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!