Susan Clark: A Memory in the Arts I Can’t Forget

By Susan Clark 


When Mom drove us around as kids I remember she only had one button of interest on the radio dial. As my siblings and I groaned, rolled our eyes, and begged for Beatles, our car filled with opera. There was no escape. All we heard were big-chested ladies “screaming in despair.” So, who would guess that I, who also cried over hated piano lessons, would someday work for a Classical public radio station.

It does fit, though. I always loved music—Broadway albums my Dad brought home from New York City after seeing a premiere, Sinatra and Streisand on our family turntable, Mitch Miller and Herb Alpert. I even liked the Gospel music Granddaddy played on Sunday mornings. We were, after all, related to one of the Jordanaires who sang gospel and backup for Elvis.

Ballet lessons became my “substitute” for ill-fated music lessons—I loved to move to music, respond to it, as dancers do. That’s when I fell in love with Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Stravinsky and Strauss.

Decades later, my mother’s finger still reaches out for the same music on the dial, only that station is mine, KCSC 90.1 FM. Ok, it’s not really mine, but I work here. In fact, it’s everyone’s station—that’s what public radio is. KCSC is the only locally-programmed 24-hour Classical music station in the state, largely funded by listeners like my Mom. People from as far north as Stillwater, east to Heavener and McAlester, south to Ada, and west to Weatherford keep us on the air, as membership counts for about half our budget.

I like that we are unique in Oklahoma and one of few in America, as many cities’ classical stations have sold out to commercial formats or changed to news-talk. Though Oklahomans love their country and Pop 40, about 45,000 tune into KCSC. I’m impressed by a recent radio Arbitron report that said Classical outperformed its national average by 40 percent in seven states—Oklahoma made that list!

Some call us the “pearl in the oyster” in our local cultural landscape. Others say we are “the little engine who could.”

We are both. Beyond our reputation as a refuge for Classical music fans and the news-weary, KCSC is one of the few stations in the country that plays works in their entirety. There is no “top 40,” but rather a full range of music from Baroque to Classics to romantic to modern to film scores.

KCSC is also a mouthpiece for the arts scene with local programs like Spotlight on the Arts, an interview show, and Performance Oklahoma, a showcase of local symphonies and concerts. A perk of my job is working with arts promoters all over the City—we are fun—we arts people—and we are dedicated.

Behind the scenes at KCSC, we are nine people, five full-time, independent and yet intertwined, dedicated to programming beautiful, quality music, keeping our parts taped and glued together, and finding funds to keep our engine going.

It’s all good. And, Mom, I love the Puccini guy, and that Fleming girl.

Susan Clark is an Oklahoma native and UCO journalism graduate. She has freelanced for local newspapers and magazines and worked for UCO President Roger Webb as speechwriter and publicity director for two university theater series. She moved to KCSC as Development Director in 2003 where she is in charge of fundraising, publicity and the summer “Spotlight on the Arts.”

October is national arts and humanities month. 

During the last two weeks of the month, Oklahoma business and arts leaders will participate in a quasi blog salon, “A Memory of the Arts I Can’t Forget,” on the Oklahomans for the Arts blog.

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