The Adventure Concludes The Passing Of Karl Haas

The world of classical music has one less visionary among its ranks, musician and long time radio host Karl Haas passed away on February 6th, 2005 at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, he was 91 years old.

His award winning radio show, Adventures in Good Music, was simplicity at its best.  The show had a straightforward format; each program, Karl simply talked about a new topic related to classical music and played recordings to help illustrate his points.

Adventures in Good Music didn’t rely on slick production features or “dumbing down” a topic down so “everyone” can understand.  Instead, the program used a consummate artist who was also capable of communicating the pure joy and intrigue of classical music through the medium of radio broadcasts.

It didn’t matter if you were a classical music novice or a seasoned professional; there was always something for everyone in Karl’s shows.

Karl had a seemingly natural ability at making people feel welcome; from his distinctive greeting “Hello everyone ” through his invitation to join him for the following program, he endeavored to make people feel accepted and comfortable.

I had a discussion with a professional orchestra musician yesterday about Karl’s passing and they said if it wasn’t for one of Karl’s “specialty” programs which featured their respective instrument, they never would have garnered as much interest in practicing as a child.

That was one of the real benefits and liabilities of using the radio as a medium to reach a new audience.  I doubt Karl ever knew the full extent to which he reached so many people throughout the world.  But reach them he did and it made the world of classical music better, and stronger, because of it.

When the orchestra business contemplates how to attract a new audience, they would do themselves a great favor by taking the time to consider replicating Karl’s approach; just talk to people.

I recently had an email conversation with one of the brightest people in the business today and they mentioned that what our society needs is for “people to understand the value of getting together with their neighbors and enjoying good music.”

People will love classical music, we just need to get out there and tell them about it.

To learn more about Karl, visit his biography and award page at WCLV.

Postscript: There is a wonderful article in today’s Detroit Free Press by Mark Stryker which demonstrates just how powerful talking to people about classical music really is. Mark received this note via email from one of his readers in response to the article:

“I may not be a learned scholar of classical music, but listening to Dr. Haas throughout college so many miles from home taught me to love and appreciate classical music…to take it in and to enjoy it. To allow it to set the mood and to facilitate either quiet meditation or the perfect background music when studying…to help contemplate the happenings of our lives on the 5 hour car trips back to Detroit…It is hard to believe that there was a time when I felt that classical music was stodgy and boring…”

What are your personal Karl Haas memories?  What did you learn about classical music by listening to his program?  Send in an email and let me know.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.