30th Anniversary - Classical Music
For 20 of the 30 years, classical music enthusiasts have welcomed the soft and quiet demeanor of WUIS host Karl Scroggin. The calming tenor (more of a baritone, really) of his voice, coupled with encyclopedic detail in which he can discuss his musical selections, has earned both Karl and WUIS widespread respect throughout the classical music community.
Karl’s lifetime love affair with classical music began as a child when he began singing Gregorian chants in church. In college, Karl studied music and eventually took a degree in creative arts with an emphasis on music at the University of Illinois at Springfield. His expansive education and command of several European languages have served him well as a classical music host. Complementing his extensive understanding of music and musical forms is his vast comprehension of the history of composers and the periods in which they worked. In addition, he plays the guitar, lute, viola de gamba, mandolin and recorder. Such a complete approach to music is part of the secret of Karl’s success.
It would seem that Karl was groomed specifically for the role of classical music host, however, he became an integral part of WUIS quite by accident. “I was going to school and teaching part time and a friend of mine suggested I get a student job on campus. The radio station had an opening, and I was hired to do odd jobs – cleaning the shop, working in the front office. They realized I knew a lot about music so I worked in the record library and in the radio information service. Then I started filling in for Lori Berg, the classical music host at the time, who was gone frequently. She eventually quit and I stepped in. There was no plan. It just happened and when it did I took it on faith that it was meant to be.”
Although Karl had never been trained as a host it was a role he performed almost instinctively. “Brad Swanson said to me after the first couple of times that I hosted, ‘I know you weren’t trained to do this, and I don’t know where you learned it. But you know how to do it.’ I always had a great interest in foreign languages. I had extensive background in music. All the data was in my head.”
In some respects, hosting a radio program is an odd professional choice for Karl who considers himself a rather private individual. However, his demeanor has served him well from the standpoint that he allows the music to take center stage. “I don’t get in the way of the music.”
Karl also has been involved in arts reporting for the station and numerous special events, but among his most cherished accomplishments is the establishment of the Young Musicians Concert Competition. “That came about when I was listening to one of my students playing Christmas songs and it was so cute that I recorded it. And it dawned on me that it would be nice if kids could hear themselves play classical music on the air. I thought, let’s create something along the lines of a Music Federation competition, record it, and play it on the air during the holiday season so the kids can hear themselves. People find us on the dial because they want to hear their children and grandchildren on the radio.”
As a 20-year veteran of the station, Karl has witnessed a technological revolution of sorts in the delivery of radio programming. “When I first walked in we used turntables and reel-to-reel tapes. There were many transitional technologies. We recorded on VHS cassettes and DAT cassettes. Then it went to mini discs. Now it is moving to ‘on demand’ music that we download from the Internet.”
Karl has rebuilt the entire WUIS classical music library replacing all of the LP records with compact discs. “What’s wonderful about compact disc technology is that so much music can be recorded and so much more is available than has ever been available before. On an LP they (producers) could only afford to release top name ensembles, but now you have access to the complete piano sonatas of Domenica Scarlatti on 12 CDs. The technology has opened up for the listener the opportunity to discover repertoire that was never available before.”
While the technology has certainly expanded access to the great works of the masters as well as those of little known composers and more people are listening to classical music than ever before, for many in the WUIS listening area it is the welcoming, sometimes satirical, often whimsical delivery of the soft-spoken Karl Scroggin that has allowed them to truly appreciate the beauty and the depth of this ageless musical genre.