Creating a new local music atmosphere

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We couldn’t have picked a more dramatic day to arrive in Colorado Springs. My family and I rolled into town from Chicago on the afternoon of June 12. As we drove past the huge cloud of smoke billowing up from Black Forest, we crossed our fingers that our home purchase, scheduled for the next day, would go smoothly.

Thankfully, it did, and we love the house, the neighborhood, and the thriving, welcoming city that has become our new home.

I’ve been asked why I decided to come to Colorado Springs after spending most of my career in major markets such as Boston, New York, and Chicago. Those cities have huge, established cultural infrastructures. Here in Colorado Springs we have room to grow, and there’s a “can-do” attitude in the cultural community that promises great things to come.

I want to leave behind a legacy of greater cultural opportunity for future generations.

I want to make KCME the best classical station it can be, but beyond that, I want to leave behind a legacy of greater cultural opportunity for future generations. Working with arts and business partners, culture mavens and local government, we can build something unique that few cities of this size can boast, and that will enrich the lives of our children and their children.

And then, there are the mountains!

There’s something irresistible about the combination of classical music and the awe-inspiring natural beauty of Colorado Springs. Yes, it’s true that Beethoven never saw the Front Range, but I’ve no doubt that our mountains would have inspired a masterwork from old Ludwig van. Hearing his Pastoral Symphony on KCME as you watch a thunderstorm roll in from the mountains is a heady experience.

Driving out to Breckenridge recently, I couldn’t help but think of Schubert’s song “Die Forelle” (The Trout) as the mountain streams beckoned to me. Next time I’ll leave a couple of hours earlier and bring my fly rod.

There’s nothing like a couple of fawns and their mothers browsing through the backyard to make one hear Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” a little differently … that is, until the enchantment is broken by our miniature schnauzer, Walther von Stolzing, boldly and noisily defending his new turf!

Classical music is an ornamental accompaniment to our everyday lives, but I love it because it can be so much more.

That column of smoke from Black Forest we saw on the day of our arrival brought back memories of another day I will never forget: Sept. 11, 2001. I was working at WNYC radio at that time, and I could look out the window of my Brooklyn apartment and see the smoke billowing up from ground zero. The shock of that experience was soon tempered by the incredible process of healing and renewal that I witnessed in the music community of New York City.

In the face of that loss, classical music became even more essential to those of us who love it. I once heard the late conductor Sir Colin Davis describe classical music as “perhaps the greatest invention of the human mind.”

What other art form, in our troubled world, offers such a keen reminder of the very highest pinnacle of human endeavor? What other art form welcomes such a vast variety of participants and enthusiasts, lifting us above our everyday troubles and differences to celebrate the beauty, depth and power of community through music? Classical music, in live performance and on the radio, quite literally makes the world a more beautiful and harmonious place.

We witnessed the power of music to bring people together on June 26 at Mountain Shadows Park, as the Colorado Springs Philharmonic helped to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Waldo Canyon fire and celebrate the strength of a neighborhood rising from the ashes.

We saw the determination of music fans who waited out a 40-minute rain delay of the Philharmonic’s “America the Beautiful” concert at Sky Sox Stadium on July 20, to be rewarded by a spectacular combination of music and fireworks. KCME’s listeners heard that concert live, as we made history with our first remote broadcast.

There will be more live broadcasts like that one, as KCME harnesses the unique ability of classical music to build community and to celebrate the best of our collective humanity. Stay tuned for the party!

George Preston, who has worked in classical radio for almost 30 years, now is general manager of KCME-FM (88.7).