Remembering Karl Haas
The secrets behind the success of classical music's leading 'Adventurer.'
by Drew McManus
February 14, 2005
Long before orchestras began to invest in outreach programs, musician Karl Haas began reaching out over the radio airwaves to introduce everything that’s wonderful about classical music to millions of new listeners.
Dr. Haas began hosting Adventures in Good Music in 1959, less than a year after Leonard Bernstein began his Young People's Concerts. During those 45 years, Karl reached millions of listeners over hundreds of radio stations worldwide.
Adventures in Good Music was a radio program with a simple format; Karl talked about the music and played examples to illustrate his points. The popularity of the program was due to the quality of the subject material and Karl’s infectious personality.
His German accent and refined manner of speech may have initially come across s as a stuffy classical music stereotype to some listeners at first, but it only took a few moments for that listener to realize that Karl was something much more than a stuffed shirt stereotype.
Karl’s program helped inspire generations of new classical music fans, the medium of radio allowed people who wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to learn about classical music to enroll in a sort of on-air study experience.
However, the term “study” doesn’t really give Karl’s program the justice it deserves. Instead, you could think of Karl more like the college professor who taught the class everyone wanted to take. He was fun, entertaining, and (whether you realized it or not) you learned something with each new program.
Regardless of the program’s subject material, Karl’s voice always had a certain tone; you could actually hear his smile coming through his words. From Karl’s delightful trademark greeting of “Hello everyone” to his closing remarks, there was always a flash of happiness and contentment in the tone. It was that grandfatherly like charm which contributed to the longevity of his career.
It’s easy getting people to like classical music
There didn’t seem to be any limit to which demographic Karl’s approach appealed to. Elizabeth in Denver, now a professional musician, remembered seeing Karl live at a local event where he spoke directly to an audience of music enthusiasts.
David W. Burhenn from Los Angeles, CA, remembered Karl’s personal approach in an encounter with him from his youth,
Some listeners enjoyed all of Karl’s programs on an equal level, but most have a favorite or two. One long time listener, Margaret Koscielny from Jacksonville, FL has a particular program that reserves a special place in her memory.
And that was the magic of Karl’s program, he simply talked to people about not just the music, but everything connected to it which people don’t normally have an opportunity to learn about. It didn’t matter if you were a novice or a seasoned professional; there was always something you could get from one of Karl’s programs.
In a day and age where the very relevance of classical music in American society is being questioned, there is a lesson to be learned from Karl’s approach; you build an audience one member at a time and keep at it.
Fortunately, Karl’s programs will continue to be broadcast worldwide. According to Bridgett Emerson, the syndication representative for WCLV/Seaway Productions, Karl’s programs will continue to be aired in syndication and they have no plans to cancel the broadcasts.
Furthermore, in honor of Karl’s memory Bridgette said,
Although Karl’s passing will be a great loss for the world of music, at least it’s better off for having him walk through it.
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