Jan 28, 2015 - 8:09 AM

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Mark Simmons
Music Director

Mark SimmonsMy earliest memories of music are of the classical pieces my kindergarten teacher played while we were supposed to be taking our afternoon nap.  I am still haunted by the vivid imagery these sounds conjured in my impressionable, young mind.


My first instrument was the trombone, picked up in the third grade when I could barely reach “seventh position.”  The following year I switched to E-flat tuba, beginning my “heavy metal” period with four years of orchestra hefting the “basso brasso” and then five years of band, shouldering the Double B-flat Sousaphone and marching in innumerable football games and three American Royal parades—inevitably, it seemed, behind the Clydesdales.


Somewhere along the way, I squeezed in a couple of years of piano, choir, formal voice (ask me about my debut performance of Panis Angelicus), then taught myself guitar and a little ukulele, earning some pocket change playing and singing in bars, coffeehouses, and restaurants through my college years (the standards were lower then). 

Maybe it’s in the genes: my mother had played guitar, performing on WHB radio in Kansas City before I came along.  Thirty years later I was hosting a televised music program on cable access in Warrensburg, Missouri.  I performed a solo every week, introduced a new musical guest, and then joined them for a duet or joint performance at the close of each show.  It was a grueling schedule for a college student, booking musical guests, rehearsing, and creating a new show every week and, as the show’s producer, I fired myself as the host after the first season.  Then I turned right around and hired myself as the new director, consolidating my power behind the camera.  At that point in my life I knew that I wanted to be involved with music; I just decided that my talents were better suited to producing than performing.


My radio career began at KXTR-FM in Kansas City, Kansas—one of the few remaining “commercial” classical stations in the country at that time—and KBEA-AM.  Although KXTR still broadcasts classical music today, it has been relegated to the AM band.  Public Radio is practically the last refuge for classical music and culture on our airwaves.


In 1988 I moved to Southeast Kansas to help launch a new Public Radio Station: KRPS-FM in Pittsburg, Kansas.  While I was there I began a new hobby.  Some people hunt, some fish, some play golf; I write science fiction and fantasy.  My seventh novel will be published in 2007.  My wife calls my laptop the “metal mistress”.  At least she knows where I am on nights and weekends.


In 1994 I accepted the position of Program Director for KEDM Public Radio in Monroe, Louisiana.  A year later—just like my stint in television years before—I added a second hat, that of General Manager.


Although Hurricane Katrina did not touch us directly (we were in the Northeast region of the state), it was a wake-up call.  My wife and I were homesick for the Midwest.  Our family and friends were primarily spread through Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.  I missed the “hands on” aspect of programming and presenting the Greatest Music of The Ages.  How could I go forward without going backward?


Like an answer to prayer the Radio Kansas Network beckoned.  I feel so blessed to be back in the heartland, working with a team of consummate professionals, and able to return to the microphone and the music stacks, sharing my favorite music with old friends and making many new ones along the way!