KHFM: Disenchantment in the Land of Enchantment

Less than two weeks ago, Bob Bishop, Program Director at classical KHFM in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, was called into his new boss’s office and asked to turn in his keys on the spot. General Manager Sarah Colmark told Bishop that the station was going to be reorganized and he was being laid off.A week later, longtime morning host and former Program Director Kip Allen resigned on the air, announcing (with no fanfare) that it was his last day at the station. So many listeners called the studio after his announcement that Colmark told the announcers not to answer the phone, and she came in every hour or so, listened to the machine, and erased the messages.

Management lost no time removing any mentions of Bishop and Allen from the station website.

Ironically, on September 12th NM Governor Bill Richardson will be awarding KHFM the highly coveted Governor’s Award for service to the community. The film to be shown at the award ceremony features Bob Bishop and Kip Allen. Bishop just finished building a new studio setup for the station, and he was recently honored as Employee of the Year. Then he was fired.

Allen has been at KHFM for more than two decades. For most of those years he was the Program Director. Always a gentle voice during morning drive time, Allen was famous for his birdsongs at 6 and 7 every weekday morning.

Promotions Director Lindy Gold was also laid off. Longtime part-timer Adrienne Davis resigned. The 29-year-old Colmark now oversees the Programming, Promotions, and Sales departments at KHFM. The weekly cume (listenership) for KFHM is below 50,000.

Colmark did not return my calls, but of course this space is open to her if she wants to respond. According to staff members, she has a degree in Piano Performance but not much radio experience. She IS the daughter of the station’s owner, however. Her father, Tony Brandon owns American General Media, KHFM’s parent company. Colmark’s husband Charles is keeping it in the family by serving as one of the chief announcers on the station after the departures of Allen and Bishop, who were morning and afternoon drivetime hosts. Colmark had been doing fill-in and some mid-days.

According to one employee, who for obvious reasons doesn’t want to be quoted on the record, Colmark is planning to take the station in the direction of KDFC in San Francisco. Except for the San Francisco Symphony, that station is well known in the biz as classical lite.

KHFM is a commercial station. Its ratings are down dramatically in the latest quarterly book from Arbitron. From a high between a 4.0 and 5.0 market share a few years ago, they are now down to a 1.9 market share (though it’s much higher in Santa Fe). That could affect sales considerably, but it’s a legacy station so a good sales team should be able to keep revenues steady. KDFC has a 3.9 to 4.0 share in a much bigger market.

Two Changes of Ownership
KHFM celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2004. But as with many commercial classical stations, the last several years have been extremely rocky.


For most of its existence, KHFM was a mom and pop station, held together with chewing gum and baling wire by legendary engineer Mike Langner. Majority owner Peter Besheer decided to sell the station in 1996 when deregulation made it possible for radio groups to own large blocks of stations and station values went way up. Citadel Communications paid more than $5 million for a station that was probably worth $150,000 in actual assets.

Citadel’s chief interest in the station was its terrific tower on top of Sandia Mountain. In 2001 the company appropriated the tower for a rock station, moved KHFM to a lower frequency in the Jemez Mountains near Los Alamos, and leased the whole classical kit and kaboodle to American General Media, who built a studio for KHFM in what was a storage closet. Moving the tower to northern New Mexico cut out a third of the Albuquerque audience but improved the signal in Santa Fe.

Community Service
The strength of the station – BAR NONE – has always been its intensely loyal service to the arts community. All arts organizations have received promotion and airtime, whether or not they can afford to buy advertising. Now, according to one KFHM insider, arts organizations can only get on the mid-day interview show Corner Table if they buy a certain amount of advertising.

We call that PAYOLA, and it hovers between unethical and illegal.

The story is not finished yet. Watch this space for more. And in the interest of full disclosure, KHFM is the station where I trained. I left in 2000, but my family has been in NM since the 1850s, so I have deep roots there and a vested interest in the community.

UPDATE: I got a call back from Sarah Colmark, who made this statement:

I’m a member of the family that owns General Media.

We are totally committed to keeping the classical music format on the radio, and we are totally committed to supporting the arts in New Mexico. As we have had a lot of changes, we are committed to moving forward. My husband and I both have music degrees, and we are committed to keeping classical music alive in this community.

I asked her what her plans were for the station, and she responded,

At this point I’m not really ready to discuss that.

About Marty Ronish

Marty Ronish is an independent producer of classical music radio programs. She currently produces the Chicago Symphony Orchestra broadcasts that air 52 weeks a year on more than 400 stations and online at www.cso.org. She also produces a radio series called "America's Music Festivals," which presents live music from some of the country's most dynamic festivals. She is a former Fulbright scholar and co-author of a catalogue of Handel's autograph manuscripts.

Subscribe Via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to Scanning the Dial and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

104 thoughts on “KHFM: Disenchantment in the Land of Enchantment

  1. I hope that the station will not follow San Franciso’s lite classical format. I think Albuquerque needs a beefy classical station, and would love to hear large chunky segments of Early Music in its programming.

  2. KDFC “classical lite”? Well- if “lite” means great hosts playing great music that spans century and is audience relevant, show me the lite!

    • It doesn’t, Jill. At least not as practiced in Albuquerque at KHFM. It’s more like easy-;listening baroque bits and fragments (seldom a complete composition), warhorses and lots of movie soundtrack-bites and familiar forties “semi-classical,” as we used to call it. About half the time, no announcement of the music content, either before or afterwards. Some of the time, a skeleton intro (“Stay tuned next for music of Beethoven.”) followed by anywhere from four to seven commercials in an uninterrupted row, a what-a-good-boy-am-I station promo, and then the musical movement, cold, and no description afterwards. Once in a while, an announcer who doesn’t really know the music reads jacket-notes *after* the music, but this seldom relates to the performance we’ve just heard.

      Henry Lewis Menken said in Baltimore many years ago that “no one ever went broke by underestimating the taste of the American public.” The mega-corporate radio industry, led by Clear Channel with Citadel, American General Media and a few others scrambling to keep up, has sure proved ol’ H.L. right!

      Could it be that the American public are simply too “nice” to object, and they can get away with it?

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lynda and Jill. Your opposing views are representative of the angst classical radio is going through.

    I’m listening to KDFC online now — a movement of this and a movement of that, all soothing, almost none of the pieces or artists identified. Clipped edits and unbelievably bad production values. A little Flight of the Bumblebee Overture, and then the Wasps Overture, and oh boy! We get to vote on which is our favorite. I feel dumber already.

    Sorry, but the lowest common denominator is classical muzak, and I think the classical music world deserves better.

    That’s just my opinion, though. Thousands of San Francisco listeners disagree with me.

  4. Kip Allen’s selections were always fresh and in many instances new and musically significant at some level. If KHFM moves to a more canned format they will loose me as a loyal listener. It is the people and the musical knowledge they bring to the programming that makes a really great classical station. Based on what I have heard recently it appears KHFM has lost this unique edge.

  5. Marty –

    KHFM has been my station (almost my only station) since moving to ABQ 40 years ago. I even suffered through three years of canned music when the times were tough for the station. Kip’s Joyful Noise, mellifluous voice, and wide range of classical music has always been a great start for the day. Bob’s eclectic selections, always upbeat, were great afternoon listening. If the station moves very far away from its past, great classical format, it will lose me as a lsitener. The alternative: CDs.

    Doug Swift

  6. Bob Bishop is my father so I am undoubtedly biased, however, I feel some of my views are valid. I don’t wish to smear much of this personal matter over the internet, but I basically grew up with KHFM in the background and witnessed it’s evolution firsthand. Kip, Lindy, and Bob sweat buckets to keep KHFM running and to maintain its viability. They each gave almost every little bit of themselves to keep that station on the air, and a little loyalty from AGM would have been nice. But I guess that’s radio.

    As Marty stated, KHFM was a great voice for the arts in Albuquerque and Santa Fe but it also played a tremendous variety of classical music, as well as all sorts of other non-traditional ‘classical,’ as Doug was pointing out. I fear that is all going to change. AGM has done a disservice to Albuquerque and Santa Fe radio listeners and has gone about this whole event with a disloyal, cutthroat, and tactless manner.

    This statement is entirely mine own, Kip, Lindy, and my father had absolutely no input on, or knowledge of, any of these comments–and will most likely disagree with me posting this–but i felt I had to say something. I encourage others to continue listening to KHFM as long as it provides them with listening enjoyment. It is, however, no longer on my dial.

    Steven Bishop

    (Also, Jill Browns’ statement sounds like a Mcdonald’s advertisement).

  7. For years I began my day at 6 with Kip Allen & his birds, moving through the day to Bob Bishop and into the evening. When Bob Bishop left I was sorely disappointed but when Kip announced is departure, I was stunned. I called and called -and now understand what has happened. Thank you Marty for the information.

    Since Ms Colmark did not have the courage or nerve to talk to listeners that called the station, perhaps we former listeners should think about calling the major sponsors and ask them to consider dropping their ads unless Kip and Bob are brought back — on their terms.

    Since that is probably wishful thinking may I suggest an alternative: Radio Swiss Classic online:
    http://www.radioswissclassic.ch
    24 hours a day, no advertising and a superlative playlist that can be accessed immediately – including album information. And their jazz station is one of the best in the world.

    Perhaps Gov. Richardson should honor Kip & Bob and lament the loss of the real KHFM.

    Susan McMurray

  8. I was shocked to discover the very sad news that local heroes and legends, Kip Allen and Bob Bishop, were no longer at KHFM.

    It is an example of what is wrong with America–we use people up and we throw them away–people who give their heart and soul and talent. Another aspect of the destruction of America the Good. What has happened here is a microcosm of what is happening across this country and it is truly frightening.

    I understand that change is inevitable but where is the reward for someone’s dedication and service? Where is the human decency factor?

    I wish Bob Bishop and Kip Allen well–I hope something comes up for them that truly honors their worthiness and heart.

    Another one turns off the radio.

  9. I have been a listener to khfm for 20 years and am appalled that Kip and Bob are no longer on the air. I consider myself an educated musician and much of that education has been inspired by Bob, Kip and Marty.
    Greed and arrogance are seldom punished in this world. Nonetheless, such abusive behaviour should not be tolerated without comment.
    Please add my thoughts to the chorus of disgust as regards the disgraceful actions of the khfm management.
    i also would like to note my deep appreciation for all of the wonderful hours of music and comment Kip and Bob shared with me.
    sincerely, sanford

  10. I was away for several weeks during what has turned out for me, a horrible personal disaster. I have been a daily listener since KHFM was first on the air when I served on the NM Arts Commission and added my voice and support to public funding for the station. What a huge disappointment to see what has happened.

    While I understand the hard realities of fiscal viability, I cannot see how good business practice might suggest gutting a truly dedicated organization to “improve” things.

    I’ve met Sarah Colmark and found her a sweet and gentle person. I am sure she is torn by these events and has had little choice in the matter. How do you join those you may love and quit the station your father owns and your husband depends on for “face time”?

    It is with regret that I will invest in an in-house wireless system and arrange my life to listen to Martin Goldsmith on XM Classics throughout my home and remove KHFM from my life. It has been with me 24 hours/day for so very, very long. Shame on all of you— even poor Sarah, caught up in doing rotten things to decent people.

    I will stay tuned long enough to compile a list of KHFM’s sponsors so I can contact them and advise them of my intention to boycott their businesses unless Kip Allen and Bob Bishop are returned to the air. Kip Allen is an individual of extraordinary quality and dignity— a rarity in this increasingly vulgar world. Once, when I visited the station I noted that Kip was wearing a jacket and tie. I asked why he did so since it was not TV. His reply was, “I dress for my morning show to express my gratitude to the world that I am allowed to do this work I love so much.” Now he is off the air.

    God help us all!

  11. I have been following this blog since Marty’s first article back in early August, days after I was “let go” from KHFM as the Promotions Director, and a week after Bob Bishop was also axed from KHFM. I have recognized several of the writers to this blog as email friends from KHFM, those with whom I had a long and valued correspondence during the nearly-10 years I was with the station.

    Particularly, I would like to thank Charles Barnett and his little dog Gnuf-gnuf, who never failed to cheer me up when KHFM had been off-air for days at a time, or when we were being besieged because our signal was poor.

    My job at KHFM was titled, “Promotions Director”, but I was the person who answered all the email sent through the website; who spearheaded the events which garnered us the Governor’s Award (to be awarded to someone in management at AGM) on September 12th in Santa Fe); who composed and edited the in-depth Arts Calendar which was read over the air and appeared on the website; who posted the ticket giveaways on the KHFM website home page, who was the go-between between the arts groups and the station, and who compiled and edited the newly-printed KHFM Cookbook, which I am still hoping will be available through KHFM this Fall. (It is sitting in boxes at the station right now; it is a really good cookbook!)

    Charles Barnett sent in a terrific recipe for the cookbook; actually he was the first who sent something, and it is worth purchasing the cookbook just to read his entry.

    Because I have no other forum through which to do this, I would like to use this blog to thank my email friends, my ether buddies, those who wrote for more information on what they heard, and even those who wrote with vociferous complaints.

    I loved every day I worked at KHFM. I was so proud to work with the talented, devoted and close-knit group of on-air hosts and the sales staff who worked so hard to provide the income to keep KHFM viable. I am sad to leave my dear friends from the station (well, most of them at this point are gone also); I am sad to leave the little closet of an office (the KHFM Bullpen) where I spent my days. I am also sad to have lost my radio station — the one I have listened to for more than 20 years. I miss Kip’s voice in the morning, and Bob’s wry humor in the afternoon. I miss Dan’s stentorian tones during midday on Wednesday and Thursday and on Sunday afternoons; I miss Adrienne’s sweet voice on Saturday afternoons.

    But most of all, I miss being a part of what WAS one of the best classical radio stations in the country.

    Lindy Davis Gold

  12. Sad, sad, sad. I am still in shock upon learning (on about the third page of the newspaper), that Bob Bishop was fired because of “reorganization.”

    The dollar bill surely lurks at the bottom of this all, but to fire such an outstanding employee of KHFM whose heart and soul were so obviously at work in making the station the quality classical station it is, is just appalling.

    And then to lose such exemplary announcers as Kip Allen, Adrienne Davis and Dan Haik to boot because I can only assume that they felt they had no choice but to protest such unthinking behavior and abject ingratitude.

    Human pride is a tough nut to crack, but is there any hope that the decision makers might show high virtue by humbly admitting their mistake and backpeddling? I’m not holding my breath on that, but hope is all I have except for a fairly decent CD collection that can poorly replace the richness and variety of the wonderful music I have enjoyed on KHFM for 27 years.

    Thank you Bob, Kip, Adrienne and Dan.

    Keith M. Eckrich

  13. For those KHFM listeners who would like to get messages to Bob Bishop, Kip Allen, Dan Haik, Adrienne Davis or to me, please write me at lindygold@att.net, and I will be happy to respond or forward the messages to the former KHFM on-air host you wish to address. Obviously, our former American General Media addresses are no longer viable.

    We are all well, communicate with each other on a regular basis, and will, each of us, move on from here to other meaningful endeavors in the community. There IS life after KHFM.

    Lindy Gold

  14. I also found that there is now no published contact electronic address for KHFM except for the Arts Calendar submissions. To whom can I write at AGM to inform them that I will no longer listen to their station nor patronize their advertisers?

  15. Art asks who to write to about KHFM. In my experience, when you write to station management it disappears into a black hole, but when you write to the Abq Journal, you might get some action. Controversy sells papers.

    The Journal won’t write about the story on their own because they consider it a private company’s internal business, but if enough people write in they will publish letters.

    My feeling is that the airwaves belong to the public, and the station has an obligation to the public (they’re even required to meet some rather vague public service requirements). Good luck. My heart is with you.

    Marty

  16. Re: Letters to the Editor of the Albuquerque Journal regarding KHFM:

    On August 27th, there was a brief article in the Albuquerque Journal (page C-2 or 3), stating the known facts… people were “let go”, people resigned, the station would continue to have a classical format (according to AGM General Manager Tim Gannon). To my knowledge, and after a search online of the Journal, there has not been one letter published regarding the restructuring. Interesting, as I know that dozens of people have written. (I am currently out of New Mexico and haven’t been receiving the Journal.)

    You may write to Tim Gannon at tgannon@americangeneralmedia.com, or to Sarah Colmark, scolmark@americangeneralmedia.com.

    The owners, the Brandon Brothers (Rogers who lives in Bakersfield and Tony who lives in Baltimore) would be the folks to contact, but, alas, I do not have their email addresses, which I am sure are on the web somewhere (American General Media?).

    I do know that Bill Dunning wrote an article for Prime Time Monthly Magazine, published in New Mexico, concerning KHFM, and was told they would not use his piece and, furthermore, his services would no longer be required.

    I don’t know what pressure, if any, can be brought to bear upon a newspaper to make them publish letters — I suppose there isn’t any. But I do know that I have received many emails from frustrated former listeners wanting to vent their anger, with, obviously, no forum available to them.

  17. Unbelievable!

    Obviously, these people could not care less about their audience!

    About two years ago, I moved to ABQ from south Florida. While there I listened to a wonderful classical station (might have been a Clear Channel one) that one day became hip-hop. Without that one station on the air, there was no more classical in the Miami market. Just another step on the long road to the dumbing down of America.

    In preparation for my move here, I researched for classical stations and was elated to find two public broadcasting stations and KHFM. Over the last two years I’d become familiar with the on-air talent and often called the announcers to congratulate them on jobs well done. Oddly, the only personality I’ve actually met is Charles. He seemed nice enough, so perhaps it’s his wife and father-in-law who are the backstabbers.

    Certainly it was an unexpected shock. While both Bob and Kip are significant losses (like an old friend who suddenly dies and you never knew he was sick), the departure of Dan Haik and his wonderful Friday morning show is a substantial loss, IMHO, for the station. His show was a viable replacement for Karl Haas, even if Dan doesn’t have his voice!

    From the reading I’ve done, it sounds to me like there are enough former KHFM employees to start their own classical music station.
    What d’ya say, guys????????

  18. Continuing to research this debacle, I found these words in the Press Release for this Friday’s (9/12/08) Governor’s Arts Awards ceremony in Santa Fe: “Bill Richardson will be awarding KHFM the highly coveted Governor’s Award….The station has never
    been driven by profits or ratings, but rather a commitment to classical music.” See it all at
    http://www.nmarts.org/pdf/govaward2008.pdf
    Let’s hope it stays that way!

  19. Just wanted to add my voice to the discussion and lament. We moved here two years ago and were so pleased to find KHFM and its outstanding variety of classical music and arts information. I was out of town and hadn’t heard what happened, but was wondering why the commercials were seemingly increasing (and becoming more inappropriate! not things I’d want to hear about on a classical station or at all). Now I understand and am so sad. So much changes in our current world, and it’s hard to get over one more loss of something with great quality and such a good quirkiness (like the birdsong).

  20. Jill Brown | Aug 11, 2008 | writes:
    KDFC “classical lite”? Well- if “lite” means great hosts playing great music that spans century and is audience relevant, show me the lite!

    What has developed (by mid-September 2008) at KHFM in New Mexico is non-personalities, playing a limited range of pretentious serious music (more and more inflated sound-track trivialities). The people take themselves very seriously, but don’t put much thought into what they are doing, other than to make it as bland and featureless as they can.

    The reaction of long-time listeners is that this depersonalized, mechanical “record-player radio” approach, with its soporific “Life Sounds Better Here” catchphrase set to the lazy, soporific “Gymnopedie No. 1” is not relavant to real life at all.

    I’m afraid it’s only a matter of time, if this continues, until the audience will have become uninvolved zombies who hear but ignore. Then when there is no one actively listening, there will be no sponsors (except those grating snake-oil Per-Inquiry intrusions).

    Mega-station owners who make big bucks by pandering to the least common denomionator of popular culture are like dirt-haulers who imagine they can buy a jewelery store and run it the same way. It doesn’t work, even if you think that diamonds are just rocks like gravel.

  21. J Rhodes says: From the reading I’ve done, it sounds to me like there are enough former KHFM employees to start their own classical music station.
    What d’ya say, guys????????

    …and Doug Swift comments that the answer is to play your own CDs.

    Let me suggest that a radio station is a lot more than just playing CDs. That’s what KHFM is doing now, in fact, inserting commercials of varying abrasiveeness and those soma-like “Life sounds better here” tranquilizer identification spots. The personal touch that Kip Allen, Bob Bishop, Dan Haik and Adrienne Davis added, the cordial information they offered, even their friendly way with a gentle piece of commercial spot copy, give a radio station life.

    It’s more, too, than just a disembodied voice telling you his name (“This is Hugh Gigot, and you’re listening to KHFM, Santa Fe-Albuquerque. Life sounds better here” — segue to next music without any introduction).
    J. Rhodes gets this.

    But there’s big investment bucks involved, with salaries and bills to pay. The ideal operation would employ those folks JR mentioned, let them do what they love, and control the content of the supporting announcements (a necessity of life) so they don’t offend, annoy and insult listeners. Sponsors who feel they have to be unpleasant can always go to stations that do that sort of thing. But there ARE listeners who will respond positively to niceness and courtesy.

    The key fact that all of us in broadcasting know is that this kind of low-key “civilized radio” doesn’t bring in as much profit as appealing to the lowest common deenominator. There are more fast-food shops than gourmet restaurants, because more folks have pedestrian tastes. And there are people who prefer to make quick money more than creating delicious meals for discrimninating palates.

    There are no non-commercial frequencies available, so commercial is the likeliest way to proceed. But it could be done, JR. The talent is there, the audience is there, and it would at least break even in the long run, though never make a huge profit.

    So we want a music-loving multi-millionaire in need of a tax shelter, basically — a compassionate capitalist who can and will invest money for the good of the community rather than the further expansion of his bank account.

    Did you just see Bill Gates drop his wallet? Pick it up and let’s go.

  22. What?! KHFM with no Kip Allen to gently start our day?! I recently returned to Santa Fe after two years out of state, and was disappointed to not find Kip on the morning airwaves; however, this had happened once before and he was only on vacation. When he didn’t return this time, I checked the station web site and Google, and found this back story. I don’t know Ms. Colmark’s story, but someone should tell her that we try to do things “different” here in the City Different and New Mexico. Her corporate-driven decisions and the dismissal of such extraordinary talent as Kip and Bob and their colleagues is surely the station’s loss – and unfortunately, also the community’s…

    So, folks, how do we start this petition drive?

  23. I really miss the old programming! Kip is the one who introduced me to the hermit thrush and “Short Trip Home” by Edgar Meyer and Joshua Bell.

    After listening for nearly 20 years, we can’t stand listening to KHFM anymore! My husband said to put a CD in the Bose to wake up to now. Geez.

  24. A few days ago, KHFM’s website dropped Carolyn Hughes from the Programming and Staff Pictures sections… when I checked today, Bonnie Renfro was nowhere mentioned. I have to assume that they too are gone, either resigning or being fired. I think Brent Stevens and Jerome Evans are the only ones left who were on the air before Bob Bishop was fired. Very very sad.

  25. Well now I know.
    I’m another person in the long list of KHFM’s former listeners…I missed Kip Allen’s voice. In a best-case scenario, I thought, maybe he had retired gracefully after a satisfying career. I wondered what had happened, googled, and then found this story. I’m just sick to know what actually happened.

  26. Like other correspondents, I’ve note the disappearance of Bob, Kip, Bonnie, Carol, and others with puzzlement and dismay over the past two months and just found the sad story behind it here. I’m reminded of the story on the website of Alex Ross, music critic of the New Yorker, concerning the demise of WGMS in Washington, DC, of which I was a fan for 35 years before moving to Santa Fe six years ago. I remember e-mailing Lindy Gold at that time that KHFM was as good as WGMS at the height of its glory. How sad to see the beginning of the rot setting in.

  27. I returned to New Mexico in July after almost two years in Texas. Driving into Albuquerque around the time Bob Bishop would have been on, I was shocked to hear another voice; I figured he might be on vacation. The next morning, I listened for Kip Allen’s gentle “Good Morning, it’s six o’clock” with the gentle bird sounds in the background. Not there. I refused to believe that Kip and Bob were no longer on the air, so I listened intently all day. No mention was made of their absence. After a week, I finally accepted the sad fact that Kip and Bob were no longer on the air. The format alone had hinted all along that Kip was no longer the GM, but my refusal to accept it had kept me listening. I am so disappointed at the way these two individuals were treated especially after they, along with the others who left or were asked to leave, left a solid foundation for the new management to build on. Unfortunately, they have not done so successfully. KIP AND BOB, WHEREVER YOU ARE, THANK YOU FOR EDUCATING ME AND ALLOWING ME TO KNOW AND EXPAND MY LOVE OF CLASSICAL MUSIC.

    Fran Sowers

  28. Count me as yet another in a sad, growing list of soon-to-be-former KHFM listeners and fans. With no knowledge of what was going on behind the scenes, I couldn’t help but notice the change in just about everything at what used to be one of the nation’s finest radio stations.

    I’ve served on the boards of some wonderful music organizations, including Chamber Music Sedona, and lived in ten different states all across the nation. KHFM was the best classical station I’ve ever known, without peer — and I came of age listening to Morning pro musica with Robert J. Lurtsema. To, me Kip Allen WAS KHFM, along with Bob Bishop, Bonnie Renfro, and the rest. Brent Stevens was sufferable, which is the BEST term I’d now use to describe KHFM’s programming.

    While this may not mean much in the grand scheme of making money in a closely held family company, I’d ask KHFM’s sponsors to consider the following: I’m a lawyer; I don’t watch TV, and I don’t listen to any other commercial radio. KHFM’s commercials were the ONLY advertising I got outside of print and Internet ads and billboards. And now I won’t hear those either.

    In the past couple of years I’ve purchased about 20 CDs of music I first heard on KHFM. I used to have both KHFM’s Albuquerque frequencies as pre-sets on my car radio. Frankly, I would have been happy to open my checkbook and contribute directly to KHFM, as I do with our two NPR stations. But who needs canned crap like this when we’ve all got MP3 players? If I want to listen to the same old thing, I can do that very well on my own, thank you — without commercials.

    I don’t know what it looks like from the inside of AGM, but here in the Albuquerque area, life DOES NOT sound better. It sounds like more of the same dumbed-down trash one can get all across the dial, with huge holes at 95.5 and 102.9. Thank you, Marty, for the chance to say thanks to Kip, Bob, Bonnie and the rest. Godspeed. Fare you well, better than what you left behind.

  29. Jayzus! I have been missing Kip Allen and Bob Bishop for some time, but only just now got arount to Googling KHFM and Kip and found out out what happened.

    ‘Tis a sad day in Albuquerque, indeed. Brent Stevens seems to be doing a good job keeping on keeping on, but I really miss the station the way it was. I TRULY hope that KHFM can remain a serious classical station dedicated to the performing arts in New Mexico. I haven’t had my car radio tuned to anything else while in the Albuquerque area since 1985. And I mean that!

    Any chance “we” could pull a Green Bay Packers action and buy the station and run it as a non-profit? The Packers, for those not from Wisconsin at one point, are owned by the City of Green Bay.

  30. Good idea, Chris. Anyone have $5 million to spare to buy KHFM? Sarah Colmark, the new head honcho, is committed to keeping it classical, but I think she is just feeling her way when it comes to the sound of the station. If you local listeners give her lots of feedback about what you want, it might help.

    Thanks for writing.
    Marty

  31. I too am one of the ones who left Albuquerque, only to come back to find that two of my favorite hosts were gone from my favorite station. Bob was especially good: always quipy but to the point. I commend Kip for resigning in protest, although he was also quite good. But the worst part is the new “format” that they play things with. Previously, the name of the piece and the composer was announced before and after each piece, often with intriguing information on each piece or the composer accompanying it. Now, the name of the piece is usually announced only once, often right before a commercial break, immediately after which the piece will be played. Rarely is the name and composer rementioned after the piece. If I turn the radio on to a piece that I don’t know, I have to look it up on their website a week later if I want to find out what it is. Often, the name of the piece is never announced at all. The announcer just jumps from one piece to another. If I wanted to listen only to pieces that I know, I would use my iPod. I listen to the radio to hear and new things about classical music.
    Also, the station seems to have quadrupled the number of times it announces itself. Each time, it is with an orchestral transcription of Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 1. I don’t mind the new theme song, but if they played an advertisement each time instead of it, they might double their revenue (although I suppose they probably don’t have that much potential advertisement revenue available). It feels as if the theme song replaces the music, as there seems to be just as many ads as ever. With it, they also seem to be falling into the cliché that classical music is only soothing music that you should listen to to help you wind down. I don’t want my classical station to put me to sleep, I want it to keep me entertained. If you think that classical music is soothing, you need to stop listening to the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and start listening to the last. So far, it seems to be maintaining its variety, but I fear that the way things are going, it might not stay that way forever.
    So far, I will keep listening, as they managed to keep two good announcers. There is Brent Stevens, who is pretty good (although not as good as Bob, as even he himself would admit back when they were both there), and Peter van de Graaff, who runs the evening program. I am glad that Stevens replaced Allen, for he is the best person for the job among the remainder of the staff. van de Graaff runs his segment like Bishop and Allen used to, announcing each piece several times, and giving plenty of interesting and relevant background information. I hope the word doesn’t get out that van de Graaff and Stevens are good announcers, lest they too get the boot.
    Also, on a high note, so to speak, the website seems to have improved much since this summer. While I miss the jocular baby pictures that appeared for the bio of each announcer on the old site, the new one is much cleaner, and it is nice to see the actual faces of the voices.
    As far as the idea of buying the station, if any of the stereotypes hold true, there should be plenty of well off listeners that could buy the station. If it keeps getting worse, I guarantee that *someone* will buy the station, though it may not be anyone that any of us like.

  32. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Aaron. Just a note: Peter van de Graaff’s program is a syndicated service called “Beethoven Network” that comes from WFMT in Chicago. To my ear, there’s now a stark difference between the local programming and Peter’s show, whereas before it was a seamless transition. WFMT and the new KHFM have radically different philosophies about classical programming.

  33. Marty said:
    Good idea, Chris. Anyone have $5 million to spare to buy KHFM? Sarah Colmark, the new head honcho, is committed to keeping it classical, but I think she is just feeling her way when it comes to the sound of the station. If you local listeners give her lots of feedback about what you want, it might help.

    This sounds right, presuming that the Colmarks are acting in good faith here. Quite credibly, Charles and Sarah don’t know exactly how to go about running a classical station; it’s not knowledge that you’re born with, and a certain amount of this floundering occurs whenever a station changes hands. Constructive criticism might help.

    Might. It might also turn out that AGM doesn’t particularly care whether KHFM succeeds or not, and has simply given the Colmarks a shiny toy to play with, without ever taking it seriously. If so, we’ll be the worse off for it, but there’s also not much we can do in that case, so let’s ASSUME good faith and help Charles and Sarah succeed in a way that satisfies us listeners.

    Thanks for providing the opportunity to weigh in on this, Marty. We miss you!

  34. Steven Bishop:
    Say hello to your dad. Bob Bishop and I worked together in Los Angeles at KUSC many many years ago. I think you were maybe two or three years old then.
    I just saw the sad news this morning and forwarded the news to many of Bob’s former co-workers from LA, including Wally Smith, former GM of KUSC.
    I tired to send an email to Bob, but the only email address I have is part of KHFM.

    I hope something even better comes along for Bob in the near future.

    Larry Mayer
    Program Director
    WETS 89.5FM
    Johnson City, TN

  35. Weighing in belatedly here — I’m one of the many listeners who no longer finds it a pleasure to listen to KHFM.

    I enjoy some of the syndicated programs (Peter van der Graaf is excellent, and “From the Top” is great fun), Brent Stevens is good, and I’m really glad they’ve kept the Met Opera broadcasts when other stations haven’t. But most of the programming is sleep-inducing (I can’t listen to KHFM driving home late at night!), I’m weary of hearing random classical selections played over and over, and the advertising has grown incredibly obnoxious.

    I kept KHFM on my clock radio mostly out of habit — but this morning, when I woke up to one of those d*mn “brain enhancement” commercials, was the final straw. (I know the economy is bad, but I suspect that some of the former advertisers have snuck away blushing!)

  36. I was a most loyal KHFM listener and a part time announcer in the 1980s when we broadcast reel to reel tapes received by US mail of Karl Haas, the Cleveland Orchestra, the NY Philharmonic and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. We played whole symphonic works, not the fragments we now hear. The PSAs and commercial announcements were affordable and effectivre because of listener loyalty. That loyalty no longer exists. And now there are just too many boring musical clunkers and amateurish promos that make it impossible to enjoy KHFM as in years past. The endless repetition of tasteless commercials as well as the many alternatives available have ended my loyalty to KHFM.

  37. Without defending KHFM’s recent throwing away of two or more of it’s most valuable assets, I would add the fact that KHFM has a history of sacking it’s best performers, for example Milton Zapolski, Charles Maldonado and Don Hoyt.

  38. The folks at KHFM don’t return my calls or reply to email. I wonder if that’s because of the comments I’ve made here.

  39. On April 1 I left two CDs at the KHFM studio for Brent Stevens. It was not a promo for profit, there was no cost or obligation intended and the music is public domain. Each of the two CDs contained a single music selection, part of a large collection of historic piano rolls. The two titles are Boccaccio March by Suppe and Pomp & Pride March by Hudson. They are from 1915 Kimball piano rolls, digitally recorded in high quality stereo, played on a 1929 Steinway Duo-Art grand piano. There has been no response and no reply to an email from Brent or from KHFM. They could have said thanks but no thanks to an offer I thought was a generous one and an opportunity for KHFM’s audience to hear some rare and historic music. The offer will not be repeated.

    Is this typical of the way KHFM now responds to the community? Shouldn’t a morning show host on a good classical music station be pleased to get an offer of such a free library of recorded music?

  40. Hi David,

    Those are tough questions. I remember once a gentleman thought we didn’t play enough trombone music, so he brought me a stack of trombone CDs, and of course I thanked him and played as much as I could from them, but they weren’t of that much interest to our general audience. We put them into the rotation, though.

    He got a little upset. He said if I wasn’t going to play them more often, he wanted them back. My reply was that I was glad to give them back (even though they were already catalogued), but if I did we could guarantee they would not get played.

    This feeds into Mike’s question about how programmers choose what to play on the radio. Historic recordings are interesting to some of us, but they need to be framed properly, and I don’t think there’s anyone at the station right now who is a music historian. Historic recordings don’t interest listeners who just have the radio on as background music, which is what today’s KHFM is trying to be. They’re a special genre that requires special treatment.

    It was kind of you to share the music with KHFM, but don’t expect them to have the same appreciation for history that you do. And unless they are planning to be really sensitive to their listeners, they are not going to let you program the station for them! (That’s how they see it.)

    They should have had the courtesy to respond to you, though. Maybe they still will. Why don’t you follow up with a phone call?

  41. Boccaccio and Pomp & Pride are among 19 marches I have recorded from Kimball and Angelus piano rolls for Centaur Records, the first in a series. They say it will be their first issue for download on the internet. Some of the others are Military March by Schubert arranged by Carl Tausig, Russian Grand March, B.P.O.E. March, G.O.P. March, Dawn of the Century March (by E.T. Paull, the other march king), Paris Exposition March, A Signal From Mars by Raymond Taylor, Repasz Band by Charles Sweeley and Oriental Echoes by George Rosey.

    Marty, I’d bet you would like this better than than trombone music.

    And Aaron, thanks for the internet connections.

  42. I still have KHFM’s 30 year “musical fireworks” poster on my wall and I hope they’ll be around for their 60th and beyond. But the competition can only increase and I suspect KHFM’s long term survival will depend on skillful management as well as a more user friendly attitude to their listeners and the arts community.

    Re. the above mentioned piano roll recordings, I have a limited number of free samples, send me an email if you’re interested. aeba38@yahoo.com

  43. It is not so much the programming, it is the total ineptitude of the announcers. They seem to have few foreign-language skills and know nothing about the pieces they play. Recent attempts to add Wikipedia data only underscores their ignorance. Often pieces are misidentified. Parts of pieces are played as if the whole; pieces are interrupted for commercials, and the repeated Satie theme makes me never want to play him again. The failure to return e-mails and calls is significant. Can you imagine a classical musical station that identifies pieces as by “Bye-zet,” or “Beat-hoven”? Don’t be fooled by Peter Van de Graaf: he is syndicated. I only listen to the station after he is on.

  44. I was out of the country during much of 2008 and was astonished to return and find what had happened to KHFM. I was news manager of a radio station in college, and frankly the malapropisms, ignorance of material, and general ineptitude that pervades KHFM now would never have been allowed even at the student level. I would think knowledge of pronunciation of composers’ names and understanding of the pieces you are playing would be the bare minimum for the job. The failure to mention the details (composition, composer, artists) except at the beginning of a piece (before the commercials) is a joke! If you don’t hear the opening announcement of the Saturday opera, you will never know who is singing. In fact, the whole station has become a bad joke. There is probably more musical talent per capita in central New Mexico than in most parts of the country: how did we get a station with these clowns in charge? Surely they could draw on our expertise and learn the basic rudiments of operation.

    • Oddly, the “clowns,” as they are so aptly called, all claim to have musical experience, some in European conservatories. It doesn’t say much for music education these days.

  45. Among the many choices on XM radio are three excellent classical music channels, XM Pops, Symphony Hall and Metropolitan Opera. It’s well worth the subscription cost to avoid KHFM’s constant mis-pronounciations and repetition of tasteless commercials. I don’t see how KHFM can compete with XM in the long term unless they can find a way to make the audience and the arts community seem more important than dollars. Kip Allen and Bob Bishop were the expertise and the basic rudiments of their operation.

  46. Another KHFM update:

    KHFM has copied KFDC’s “Big One at One” feature, in which at 1 p.m., the station, with great self-congratulatory fanafare, broadcasts an entire piece of music — a complete symphony or concerto — without fragmenting it into today’s single movement.

    KDFC, as Marty has pointed out, is the San Francisco “classical lite” station that deals in single movements, lollipops, and pops warhorses. KHFM has also put real stress on having announcers repeat their names on the air at virtualaly every opportunity. This seems to be a way management strokes announcers’ egos, and is, I fear, no substitute for hiring people with real personalities. Another trait that is surfacing is the Little Jack Horner syndrome: constantly telling the listening audience what a good station it is, with the expectation, apparently, that people will believe it’s true if they hear it often enough.

    There also seems to be a directive that announcers should say as little about the music as possible in the intros … even though several of the staff are working orchestra musicians (past or present) and should know more about the repertoire than the composer index card. This sounds like a transition into minimalissm at the microphone and eventuala all-automated air.

  47. Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse with the station, they have. In the morning they now have two announcers, who childishly trade banalities (“And what did you do this weekend?”) instead of playing more music.

  48. A lot of radio people believe the two-host model is fresh and exciting, but I think it becomes narcissistic because the two hosts talk to each other and leave the listener out of the conversation. When a host talks directly to the listener it’s more intimate and engaging, although it takes skill and appreciation of others to achieve that intimacy.

    Sounds like KHFM has lost sight of its mission.

    • At least they don’t have to play as much music and there is less chance of the musical botches and malapropisms that have become commonplace!

      • Permit me a contrary view. Marty, one thing I always appreciated about you when you were announcing for KHFM was the sense of friendly informality you brought to the broadcasts. I always felt as if I’d just wandered by the home of a friend who’d just discovered some interesting new CD that she wanted to share. It made for a very comfortable, yet illuminating, listening experience. The current morning format on KHFM at least TRIES to recapture that same easy yet informed informality, and I’d rather have that than either excessive stiffness or the clueless but well-rehearsed informality that I’ve also seen there.

        There is much to complain about with the “transition” (I’ll use the euphemism here) that KHFM has undergone in recent months. I don’t mind this one at all, and at least they’re trying to find something that works. Maybe eventually they will.

  49. Marty & G.W. (George Whitefield?),

    P.D.Q. nailed the annoying trend with his “P.D.Q. Bach: WTWP Classical Talkity-Talk Radio (Telarc CD-80239 CS-30239)” CD.

    Let’s save the banter for the Morning Zoo format!

    Regards,
    -Robert Ready
    Vermont

  50. I hope your optimism will be rewarded, Bill. The Albuquerque/Santa Fe audience is uniquely warm and welcoming and loves its classical music. It’s also very special to me, because I spent 22 years there and have such good friends there still. My colleague Steve Robinson at WFMT (where I syndicate my current shows) believes in the two-host model, and he’s had good success with it. As long as the hosts keep the audience in mind at all times and make it about you instead of about them, they can do well.

    I wish only the best for KHFM. I want them to find out what works, and I really want them to be smart about it, because the NM audience is educated, willing to try new sounds, interested in digging deeper into the music, and loves multi-culturalism. The smarter, the better. I tried out a lot of ideas on you guys, and you let me keep pushing the envelope as far as I wanted. It was the best experience of my life.

    I remember having Indian sarod and tabla players on the lunchtime show, and an Andean panpipe player; David Lockington unpacking the intricacies of orchestral works; NMSO principal cellist Joan Zucker demonstrating her choices of how to articulate a Haydn cello concerto; the American String Quartet taking apart and putting back together an Ives quartet; the Konovets Quartet singing reconstructed Russian chant in the studio; the L.A. Guitar Quartet demonstrating how they divided up the parts on a Bach two-part Invention; Sylvia McNair, Jerry Hadley, Christine Brewer, Patricia Racette, and a dozen other stars of the Santa Fe Opera singing their hearts out; and speaking of the Santa Fe Opera, those shows with Desiree Mays. About 1500 interviews in all.

    If KHFM is not giving you all that, then they’re not living up to the community’s standards. Ask for more!!!

    Lovely to hear from you again! All the best,
    Marty

    • I remember that Konevets Quartet lunchtime show like it was yesterday! As a classical bass who’s done some Russian stuff myself (including some in Russia), your discussion of uniquely Russian voice leading with them was some of the most interesting classical radio I’ve ever heard. And I even won tickets to their (fabulous) performance on one of your giveaways …

      To be sure, KHFM hasn’t rebounded to that level of musical breadth and engagement yet, and alas, I don’t see it happening in the immediate future. But at least to my tastes (and the discussion of the two-host model points out that those tastes are not shared by everyone), things are getting better. As long as they do continue to improve, I’m not going to give up hope — no matter how much I miss the Good Old days.

    • Marty wants them to find out what works, and I hope they do. So far, though, the non-broadcasters in charge of the “new” KHFM have — like Thomas Edison — found a plethora of formats that DON’T work … and they are apparently losing listeners because of it (is this a ploy to free the frequency for more rock???).

      By the way, Peter Van De Graaff left the KHFM schedule just a year ago, at the end of January, 2010. The last straw!

      Among the format ideas that fail are:
      –long clusters of as many as six spots in a row: the last three should demand a refund!
      –pushy “1-800-” per-inquiry spots that insult the listeners (Kip used to call them “snake oil”).
      –virtuallly no intros to the music most of the time, but just a segue from the “life sounds better here” pander.
      –Chas and Brent both evincing “amazement” at the wonder of classical music, as if they had just discovered it, both in back-announcements and spots for live concerts. The real pros, like Marty and Kip, and the listeners (if any are left) understood that the repertoire and the composers should be treated as a normal part of our cultural life, respected but not falsely idolized.
      –butchering the compositions … perhaps the worst sin of all on Sarah Colmark’s conscience: playing a single movement, particularly of Romantic-era works, out of context. It’s like an art museum displaying the Mona Lisa’s left eyebrow and expecting us to accept it as the complete work of art. Nothing could be a bigger insult to composers, performers and listeners alike.
      –Sir Charles and Lady Sarah with their trivial little stories, poorly delivered, after a musical fragment is finished playing … a sure sign of laziness in the control room.
      –the inane chit-chat format in the morning that several listeners have already castigated here on this site: ignoring the listener for each others company, Caludia playing the silly little girl to Big Brent’s Brilliance, and the glorification of silliness (humor is another matter. P.D.Q. Bach, Victor Borge and Anna Russell are conspicuously absent).
      –poor old Jim Wellborn, now the night-man, with his “Emmanuel Ax on piano” style, as if he were still doing teen-rock, only with different disks. Jim has the perfect voice for a “gaslight-style” easy-listening all-automated style, which could probably be a reasonable success if the current management is unable or unwilling to present a genuine fine-arts format in the style of WFMT, KING or KVOD of fond memory … and it may be a fact of life that our society has become culturally so shallow that a real classical station is no longer viable outside the top three national markets.

      It would still be wonderful if it could happen. Satellite and on-line services have taken a big chunk of the audience for that kind of serious programming, but they lack the local touch in weather, arts-event coverage, and just plain old over-the-fence neighborliness.
      ######

  51. I hope KHFM stays classical. I do not listen to it much any more. the reception here in Roswell is somewhat flakey and most of my old-time listening was in the morning with the sorely-missed Kip Allen. He was one of the all-time great announcers. Do you have any news of him of late?

    The many performers, composers, instruments that he introduced me to are still regulars in my play list and I only wish there were more coming along. I miss his continual Irish tunes, too, though I don’t usually care for them. And I remember Labor Day, two years ago, when he completely floored me by playing Paul Robeson’s singing of “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night.”

    • Robert Myers says: “I hope KHFM stays classical.”

      What we hope for now is for KHFM to *return* to classical! A genuine classical format, that is. To retain the image built over the years in the Land of Enchantment, AGM and Mrs. Colmark need to do several things:

      1. RESPECT THE MUSIC
      * stop butchering compositions by playing single movements out of context.
      * insist on musical literacy and civilized usage, pronunciation and phrasing by announcers.
      * plan the sequence of works intelligently rather than randomly.

      2. RESPECT THE LISTENERS
      * insist that announcers act like grown-ups — and understand what they are talking about.
      * introduce and back-announce pieces clearly and intelligently, rather than follow the ID liner with segue’d music, and acting like it’s only filler anyway, so who cares?.
      * answer the telephone and involve listeners in your life.

      3. RESPECT THE SPONSORS
      * don’t play clusters of six or seven spots in a row — this drives listers away, cheats advertisers and ultimately will kill your station.
      * ban annoying and “cutesy” spots; instead, appeal to people who prefer Mozart to Mettalica and Bach to Rock, with rational presentation and demeanor.
      * only use “first-person” spots if the sponsor-spokesperson is not boring.
      * pay attention to the date of events you advertise — take them out when the topic becomes history. (Yes, this is hard to do with canned commercials, but not impossible; and it IS your job.)

      Allan Pearson and others note that the KHFM listening public should take the bull by the horns and insist that AGM toe the line. Not easy when an autocrat owns the operation. But a vigorous letter-writing campaign to ALL the local newspapers, even calling local talk radio shows, and letters directly to Big Tony, as well as speaking directly to the station’s on-the-air advertisers, could surprise you. The key, I respectfully suggest to Allan and others, is to keep it positive and optimistic, without becoming wimpy.

  52. Did anyone else hear the strange Labor Day programming of the station? All announcers abandoned the station and the day was taped music interspersed with taped announcer statements: “Hi! I’m —–. We’ll all be back tomorrow.” There were also occasional commercials, but these disappeared by midafternoon. Needless to say none of the music was identified. A strange way to run a station, but at least we didn’t have to listen to the announcers’ malapropisms and drivel. And you wonder about the commitment of the staff when they can’t even show up for work.

  53. They still can’t get their act together. Even with their format, there is no excuse for the regular malapropisms. Just during the last few days we have heard:
    Joe Kino Rossini
    Andy Prayvin
    Johann Strauss’ Rosenkavalier
    William Schumann’s Rhenish Symphony (confusion of Robert and William Schuman)

    Obviously neither literacy nor a knowledge of musical styles is needed here!

  54. As someone who invested a lot of time, effort and financial resources into creating a translator station in the Ruidoso market, I am dismayed at the direction the station has taken. Although we put the station on the air to have a better classical signal in the Southern part of the State, we also did it to open a new market for Mike Langner, Bob Bishop, Kip Allen, Marty Ronish etc. As a translator station we felt like we were part of a unique family of people dedicated to promoting the love of classical music. After the sale to Citadel, the subsequent leasing to AGM and the personnel changes – it just wasn’t the same and perhaps it never will again regain its dedication to educating the public about a very unique venue of music. Kudos to all those wonderful people that made history with a successful commercial venture in classical broadcasting. I wish the new ‘kids’ well and do hope they mature quickly and make the second fifty years as good as the first.

  55. Marty, I grew up on WFMT in Chicago. In fact I recently volunteered at their on-air fundraiser.When you left KHFM, I was crushed, as your incisive interviews and continuing presentation of everything new and exciting on the contemporary classical music scene was not only enjoyable, but educational. My shock upon returning from a summer trip away, and being confronted with the so-called transition hasn’t subsided – over a year later! The Colmarks are like 2 adenoidal adolescents, Maybe Sarah is slightly better than Charles, but NOBODY can tell me that those two have an iota of real music education. They can’t even correctly pronounce the names of artists, composers, or venues. Over the recent holidays, while they were on vacation, I listened with some pleasure (with the exception of the many commercial interruptions)to whatever was on the air- in spite of the absence of information about what had just been played, but now things are back to normal and I literally cringe every time I hear the voices of the ‘assassins’. To call KHFM the “sister station” of WFMT is laughable. Yes, Peter Van de Graaf is a refreshing change, but since my radio is turned off so I can avoid the nattering nepotistic nabobs, I rarely hear him. Brent Stevens should receive a medal and so should Claudia Giese. The old KAICH FM DID make life better here. The new one – NO!

    • Aileen-Marie, you dared say what I did not: “adenoidal adolescents” fits the bill perfectly. The only part of KHFM I enjoy is Van de Graaf and when the station shuts down during holidays and plays music (never identified, though). How can these two have music degrees. I listen either to WFMT or KUSC. Can’t the dynamic duo learn something from their collapsing arbitron ratings?

  56. A couple of years ago I was going through a particularly hard time in my life, and I sent this e-mail to Kip Allen:

    “Thank you for your early morning beautiful music, the birds and your soothing voice. I’m going through a difficult time; but while listening to your program, problems are placed in the background and quality of life is truly better.

    Sue Hansen”

    I didn’t expect a reply, and I was touched when I received this message from Mr. Allen:

    “I have a file of favorite things — clippings, photos, letters…. Here are
    two:

    Where there is great love there are always miracles.
    Miracles rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power
    coming
    to us from afar off, but on our perceptions being made finer, so
    that for
    a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about
    us always.

    –Willa Cather

    Security is mostly superstition. It does not
    exist in natures, nor do the children of men
    as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is
    no safer in the long run than outright
    exposure. Life is either a daring adventure
    or nothing.
    — Helen Keller

    Thank you for the grace and thoughtfulness which are behind and within your
    e-mail. And thanks for sharing the mornings with me.

    –Kip Allen”

    What a terrible loss for KHFM and its listeners!

  57. Just when you thought things might be getting better, they have now dumped Peter Van de Graaf in the evenings and replaced him with their own unique form commercial and interruption-laden drivel.

  58. You beat me to the punch, Duane. My guess is the station can no longer afford the Van de Graaf feed. Poor Jim Welborn is now scheduled to work on-air seven days a week, 37 hours, and the website bio says his PRIMARY (!) job is with American General Media Sales! How’s that gonna work out?

  59. Today, Presidents’ Day, is one of those wonderful days where the staff, showing their devotion to their jobs, abandon the station entirely and only run (unidentified) music. No ads (how can the manage without the revenue?), no ignorant drivel. Just music interspersed with brief taped comments about how they will be back Monday.
    But today is Monday. Oh well.

  60. I have listened to KHFM for more than 25 years. I like the personalities of many of the announcers and can forgive the occasional mispronunciation of composers or titles, and I’m sorry for those who have been fired over the years and miss some of them (like Milton). But truth be told it’s always been a bit lite, eine kleine nacht and brandenb. concertos over and over again. Did you know that Prokofiev wrote more symphonies than the classical and that Shostakovich wrote some great quartets? I called khfm sometime in the eighties, I think, and Mary Ronish told me their programming was lite because the listeners wanted it that way and then she hung up on me.
    But these days the face of classical is changing. I just returned from 6 weeks in Boston and WOW they have a great station at Harvard, run by students and streaming on the web. So now I can listen to great classical from anywhere. The times they are a changing.

  61. Actually. I was in San Francisco off and on for weeks at a time and listened to the so-called classical station there, and there is a BIG difference. Their moderators are educated on DO NOT MAKE the errors made so frequently on khfm, and their commercials are somehow more appropriate to the audience in question. The San Francisco station even has long blocks of sponsored music WITHOUT INTERRUPTION!

  62. I stopped listening to KHFM ages ago.
    It’s commercial, so it does not matter much how outraged you are.
    I listen to Performance Today on KUNM FM, and KUSC and KFMT streaming free online.
    Those of you up in Santa Fe might be more successful in focusing on the public station there. They used to progam classical music during the day. That’s long gone with focus now on jazz.
    Thanks for the interesting blog. Found it by accident.

    • It’s interesting that bumbling babbling announcers and repetitive programming increases market share, not to say the many days they just put on a tape and no one is at the station. I expect the audience is totally different from what it used to be. I listen to KUSC in Los Angeles now, but am still saddened at the loss of our classical music station here in Santa Fe.

  63. You seem to be their most dedicated listener. Ironic, eh?
    You are devoting a lot of time and energy in denouncing, cataloging errors, and threatening to take them down.
    Thought you vowed to stop listening. So many other choices.
    Thanks to Marty for the forum.

  64. Me and my wife, Nancy, enjoy the mornig segment with Brent Stevens and Claudia Giese. It was light and easy to listen to.
    Now Claudia is gone and we miss her laugh. Where did she go?
    Milt Freer

  65. I still have not gotten over KHFM’s inexcusable maltreatment of Bob Bishop. I also recently noticed they’ve restored the early morning “birds” which infuriates me all over again. I switched immediately to KUNM. They’ve done an admirable job with their website, but it hasn’t erased the fact that they make no apologies for being a bunch of SOBs. My own listening is way down. I can’t get over feeling I’m supporting heartless corporate behavior when I tune in.

  66. Dorothy Bernstein’s “Classical Music For A Sunday Morning”, on Albuquerque’s own KANW, has become one of my favorite radio shows. I’d heartily recommend it to anyone, and I now donate to KANW. I’d like to support KHFM, having listened to it on and off for about 30 years, but I’m aghast at how they treated their former employees.

    I want KHFM to continue as a viable enterprise, because it’s a loss for the people of Albuquerque if it doesn’t, but how can the station continue unless it cleans up its reputation with the community?

  67. I am sad to admit that I hardly listen to KHFM anymore–only when I’m driving around town. This is in part due to the poor signal that I have gotten in my part of town ever since KHFM moved their broadcast site, but is certainly aggravated by the selections played–just single movements by mis-pronounced composers and performers, and virtually no concert broadcasts. Otherwise it is exclusively internet radio–WFMT Chicago or KUAT Tucson–at home and work.

    I am also sad to report the news that the 78 year old New Mexico Symphony has folded, playing a special final concert last nite of Beethoven’s 9th that I feel fortunate to have attended. Is there perhaps a correlation, here?

    Oh, and Mary, thank you for your CSO programs (which KHFM doesn’t broadcast). I get to keep up with my ‘hometown band’ on the two internet stations I follow.

    • Thanks, Richard.

      I was very sad to hear about the NMSO. They are the anchor for the music community in Albuquerque, but I don’t think there’s any reason at all that the orchestra has to die forever. A leaner organization that’s player-driven could do very, very well in Albuquerque. The NMSO players have been absolute heroes through every crisis (and there have been many), and I have every confidence that a community that loves the arts as much as Abq does will find a way to resurrect the orchestra. They may have to get rid of that white elephant of a building and they might need some corporate support, but frankly, the corporations in town benefit as much as anyone from having a top notch orchestra in town. A smart manager could get them together in a room and make it happen. Hello, Intel, Honeywell, Sandia, PNM, etc.

      I agree with you that the weakening of the radio station has contributed a lot to the demise of the NMSO. A great station would have been building audience for the orchestra, and vice versa.

      Thanks for the comments about the CSO broadcasts. We are very fortunate to have support for the broadcasts from the Grainger Foundation. In case anyone doesn’t know about these broadcasts, I produce 52 of them a year and we stream them on the Chicago Symphony website. I have six 2-hour shows up there at all times: http://www.cso.org.

      Thanks for your comments, Richard.

  68. I notice that Charles Colmark has disappeared, and is no longer on the station’s website. This may be an improvement: he was the worst and most incoherent babbler, but it may also indicate that all is not hunky-dory in Colemarkland.

    • Re: the disappearance of Sir Charles from the airwaves … is there a soap opera in progress behind the scenes here? Has he been promoted upstairs, or handed his tuba and sent packing? One suspects that the kind of people who now apparently make up KHFM’s target audience would really like to know, if they can break away from Entertainment Tonight on TV7.

  69. In hopes of getting them to announce each piece directly before and after, I have begun my own boycott of Keller’s and C.Dimery, and have just helped influence the contract on the installation of two new furnaces to go to a competitor to Brother’s, which advertises air conditioning on KHFM. I have also e-mailed Sarah Colmark to offer a serious contribution to her new 501(c)(3) if hse’ll change this idiotic policy of studied nonchalance (with a middle finger lofted toward the listeners). Of course, neither she nor the new Julia Ludicrous (or something like that) won’t answer e-mails. Nor will Brent Stevens. Pathetic!

  70. A great deal of my white hair I attribute to my physical inability to get across the room fast enough to turn off the unbelievably awful stuff they play on KHFM. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that they must have the worlds largest collection of grotesque violin music. For some unknown reason violins seem to be the favorite on this radio station. No one on this station has the slightest idea what is a good recording, poor orchestration, poor sound engineering, an amateur musician, a master musician, or a whatever. It’s all thrown together in one giant barbaric smorgasbord with no interrelationship or coherence of one piece of music to that which follows. The programming certainly makes this station look like an amateurish cactus patch station trying to be something it’s not. Mispronunciation of composers’ names, titles of pieces, and so forth, are so bad it’s beyond laughable. The pretensions of this station, with all of it’s mismanagement and lack of expertise in music, past as well as present, make it look like the ridiculous parvenue that it is, I don’t care how long it claims to have been in existence. Just getting intelligent, educated people on the station, eliminating 99% of the ridiculous cracked, record of continued, inappropriate advertisements would also help tremendously. Real programming instead of mindless “light classics” or dreary old war horses that are played over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over,and over would also improve this station tremendously. Hispanic stations are sounding better and better.

  71. I guess we’ll find out…WRR is city-owned and has been its own soap opera through the years. The city has considered selling the station because of its primo dial position but it’s the only classical station in town. At one point the local NPR affiliate was considering entering into a management agreement with the city to run the station. Unfortunately, WRR plays movements sometimes (I think only at drive time) and the commercials drive me nuts. I guess it’s the tradeoff for having a classical station at all…it’ll be interesting to see how it fares under Colmark. I will report back any scuttlebutt 😉

  72. With the departure of the Colmarks, there have been improvements to KHFM, although there is still a long way to go: just a couple of weeks ago we heard about how Tchaikovsky ran the NBC symphony (I guess all those Russian-sounding names are alike). But there is more music, more complete pieces, and less babbling. Problems do remain: not all music is announced, intrusive stations IDs, and the two evening people are inveterate babblers. But there might be hope.

      • I have no idea. They certainly don’t tell us, and ever since the notorious changeover of a few years ago their website has been uninformative, giving no information.

        • I understand that Brent Stevens has been made either Program Director or General Manager, not sure which. Brent is a good guy and I think he would be responsive to the input of the listeners. He’s a long time classical music supporter in the community; he was around when the station was healthier; and he knows most of the musicians in town. This would be a good time for him to get lots and lots of input about what the arts community wants and needs. Just my two cents.

          • Mary-Ellin Brooks, well known to musicians in the Albuquerque area, is also getting more air time as a result of these moves. This must also be good.

            Other than legacy annoyance at all the good people they ran off at the change of ownership, my biggest gripe with them now is just the number of announcers who don’t know how to pronounce names of performers and composers or titles of pieces, particularly liturgical works in the latter category. They really need to hold a clinic on that. In other regards there have been improvements — support for the embryonic New Mexico Philharmonic, seemingly a less mercenary attitude as to what other groups in the ABQ/SF area they will support or at least acknowledge, etc.

          • I did write Brent Stevens. I praised the efforts to return to normalcy, although he was less than sympathetic to the on-going problem of announcers who can’t pronounce names (just this week we have hear Shos-TAK-ovich and Don Pas-quail [the Donizetti opera]). The real problem here is Jim Wellborn, who is responsible for most of the malapropisms and tends to babble; he needs to go to elocution school or be asked to move on.

  73. The most recent embarrassment has been the futile effort to come up with on-line play lists, which were repeatedly promised for February, and have yet to appear. Instead we get a masturbatory announcement in which two station stalwarts purport to be working on them, but with no apparent expectation of actually delivering anything soon.

    This is all the more ironic because if you log in to “Listen on Line,” the player app actually displays the name and related information of virtually every piece being played — even during the after-midnight announcerless sessions.

    No one yet bothers to answer e-mail, and a few weeks ago Brent announced the Meistersinger prelude as the overture to Lohengrin. I can’t imagine anyone actually confusing these two and still claiming to be musically knowledgeable.

    Herb

    • The malapropisms continue, with no end in sight. The other day the end of Tristan was announced as “Liebestadt” (“Love City”?). As Mr. Silverberg notes above, you cannot be musically knowledgeable and make those kinds of mistakes. And they still announce pieces only before many minutes of commercials, or not at all.

  74. What about the very annoying morning banter? Trying to be funny, trying to be snippets of talk show???

    • A matter of taste, I guess; I rather enjoy the morning banter, just as I always enjoyed it when Marty and Kip injected some informality and fun into their own programs. The sense of being in an informal setting with musical friends as they trot out some new recording they’ve bought/found/rediscovered was always one of the things that appealed to me about the way Kip, and Marty in particular, handled themselves on the air. This is similar. Brent and Julia aren’t Marty and Kip, but nor should they try to be. After initial caution, I basically consider that part of the program to “work.” What needs fixing is some of the other stuff.

  75. I taught myself finally how to edit the information on a Wikipedia site, so I have taken the liberty to post a paragraph of information on the lack of competence of the current moderators on KHFM, 95.5 ABQ. Check it out by doing a google search under “khfm Wikipedia” and reading the final section of text under MODERATORS.

  76. What is going on at KHFM? There’s no news of any change in the station’s financial model but they’re now announcing every ten minutes or so: “… KHFM will soon become a listener supported station. Join us this Friday, September 1, for the start of a new era.”

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend