The Story of Classical KUSC - Classical KUSC

Culture / The Story of Classical KUSC

The Story of
Classical KUSC

Once a small student-run station broadcasting
from the University of Southern California
campus, KUSC is now the largest and most
listened to public radio and non-profit classical
music station in the United States.

Our Roots

The plans for KUSC were hatched near the end of WWII in
bustling downtown Los Angeles. At the time, Los Angeles
was the nation’s capital for radio and motion picture
production — and television was on the rise.

  • Established In 1946

  • G_Allan_Hancock

    Thanks to a generous gift from USC alumnus Captain George Allan Hancock, an oil magnate and cello player for the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra, USC was able to build a 250-foot radio tower atop the Hancock Foundation building on campus. Students began broadcasting October 24th on an FM band that was so new, they identified themselves as “Frequency Modulated KUSC Radio.”

  • 1947 Slide

    Though limited to a 10-mile radius from the USC campus, more than 1,000 students nationwide applied for admission to the USC radio department. Radio Life noted in its August 17th issue that USC was “the first privately endowed institution in American educational history to own and operate its own radio station and the first to operate both AM and FM stations.”

  • 1973 slide

    Wally Smith, a graduate student finishing his doctorate in communication at the university, became the station’s General Manager. After studying the Los Angeles radio market, Smith recognized an outstanding opportunity just waiting to be seized. “It was very clear to me that what this city needed and what public radio was uniquely suited to do was a really serious full-time classical music radio station,” he said. KUSC went all-classical on April 2nd and would soon set the national standard for classical music radio.

  • 1976 slide

    The Corporation for Public Broadcasting awarded KUSC a five-year, $750,000 major market expansion grant — the first such grant in the nation. The funds helped attract major audiences to public radio and established a downtown L.A. space for full-time professional announcers, producers and engineers. KUSC also signed on in stereo from its new transmitter on Lookout Mountain above Hollywood, expanding its audience potential to 12 million people.

  • EPSON MFP image

    KUSC was on the air 24 hours a day with the largest audience of any public radio station in the country. At this point, the station had become a full-fledged production center, broadcasting Carlo Maria Giulini’s first season as conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

  • photo-1445387267924-a723a28a33ca

    KUSC became the first public radio station in Southern California with an up-link satellite earth station, which allowed it to beam programs via satellite to other public radio stations across the country.

  • Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 5.47.00 PM

    USC acquired the first of three sister stations, KCPB, which was licensed to Thousand Oaks and served Ventura County, California.

    Fun fact: This was also the year George Lucas gave KUSC the radio serialization rights to Star Wars, which was co-produced with NPR.

  • Olympic Torch Tower of the Los Angeles Coliseum on the day of the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics.

    Just in time for the 1984 Olympics, based in L.A., KUSC became a "superstation" by acquiring two stereo channels on an earth-orbiting satellite and broadcasting the Olympic Arts Festival live to the nation.

  • sky-beach-vacation-summer

    USC was granted a license to construct a new station that would serve the desert communities far east of Los Angeles. Construction began on what would become KUSC's third sister station, KPSC Palm Springs.

  • Beethoven slide

    After experimenting with a newer, more eclectic mix of classical, jazz, folk and world music, KUSC returned to its roots with an all-classical format. In December, the station celebrated Beethoven's birthday by filling the airwaves with the composer's music and influences for a full week. That same month, listeners generated a landmark $410,640 in 10 days of pledging, including a record $78,402 in a single day.

  • BrendaBarnes

    Brenda Pennell Barnes was hired as the new general manager and was the President of USC Radio Group until 2017. Prior to coming to USC, Barnes was general manager for a public radio station in Fort Dodge, Iowa; developed a regional network of stations serving northwestern Virginia; and served as general manager of WGUC in Cincinnati, Ohio.

  • jim-svejda

    "The Record Shelf" host Jim Svejda celebrated his 25th year with KUSC. Meanwhile, 91.5 FM Los Angeles/Orange County became digitally broadcast.

  • gail-eichenthal

    The Irvine Foundation awarded KUSC a three-year grant to expand its arts programming. Gail Eichenthal, who first joined the KUSC staff as an intern in 1976, returned as KUSC Director of Arts Programming after a 16-year broadcast news career. She was the first woman to host the radio broadcasts of a major American orchestra, the L.A. Philharmonic.

  • Walt Disney Music Hall

    KUSC became the only full-time FM classical station in Southern California and raised a record $1.3 million during its Fall on-air membership drive. KUSC also produced the first live Los Angeles Opera broadcast since the company's inaugural season.

  • Hollywood Panorama

    Lightning made headlines during a rare hailstorm in L.A. when it damaged a KUSC antenna. The station's signal took a hit, resulting in static and interference from other stations. KUSC defaulted to its backup broadcasting site in the Hollywood Hills until the damage was repaired.

  • KUSC office logo

    Classical KUSC moved into what is now the iconic, 32-story USC building in heart of downtown Los Angeles. With this move came the opportunity to use the Center's 500-seat auditorium for special live broadcasts.

  • Celebration

    KUSC celebrated its 70th anniversary, looking toward the future while honoring its legacy of preserving and growing appreciation for classical music on the air.

  • Jim Svejda

    Jim Svejda celebrated his 40th year with KUSC and the launch of "The Jim Svejda Fund for Talent Development".

Our Mission Today

We make a positive impact on individuals and communities by championing the power of classical music.


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@ChrisStH @Allenlevy4Levy That's right! Those are entries with staff blogs about the piece. 4 days ago