KMFA partners with Butler School of Music to broadcast student performances after recital cancelations

Monday, April 20, 2020

by Mariane Gutierrez

After COVID-19 hit the Austin community, student recitals in UT’s Butler School of Music were canceled as social distancing rules were enacted.

To help support these students whose senior recitals were no longer possible, the Butler School of Music partnered with KMFA, Austin’s classical music radio station, to take advantage of an existing radio show to feature student performances for one hour at the beginning of each week.

The idea for From the Butler School was introduced by Ryan Kelly, assistant director of bands at the Butler School of Music, when the normal format was no longer appropriate for the circumstances quarantine created, Kelly said.

“We normally feature large ensembles and faculty recitals,” Kelly said. “Given that our normal programming was no longer possible, it made sense to turn the show into something that could benefit those who have been impacted the most by the closure.”

Anthony McSpadden, director of broadcasting and content for KMFA said that Jeffrey Blair, KMFA’s production manager, and Kelly would normally record announcements and consult with one another on the performances to be featured. However, due to the new circumstances, they now coordinate online.

“Like many businesses, KMFA has had to change the way it operates in this new environment,” McSpadden said. “Thanks to technology, [Kelly] is now able to do his part of the production while at home, which he then shares with Jeffrey, who edits the pieces together.”

Nick Hammel, a member of the ensemble Trio Rouge, said he and his piano trio had two performances they had been working on for almost a full year being canceled. When Ryan chose one of their performances for the radio show, Hammel said it was an excellent opportunity to represent the school, despite the issues.

“There aren’t very many ways to showcase musicians at a time like this,” Hammel said. “I’ve seen online streams of performances, but nothing beats the authenticity of a radio broadcast. I’m hoping KMFA will give students more motivation to keep practicing since it’s sometimes difficult to find that in isolation.”

Kelly said the response for the show has been positive, so there is potential for it to expand further.

“Having our students’ work broadcast on the air is an opportunity for them to reach an audience that perhaps hasn’t heard their music before,” Kelly said. “Every musician does what we do because we love to perform—we love the opportunity to share music with other people.” 

From the Butler School airs Mondays at 9 p.m. CST on KMFA 89.5 in Austin and can be streamed online from any location.

Schedule for From the Butler School:

April 6: Trio Rouge (Nick Hammel, violin, Chan Song An, cello, Sohee Kwon, piano)
April 13: Haeni Lee, violin
April 20: Evan Williams, trombone
April 27: Thalea String Quartet (Chris Whitley and Kumiko Sakamoto violin, Luis Bellorin, viola, Titilayo Ayangade, cello)
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