the other news.

“We experimented with some NPR shows, but it didn’t last,” Ferguson recalls. “Our listeners didn’t like it. We’ve always been about the music.”

Recent Arbitron reports show 41,000 KUCO listeners tune in, a group long defined as well educated, culturally involved and generally age 50 and older.

Kimberly Powell, the most recent recipient of KUCO’s three Governor’s Arts Awards to date, produces and hosts “Performance Oklahoma,” a weekly showcase of classical concerts performed by arts organizations such as the OKC Philharmonic, Armstrong Auditorium and Canterbury Voices.

Despite the professional operation – which includes business manager April Rutledge, nightly host Ralph Wise and opera host Lane Whitesell – and an outpouring of music from a 14,000-disc library, the station’s digs are tiny: The broadcast studio and offices in UCO’s Communications Building total 1,200 square feet, according to Ferguson.

“We are in a shoebox operating on a shoestring budget,” he says. “We are not sitting around in elegant chairs under chandeliers.”

Three weekday hosts – Ferguson, Powell and the folksy, passionate Kent Anderson – give listeners friendly companions to their beloved music.

“People know us, and it speaks well of a community to support its classical music station,” Ferguson says. “If we can enrich the lives of our listeners, we have succeeded. For us, it’s a cause.”


 

► The Show Must Go On


“Anybody who’s anybody comes on this show,” Carpenter Square Theatre’s Artistic Director Rhonda Clark said during her last guest appearance on KUCO’s “Spotlight on the Arts.”
 

Arts representatives in the metro area will be happy to hear the hour-long interview program has returned to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art after a three-year hiatus due to mechanical problems.

General manager and host Brad Ferguson happily explains, “We got a nice new hand-built console, plus three microphones for times we have multiple guests talking about one event or show.”

Airing at 10 a.m. each Thursday, Ferguson or summer host April Rutledge spend an hour chatting with artistic directors, musicians, presenters, arts curators, actors, writers and public relations professionals.
Each guest has a chance to tell KUCO listeners about upcoming concerts, theatrical performances, gallery openings, festivals, literary events, university shows, classes and other happenings.

The museum’s late executive director Carolyn Hill, a classical music enthusiast and friend to the station, invited Ferguson to move the show to the museum when it moved to its downtown location in 2002. The arts community enjoys the location because of proximity to their offices.

“The show brings a lot of collaboration, because people in the arts community who don’t have time to see each other get to catch up,” Ferguson says. “One year, we had guests from Canterbury, the Philharmonic and the [OKC] Ballet, and before the hour was over they decided to do ‘Carmina Burana’ together.”

To inquire about becoming a guest on “Spotlight,” email Brad Ferguson at bferguson@uco.edu.

 

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September 2018

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More than 20 speakers in a one-track session designed for the digital marketing professional, marketer, business owner or anyone interested in branding, PR, advertising, social media, SEO, search,...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
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Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405.475.4185
Contact Name: Janelle Archer
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This year will mark the eighth time the John F. Kennedy Awards have been celebrated, honoring individuals making a significant contribution to Oklahoma, its communities and its people, while paying...

Cost: $300

Where:
Skirvin Hilton Hotel
1 Park Ave.
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Sponsor: Santa Fe Family Life Center
Telephone: 405-840-1817
Contact Name: James Timberlake
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More than 20 speakers in a one-track session designed for the digital marketing professional, marketer, business owner or anyone interested in branding, PR, advertising, social media, SEO, search,...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405.475.4185
Contact Name: Janelle Archer
Website »

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Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
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Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
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Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
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Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
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A fabulous art auction to raise money to help support Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO.

Cost: $100

Where:
CHK|Central Boathouse
732 Riversport Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73129
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Sponsor: Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO
Telephone: 405.974.3791
Contact Name: Heather Bryant
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The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
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Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

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Join supporters in communities across the nation for the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This family-friendly event raises funds to support the...

Cost: $10 for adults or children six and older

Where:
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S. Lake Hefner Drive
Oklahoma City , OK  73116
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Telephone: 405.403.7762
Contact Name: Emily Drover
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Let’s end childhood cancer. Together! This September, supporters across the country will unite to participate in the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer, an exciting, family-friendly...

Cost: $10 for Registration

Where:
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S Lake Hefner Dr
Oklahoma City, OK  73116
View map »


Sponsor: ALSAC St. Jude Oklahoma City
Telephone: 405.403.7762
Contact Name: Emily Drover
Website »

More information

Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

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