UMKC Professor Emerita Linda Mitchell, Ph.D. grew up listening to classical music.
“We lived in the Philadelphia area, and we had wonderful classical music stations there, even before public radio,” she says. “I was a teenager when public radio started, and NPR’s programming became a lifeline for me.”
Mitchell, who has lived mostly on the east coast, was accustomed to having classical music available on the radio around the clock. She’s been in Kansas City since 2008 and has been a sustaining member of KCUR since she arrived. She relishes KCUR’s regular programming—especially Chuck Haddix’s Fish Fry—but missed that easy access to anytime classical music. So, when Mitchell learned about plans for 91.9 Classical KC, a sister station featuring classical music with a goal to create local programming that featured the Kansas City culture and music scene, she was thrilled. That it launched in July of 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, was a gift.
“It’s not so much that classical music is always relaxing, but there’s something about the cadences and structure and the technical aspects of classical music of all eras, that actually settle me down. It’s a wonderful accompaniment to work and a great thing to listen to as I fall asleep.”
While Classical KC’s regular programming was her original draw, Mitchell became more invested in the station once she found out that a goal of the station was to increase diversity in both staffing and programming selections. Already committed to supporting the station, conversations with the station’s development team led to her endowed gift supporting local programming.
“I think that philanthropy for public radio stations can be envisioned in two separate lanes. One is the bottom line fundraising – such as membership drives – that has to happen, but is focused on meeting immediate needs.”
Mitchell sees the other lane as long range solutions that provide security for institutions that create value for the community.
“The only way to do that is through endowments where the principal can grow and then the income can be used. With the growth of the fund, eventually it might replace some of that desperate fundraising that goes on every year.”
Mitchell sees an endowment as an optimistic testament that the organization is going to survive and thrive. David Fulk, director of philanthropic giving, confirms that gifts such as Michell’s do just that.
“The significance of Mitchell’s endowed fund is providing long term security for the station which, in turn, will ensure that future generations of listeners have access to local classical music programming,” he says.
Sarah Morris, general manager KCUR 89.3 and Classical KC 91.9, says support like Mitchell’s is essential to public radio in Kansas City.
“The vast majority of our funding comes from local donors like Linda, and we wouldn’t be here without them. Particularly with Classical KC, we rely on the people in our community with a passion for classical music who want to ensure that everyone has free access now — and in the future,” she says.
Mitchell sees herself as a pragmatist.
“This is the craziest center for art and culture I have lived in in my life,” Mitchell says. “Kansas City is bursting at the seams with all kinds of cultural events and spaces: it is actually a little overwhelming! It made sense that Classical KC wanted to tap into that energy and promote the diversity of the city as well the idea that classical music is for everyone.”