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Challenges at KUSC: Reaching the Younger Listener

“We see that the classical music (radio) station, as we have known it, is a dead art form--either losing ground or going out of business,” says Wallace A. Smith, president of USC Radio, the new umbrella title for KUSC-FM and its affiliate stations. “This is because the traditional stations have not kept current with the newer people who are interested in classical music.”

Also, he says, “While we weren’t looking, two generations of potential listeners have been deprived of music in the public schools, and have grown up without that exposure.”

Attracting new and younger listeners becomes a first priority, given these conditions, Smith believes. He expects his new team of administrators to implement that priority.

“It’s a tremendous challenge, but one we can address by very carefully broadening our repertory. By expanding our limits without changing the formats our present listeners enjoy.”

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With the appointment of three members of what he calls “the senior management team,” Smith takes the first step in what he calls the “reinvention of KUSC for the ‘90s.”

In May, Tom Deacon of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. will become vice president for programs. Judith Leventhal of WNYC Communications Group will be vice president for finance and administration. And William V. Kappelman, currently director of engineering and operations at KUSC, will be given vice presidential authority for those areas. Under Smith, these three will become responsible for planning and implementing “new directions for USC Radio.”

At the creation of USC Radio when Smith returned to Los Angeles in August--he had spent 11 months as an administrator at WNYC AM/FM in New York City--the organization began a reassessment of its mission, Smith told The Times last week.

“I realized that in my first tenure here we were preoccupied with cultivating partnerships, making KUSC a part of the musical community. That was important then. But, what I failed to do, that time around, I want to achieve now: To make KUSC a great radio station.”

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ON THE FESTIVAL PATH: The 13th annual Spoleto Festival U.S.A. in Charleston, S.C., takes place between May 26 and June 11. In 1989, Gian Carlo Menotti’s late-spring gathering in the historical Southern city offers Bellini’s “La Straniera” (with Carol Neblett in the title role), “Le Nozze di Figaro,” Laurie Anderson’s “The Electronic Theater,” the world premiere of Astor Piazzolla’s “Tango/Orfeo,” the Boston Ballet and the Trisha Brown Company, four jazz concerts, daily chamber music events, recitals and visual arts. Write: P.O. Box 704, Charleston, S.C. 29402.

The world premiere of a work by American composer Stephen Paulus, a mounting of Boito’s “Mefistofele,” and guest appearances by Frederica von Stade, Jeffrey Kahane, Garrison Keilor and the male vocal group Chanticleer--would you believe these are offerings at the Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene in 1989? Well, believe it. Of course, Helmuth Rilling’s much-admired, fortnight-long festival also promises Bach, as well as Beethoven, Bartok and Monteverdi. For brochure, call: (503) 686-5666.

In Colorado, the 41st Aspen Music Festival, June 23-Aug. 20--nine weeks of daily concerts, master classes and symposia--offers Rossini’s “Moses in Egypt,” two Britten operas, a sixth annual medical conference on the problems of dancers and musicians and a number of special events. For information, write Box AA, Aspen, Colo. 81612.

The Catalina Festival of Chamber Music, sponsored by the Da Camera Society of Mount St. Mary’s College, will present its third edition, June 2-4, in and around Avalon. Twelve concerts at seven sites will be given, featuring the Da Camera Players (Delores Stevens, music director) and the Angeles String Quartet. Those sites include the Airport in the Sky, Casino Theater, the Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel, Avalon Community Church, the Inn at Mt. Ada and the Bird Park. In addition, three special events mark this weekend: a Friday night welcome party at the Casino Ballroom; “Stuart Whitman Reads Zane Grey” at the Zane Grey mansion and, back at the Casino Ballroom on Sunday morning, a champagne brunch/live radio broadcast by festival director MaryAnn Bonino. Information: (213) 746-0450, Ext. 2211.

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BEL CANTO WINNER: A shopping mall usually isn’t the site of a formal opera competition, except in Santa Monica where, on April 6, Michael Taylor of Belmont, along with four other finalists, stood before clusters of shoppers in the center court area of Santa Monica Place and won the Bel Canto National Operatic Competition.

The 34-year-old baritone, a graduate student at the San Francisco Conservatory, sang arias (from “Carmen” and “Pagliacci”) to win a six-week scholarship to study opera in Siena, Italy, this summer.

A spokesman for the Bel Canto Foundation, which has been sponsoring opera competitions in shopping malls since 1987, claims the idea really isn’t that odd because opera itself originally began in marketplaces in Italy.

‘LOVE’ SCREENING: Violinist Arnold Brostoff of the Chicago Symphony will lead a live, 21-member orchestra in his recently composed score to the 1927 silent film, “Love,” which will be shown Tuesday at 8 p.m. in Royce Hall at UCLA.

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The veteran Chicago musician--he has been a member of the Symphony since 1964--says he was inspired to write the 1 1/2-hour work, in which he will serve as his own violin soloist, after he saw Greta Garbo’s performance as Anna Karenina at a screening of the film two years ago. (This was the first film in which Garbo plays Anna Karenina; she made a second in 1934.)

“I was just knocked out,” recalls Brostoff. “There’s a naturalness about her, an emotional look. A femininity.” Describing his composition as “eclectic in nature” but “not terribly new in sound,” Brostoff adds that he included Baroque elements in the music because, in his mind, “that’s the sound of love.”

The Turner Entertainment Co., which owns the rights to “Love,” has expressed interest in Brostoff’s musical score when it shows the Edmund Goulding movie on its cable television network, the violinist says.

Calendar intern Frank A. Fisher contributed to the research for this column.

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