As The Classical Music Community Evolves, So Does CPR Classical

With a millennium of history, classical music is alive and well today, supporting changes to the cultural landscape as a new generation reimagines what classical music is, and how it impacts the classical community.

As an ambassador for this art form, CPR Classical is shedding light on its evolution, connecting listeners with great works of the past while exposing the range of musical styles and textures that contemporary composers are creating today, including many with Colorado connections.

We sat down with some of the people who are showcasing the breadth and depth of the ever-evolving world of classical music to learn about what's changing and how that change is impacting classical music in Colorado.

CPR Classical Program Director Monika Vischer, Music and Arts Digital Editor Brad Turner and hosts Jean Inaba and Richard Ray share insights on how CPR Classical is adapting to the changing classical music world, with Ray offering a unique perspective as he prepares to retire from a broadcast career spanning more than 50 years.

CPR Classical Q&A
Left to Right: Monika Vischer, Brad Turner, Jean Inaba, Richard Ray / CPR

Q: How has Colorado Public Radio’s approach to sharing classical music in Colorado changed since you joined CPR?

RR: When I first arrived at Colorado Public Radio in 1998, classical music was played in between daily news updates. But as CPR grew, we were able to spend more time exploring classical music in-depth, eventually launching a 24-hour classical music station in 2001, which gave us significantly more time and space to devote to the music.

Today, we are committed to excavating this rich field of music and sharing as much of it as we possibly can. Our challenge and responsibility is to communicate the importance of this music with our audience – those who know a lot already and new listeners who are just beginning their journey.

Q: What does it mean to say that CPR plays today’s classical music?

MV: People often think of classical music as being frozen in history, but that’s not the case. We play the greatest works by composers dating back centuries, while also helping listeners tap into the breadth of classical music being written in our time.

We are bearing witness to a so-far unnamed era of music. Today’s classical world is a vibrant melting pot of genres, ideas and creativity, always evolving. CPR Classical is fully engaged in exploring this evolution, highlighting the best works, and giving them context. It means staying on top of important artists and trends from within the huge expanse of music written today so that we can help the audience make sense of it all.

Q: What sets Colorado Public Radio apart in today’s classical music landscape?

BT: The difference lies in our curated mix of Colorado performances and contemporary composers, in addition to the traditional playlist you expect from a classical music service. Classical music is not a museum piece. Mozart and Bach still matter, but so do composers making new music now.

Tune in any day of the week and you could hear a living composer like Steve Reich played one minute and Tchaikovsky the next. Plus our regular rotation of Colorado groups like the Boulder Philharmonic and Colorado Symphony give us a local flavor. This is the only place you'll hear that mix of music. It's a bold approach to presenting classical music, and we're proud to create a space where our listeners can explore these powerful sounds.

Q: What do you hope people take away from the experience of listening to CPR Classical?

JI: Composers create music in order to communicate a certain something, and it’s my job as the host to help translate that message for our listeners. I want the music to resonate on a personal level.

Classical music has gotten an unfortunate reputation for being formal and snooty, but that doesn’t have to be the case. I try to have fun on the air and connect with listeners who may not otherwise have an opportunity to explore this genre. It should be accessible and everyone should have the chance to experience it in their own way.

Q: Looking back on your years with CPR Classical, how would you say it has evolved and what do you think lies ahead?

RR: As classical music continues to transform, CPR Classical is staying on the cutting edge. We’re not just a jukebox in the sky. We have been inspired by this ever-evolving genre and continue to adapt alongside it so that we can cover the full breadth of classical music that’s out there.

Classical music is music that matters -- music that has lasted, and music that will continue to live on. It’s a genre that keeps giving generation after generation. I have no doubt that CPR Classical will continue to adapt and share that message well into the future.

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