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KUSC acquires veteran voices

Capparela and Bartel rejoin the FM station after KMZT goes AM.

March 03, 2007|Mike Boehm | Times Staff Writer

Classical music radio does not lack for dead white males, but KUSC-FM (91.5) has added a couple of live ones with the signing of DJs Rich Capparela and Dennis Bartel, two blasts from its past whom it's counting on to help it exploit a rival's shrunken profile on the airwaves.

Capparela was the morning announcer at L.A. commercial classical station KMZT-FM (105.1) from 1996 until Feb. 23, when owner Saul Levine announced that it would be switching formats and signals with its sister station, AM country station KKGO (1260). The swap took place Monday. Capparela will take over at KUSC on weekdays from 4 to 7 p.m. starting March 26.

Bartel will move into KUSC's morning slot this summer. He was the morning host on the nonprofit station from 1975 to 1980, station President Brenda Barnes said Thursday, and Capparela succeeded him for the next seven years.

Barnes said "it took no brain cells, no thinking whatsoever" to give the two veteran announcers new berths after their old ones disappeared. Capparela left KMZT, know as K-Mozart, rather than join its switch from a music-friendly FM frequency to a spot on the AM band, which lacks FM's reception and sound quality. Bartel lost his position when, after nearly 60 years as a commercial classical station, WGMS-FM in Washington, D.C., switched to classic rock in January, according to the Washington Post.

In an interview this week, Capparela praised KMZT and KKGO owner Levine for clinging to the "ridiculously unfeasible" classical-commercial format "long after he should have bent to reality." He said he had received hundreds of e-mails from upset K-Mozart listeners who had used his www.cardiffstudios.com site to vent.

"It's awe-inspiring how passionate people are about their radio," Capparela said. "I've been touched to tears."

He said that in his new gig, he would retain his K-Mozart prerogatives to veer from prepared playlists and to be "funny and entertaining ... informative but never dry."

Barnes said KUSC had begun talks with the Pacific Symphony about switching its concert broadcasts from K-Mozart. Capparela has been the orchestra's radio host since 1995. She said that KUSC has no room to air any of the other groups disenfranchised by the switch, among them the New West Symphony and the Pasadena Symphony, but that the station would try to give them exposure on its recently launched Saturday morning magazine show, "Arts Alive."

K-Mozart officials, for their part, said that they were trying, as much as technology would allow, to sweeten the station's sound on AM but that there was not much they could do about a greatly diminished broadcast range.

Michael Levine, marketing director for KMZT and KKGO and son of the owner, said that technical adjustments were made on the second day of classical AM broadcasting to improve sound quality. Such an upgrade had not been deemed necessary when the "Go Country" format was on AM.

"You hear the differences much more for classical," he said. "For country, perhaps it's more hidden."

The technical adjustment would not extend the signal's strength or reach, he acknowledged.

Levine said the signal is strongest in the San Fernando Valley and down the coast, with the Westside being a prime listening area.

Long Beach and Orange County are among the areas that are "a little tricky," he conceded. "It's a concern for us. We've had such a wonderful group of listeners there."

The best advice he could give outlying classical fans was to listen on the Internet or invest in a high-definition radio receiver, which is touted as improving reception and fidelity.

mike.boehm@latimes.com

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