Whatever Happened to Jim Svejda?

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Modernistfan
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Whatever Happened to Jim Svejda?

Post by Modernistfan » Wed Jun 10, 2009 6:42 pm

Well, of course, nothing actually happened to Jim Svejda; he still has the evening program from 7 p.m. to midnight Monday through Friday on KUSC-FM in Los Angeles. However, check his playlists against, for example, his book "The Record Shelf Guide to the Repertoire," and it is clear that much of his programming autonomy has been taken away from him by the station. For example, he used to play the music of Martinu and Janacek frequently, as well as the music of those Czech composers who died in Nazi prison camps during the Second World War (i.e., Krasa, Ullmann, Klein, Schulhoff, and others); this stuff hasn't been heard for years (he is himself of Czech origin and prides himself on being able to pronounce the names of Czech composers and performers properly). He used to play a lot of Karol Szymanowski--gone. He has drastically cut down the playing of Shostakovich and Prokofiev (he used to play works like Prokofiev's impossibly raucous "Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the Revolution," but no longer does). Even Mahler has become an extreme rarity. The period from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and even to 9:00 p.m. generally has shorter, lighter works of no great depth or complexity, much like the programming that precedes it. The book lists recordings of composers such as Schoenberg, Karl Amadeus Hartmann, and Edgard Varese, all of whom he had strongly championed, but you won't hear any of their works now.

If anyone who is knowledgeable about the inner workings of KUSC-FM is reading this, please post a reply. (Larry Mayer, formerly at KUSC, used to be on this site.)
Last edited by Modernistfan on Fri Jun 12, 2009 11:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

Harold Tucker
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Re: Whatever Happened to Jim Svejda?

Post by Harold Tucker » Fri Jun 12, 2009 12:18 am

I cannot tell you anything about KUSC , but I can say that prior to becoming President of that station, Brenda Barnes nearly destroyed the classical radio station here in Cincinnati. In her brief stay she eliminated any programing that ventured beyond the hackneyed relaxation mode. All of the broadcasts of orchestral concerts were ditched in favor to the easy listening approach. All of the syndicated programs , including Mr Svejda's "Record Shelf" were eliminated. Odd hour adventurous programing disappeared and the on air staff hiring began to favor radio experience over knowledge of classical music. The station has somewhat recovered in the dozen or so years since she (thankfully) moved on. I have no idea how Svedjda survived as long as he did--to my mind this lady is an enemy to music.

springrite
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Re: Whatever Happened to Jim Svejda?

Post by springrite » Fri Jun 12, 2009 10:29 am

This isn't the first time Svejda had to face this. In the 90's, Bonnie Brice and her husband pretty much ran the station and it was like a hip trying to be funny talkshow style with easy and popular classical music. After a few years it did not work and the pair was let go. On the first day of the change bach, Jim Svejda's first line back on the air was "The Boss Is Back!"

Now it seems to be happening again. I wonder if the Boss will be back again. When I have friends over and they want me to play some music on the music system, I always insist on playing something that "you won't hear on the radio", be it in LA or in Beijing. The only thing is, I did not expect that to mean Mahler's First Symphony.
Music starts where words fail.

Modernistfan
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Re: Whatever Happened to Jim Svejda?

Post by Modernistfan » Fri Jun 12, 2009 2:36 pm

I remember that reign of Bonnie Grice and her husband Wally Smith with horror. One time, I was coming back from San Diego to Los Angeles in heavy traffic on a Friday afternoon after a business meeting, and it took me three hours. I had KUSC-FM on, and in that three hours, they played not more than fifteen minutes of what could fairly be called "classical music." They played jazz (but not anything "difficult" like Bud Powell, Ornette Coleman, or John Coltrane), show tunes, crossover junk, New Age, world music, and just about everything else except classical music.

One of their justifications is that the ethnic diversity of Los Angeles warranted playing a lot of stuff other than classical. The problem with that justification is that it is condescending and patronizing to the so-called "ethnic minorities." Why would someone who was, say, Mexican-American, put a classical station on the radio and be happy to hear, for example, mariachi music; that person, who made an effort to tune in to a classical station, would likely be insulted and offended. Yes, that person might well want to hear classical music by Mexican composers, for exactly the same reasons that Jim Svejda has a special interest in Czech music and many Americans (myself included) who trace their origins to various parts of what was formerly the Russian Empire love Russian music. (They wouldn't play major Mexican composers such as Chavez or Revueltas; they were too modern and too difficult.)

Well, they finally got rid of Bonnie and Wally, and in the interregnum, things were much better. I remember that they hired two new announcers, Martin Perlich and Rene Engel, and the first work Engel comes on with is Stravinsky's "Les Noces"! (He also played the Shostakovich Fifteenth Symphony in the same shift.) Well as soon as Brenda Barnes took over, she fired Perlich and Engel immediately and began to restrict the playlist with a heavy hand, depending on "focus groups" and "market research" (which must have been conducted in Frog's Nose, Nebraska). She put in the so-called "modal music" theory (which has nothing to do with the use of the term "modal" in music theory; a better term would be "mood music").

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Re: Whatever Happened to Jim Svejda?

Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Jun 12, 2009 8:19 pm

Harold Tucker wrote:I cannot tell you anything about KUSC , but I can say that prior to becoming President of that station, Brenda Barnes nearly destroyed the classical radio station here in Cincinnati. In her brief stay she eliminated any programing that ventured beyond the hackneyed relaxation mode. * * * to my mind this lady is an enemy to music.
Do you know, without having to do a lot of research, if the talky-talky ratio went way up during her administration? Did Giovannoni have anything to do with the transformation? Just curious.
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Harold Tucker
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Re: Whatever Happened to Jim Svejda?

Post by Harold Tucker » Fri Jun 12, 2009 8:41 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Harold Tucker wrote:I cannot tell you anything about KUSC , but I can say that prior to becoming President of that station, Brenda Barnes nearly destroyed the classical radio station here in Cincinnati. In her brief stay she eliminated any programing that ventured beyond the hackneyed relaxation mode. * * * to my mind this lady is an enemy to music.
Do you know, without having to do a lot of research, if the talky-talky ratio went way up during her administration? Did Giovannoni have anything to do with the transformation? Just curious.
I really can't say since I bailed out pretty quickly. Before the station had a a staff of music mavens--some quirky , some staid and all opinionated. The new bunch seemed not to have much to say beyond what they picked up from the liner notes and the phonetic pronounciation guide.

Modernistfan
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Re: Whatever Happened to Jim Svejda?

Post by Modernistfan » Mon Jun 15, 2009 10:33 am

On KUSC-FM, there has been a lot more stupid chatter, especially in the mornings with Bartel and in the afternoon with Rich Capparela. Some of it makes me absolutely furious if I happen to hear it. Bartel frequently wastes airtime with commentary about things like sports. (If I want to hear that, I can put on a sports station.)

maskedman
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Re: Whatever Happened to Jim Svejda?

Post by maskedman » Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:58 am

I stopped listening a long time ago...

Robert

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