22 November 2010

St. Louis Named "Most Dangerous City" By Study

St. Louis is number one! Yes, it's happened again, and St. Louis' mayor and other officials are not happy about it.

A yearly study has once-again ranked St. Louis as the "most dangerous city" in the United States of America. That study, by CQ Press, has been controversial for its methodology and the subject of much scrutiny by the FBI and police agencies around the country for several years. St. Louis edged out Camden, New Jersey, as the study found St. Louis had 2,070.1 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, compared with a national average of 429.4. Citing those statistics CQ Press claims St. Louis edged Camden, which was atop last year's "most dangerous cities" list and was bestowed that distinction in 2003 and 2004 - and remains in the top five along with Detroit and Flint in Michigan, as well as Oakland, California.

The city of St. Louis maintains that it has become safer each year since 2007 and that crime is down in the past year.

The CQ Press statistics uses FBI data and population combined as basis for the statistics cited by the study, which does not take into account economic conditions and geography --- such as a city/county line as exists between the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County or a boundary area such as the Mississippi River which divides the city of St. Louis from East St. Louis, East Carondelet, Sauget, Madison, and other areas in southwest Illinois which would normally border a big city.

Criminologists have been critical of the way the statistics are used because of the minimal data versus population which many say does not take all factors into account.

The City of St. Louis last year was ranked second in the study and was atop this study in 2006.

09 November 2010

Classic 99 Lives On The Web, KFUO Radio Changes

Did you know there is still classical music originating from St. Louis' oldest continuous broadcast facility? KFUO Radio has been on the air from studios on the Concordia Seminary campus for around 80 years of its 86 years on the airwaves. Although the summer of 2010 ushered in the end of KFUO-FM, the AM side of KFUO (AM 850) remains in place.

Classic 99 KFUO-FM may be no more, but the music library at KFUO Radio continues to be put to good use through the studios which housed the former FM broadcast operation at KFUO. With help from former members of the Classic 99 staff, since right after the station signed off and transferred ownership of the 99.1FM signal, the music has continued on the worldwide web through the website that the station had been operating, www.classic99.com - and it continues today.

Ron Klemm spent the better part of four decades in the studios of KFUO Radio, much of it on the FM side after the station was split to AM programming (religious, liturgical, Bible-based) and FM programming (classical music, liturgical music, arts programming). Now severed from his job, Klemm is a constant companion of those who enjoyed Classic 99 on the radio through his helping program the music heard on www.classic99.com each day and night. He and Dick Wobbe are voicetracking much of the musical days through announcing the titles, composers and artists of a large portion of the songs being played on www.classic99.com --- although there is the caveat that not every song has been given a voice, so you may tune in and find some songs do not have any announcing between them. Also, most of the overnight songs were not scheduled to have voicetracking when last I interviewed Klemm about the www.classic99.com programming, although since the voicetracking began several weeks ago, many of the songs played overnight may contain the voiced elements.

Classic99.com is not the only source for classical and sacred music in the building at KFUO Radio right now, either, as KFUO RADIO (on AM 850) has now begun two hours of classical/sacred music weekday afternoons from 1 pm to 3 pm during Diane Summers' show. An aside is that this show began this week (Monday afternoon) and replaces contemporary Christian music (CCM) which had been programmed during that time slot. Summers, a KFUO Radio mainstay since the 1990s, has worked on both the AM and FM stations, knows much of the library at the radio station and is utilizing the knowledge of the music Klemm has as well as others who have had direct and indirect relations with KFUO through the years. She is also a musician who performs at her LCMS congregation and at another LCMS congregation in the St. Louis area, and has performed with recently semi-retired St. Louis Symphony Orchestra trumpet Susan Slaughter in at least two LCMS churches. The title of her show, The Essence, has not changed, but the sacred and classical music is a great departure from the CCM format and is one way that KFUO Radio can use the vast library of classical music it has on hand from 86 years of broadcasting to the St. Louis area and beyond. You can listen to KFUO Radio on http://www.kfuo.org/ - live during the daylight broadcast day, and repeats on the web at night including the two hours of classical and sacred music.

06 October 2010

Max-imum Big-ness

A group of business persons from Alton, Illinois, have something to cheer about with the recent announcement of an upcoming performance of Max Weinberg and his Big Band on stage at Argosy Alton casino.

The Spectrum Entertainment Group organized in early 2010 and has produced several shows in the Alton area over the past few months. Now, with the contract for the former drummer from Conan O'Brien's Late Night and Tonight Show heading his own tour, Max Weinberg brings a 15-piece "swinging big band" to the Argosy Alton for one show on October 21. Weinberg, the drummer for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band for more than three decades, has long been a big band musician and fan, and promises not only a lot of standard big band musical pieces but a set of Springsteen songs performed in the big band style.

Meanwhile, Spectrum Entertainment Group continues to branch out in producing concerts in the area. They have also scheduled Seattle-based Ian McFeron for a show at downtown Alton's Tony's Restaurant this Friday, October 8, as well as several other shows. You can read more about the live music events Spectrum Entertainment Group is producing in the Riverbend (Alton, Godfrey, Wood River, etc.) over the next few weeks and beyond at their Facebook page or their MySpace page.

Ticket information about the Max Weinbergh and his Big Band concert is also found online at the website seemaxinalton.com - with a limited amount of VIP tickets available.

22 February 2010

Paperwork Shows LCMS Obscured Sale of KFUO-FM

A News St. Louis Column

In February 2009, the board of directors for the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) met and authorized the sale of their FM station, KFUO-FM. In the months after that, it is clear that the LCMS put one person from their board, Kermit Brashear, an Omaha lawyer of some repute, in charge of negotiating the sale of the station. Brashear struck a deal with a group of Christian broadcasters known as Gateway Creative Broadcasting, who operate two small "rim-shot" stations in Missouri known as JoyFM, and announced the sale of KFUO-FM on the air at JoyFM before the staff at KFUO-FM were told about the transaction. Soon thereafter, several parties in the St. Louis area filed comments with the FCC, including a prominent "Petition to Deny" from a group which has been seeking to stop the sale of the only classical music station in the region.

Recently, several pieces of paper related to one of the "Petition to Deny" filings sent to the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, ended up in the hands of News St. Louis. It is interesting reading at worst. The man who is behind that particular petition is Robert Duesenberg, whose group is called Committee to Save KFUO-FM. This group has now filed papers bringing into question the validity of the words used by the leaders of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in the proposed sale of their FM radio station in St. Louis to Gateway Creative Broadcasting, aka JoyFM. In short, the papers Duesenberg's group sent to the FCC show a potential problem for the LCMS. The LCMS may find itself in court over what it has said "on the record" about the sale of the station.

In these recent "Committee to Save KFUO-FM" filings sent to the FCC and the parties involved in the pending transaction, Duesenberg filed a personal exhibit stating that he has on several occasions requested papers from the LCMS --- a church body of whom Duesenberg is a "member in good standing" --- and has been denied access to those papers. It is unclear if the FCC would address his claims, but there was more to the filing which brings into light how far the LCMS may have been willing to go to obscure a potential sale to a party OTHER than Gateway Creative/JoyFM.

A second exhibit was sent in this most recent filing from Robert Cox who is a long-time broadcaster and has spent the past fifteen years as a professional radio broker --- the equivalent of a realtor for radio stations and other broadcast operations. Cox makes clear that he and at least one other member of his firm, Cox and Cox, were in contact with the LCMS and had requested information on the availability of the station on the open market over a period of several months in 2009. Cox had buyers who wanted to know if the station was up for sale --- the LCMS repeatedly denied it was selling KFUO-FM or misrepresented the fact that the LCMS board of directors had authorized the sale of KFUO-FM.

Cox found out about the sale of KFUO-FM the way most people in St. Louis did --- reading about it after the announcement.

This is how the LCMS showed it was professional to a professional? By denying the sale to a professional radio broker virtually all the way to the moment it was announced?

One can think what they want about how a sale of this magnitude (losing a cultural icon in Classic 99, a past Marconi-award winning classical music station) becomes an issue across the metropolitan St. Louis area in newspapers and online publications. However this appears to be the LCMS involved directly in certain collusion. A professional broadcasting broker was seeking information about the station sale and either received misinformation or direct lies by the selling party (LCMS) --- showing collusion in an even more obvious way than was previously charged by a "Citizens" petition to deny the sale.

Although this paperwork is likely to be opened up by someone at the FCC, the sale of KFUO-FM is probably too far in the works to be stopped unless there has been a lawsuit filed against the parties involved. Most people involved in broadcasting in St. Louis think the sale will be finalized in March. Then there will be a short period of time when the two parties will negotiate the transfer of the signal of 99.1FM from the LCMS to JoyFM, followed by the end of "Classic 99, KFUO-FM" and the beginning of a new JoyFM on 99.1FM in St. Louis.

An interesting aside to the most recent filings --- the broker, Cox, is also Lutheran.

02 February 2010

The 110-Year-Old Band Plays On

Local residents have been hearing this group perform for at least 110-years, according to members of the Letter Carriers Band of St. Louis. The band is looking to continue its tradition of playing throughout the communities in the region for the rest of the 21st Century and beyond.

Although many may not have heard of the Letter Carriers Band (of St. Louis), its origins around the turn of the 20th century were not fully documented, either. But the now-deceased singer of the band, Lee Gilcrease (d. 2008 - he sang into his 94th year of life and would have turned 96 this week), had been told by long-ago members of the group - with whom he performed for more than 40 years - that it had been started long before the 1904 World's Fair by musicians linked to the St. Louis letter carriers [local Branch 343]. The National Association of Letter Carriers has long been a sponsor of this and other bands nationwide, including bands in Pittsburgh, Memphis, Seattle, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and numerous other locations. In fact, at one time the NALC sponsored more than 100 bands across the United States of America.

The St. Louis band has performed at NALC conventions in Chicago, Orlando, Las Vegas, Portland (OR), and Honolulu among other cities.

Locally, the Letter Carriers Band (of St. Louis) performs almost year-round in varied venues such as retirement apartments, nursing homes, parks, community events, and at the annual St. Louis Labor Day Parade (part of the NALC Branch #343 gathering).

Its current director, Dolores Ullrich - a longtime local music teacher - has been a member of the band for more than 26 years. Her husband Don, once the director in the mid-1980s, is also a member of the band. Their son and son-in-law are current members, too, along with about twelve to fifteen other musicians and singers, including Letter Carriers Branch 343 member Steve Schwent. Steve has been a member of the band since he was "a young man" --- more than 30 years --- and has seen a lot of personnel changes over that time. He says that any band which has been around more than 100 years has seen change, but one thing remains the same: a commitment to the community.

Perfomances include a wide-range of music, from big bands (think Duke Ellington or Tommy Dorsey style), musicals (Kiss Me Kate, The Sound of Music, Kismet, others), ethnic regional music (Italian, English, Irish, German, Spanish, Mexican, melting pot USA), popular music which featured the great 20th century singers (think Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Tony Bennett, etc.), march music (Sousa, King, et al), waltzes, various styles of jazz (standards/combos/some solos and bluesy stuff), and patriotic music.

If it sounds like fun --- the musicians say, emphatically, that it IS fun. The band takes pride in performing, but is looking for new blood to continue the tradition. In 2010, the group is looking for musicians who READ and PLAY music of the genres mentioned. Needed are those who play TRUMPET, PERCUSSION (drum set), SAXOPHONE, TROMBONE, BASS (string or tuba), KEYBOARD/PIANO, GUITAR, and clarinet or flute (parts for big band music may be arranged for some instruments). Other instruments are used more sporadically, but may be needed at any time of the year depending upon the music styles necessary for a performance. Multi-instrumental specialists abound in the band, including Sid Boxer who has performed on saxophone and clarinet for "around 40 years". Other musicians may play baritone saxophone on one gig and tenor sax for a different gig, or the trumpet player gets up to sing, or one member may sing as well as play trombone and trumpet in the same gig. It's talent like that which has kept the music going for 110-years in St. Louis.

If you need additional information about the Letter Carriers Band of St. Louis, contact buzzmusicmedia@gmail.com --- and ask about performances or opportunities to join the band as a musician. Practices and performances are on Tuesday evenings. Practices are usually held at Shaw VPA School on The Hill at 7:00 pm on select Tuesdays. Band officials ask that --- before showing up --- you would contact a band member or Dolores Ullrich to make sure there is a practice scheduled, if you are interested in performing with the Letter Carriers Band. Some musicians from other groups perform for a short period of time during the hiatus of their other band(s), but come back year after year because they love the merry little band of music makers.

If you are interested in becoming a musician with the Letter Carriers Band of St. Louis, you'll find some of the musicians have been around here a long time --- and the band as a whole is hoping to be here a LOT longer!