Saying Goodbye to Margaret Hunt, WKMS Classical Music Host and Friend
We note with sadness the passing of long-time WKMS Classical Music Director and friend, Margaret Mitchell Hunt Arnold, who passed away this week in Asheville, NC.
Margaret was the longtime host of Morning Classics and the Classical Music Program Director at the station in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s. At one time, she was responsible for programming 52 hours of classical music played each week, producing arts-related features, maintaining the classical music library and training on-air talent. She also played a key role in recording and broadcasting the Paducah Symphony Orchestra on WKMS.
Margaret’s early radio career was in England including an internship with the BBC. She told WKMS that she spent time, “enchanted with British radio drama. It was an easy jump from BBC radio to our Public Radio.” She was a self-proclaimed Anglophile who enjoyed music, travel, cooking, and gardening.
With her vast music knowledge and charismatic on-air delivery, Margaret’s impact on WKMS programming has been indelible, earning her audience and co-worker’s great affection and respect.
Classical Encore host Jack Dressler recalls that Margaret gave us a wonderful variety of music over those years at WKMS; she retired in 2003 and moved back to her home area, Asheville NC. “She introduced herself to me in the fall of 1989 when I arrived at MSU as professor of Horn and Music History. She asked if I'd be interested in collaborating with her on a special 12-week series exploring vocal and choral music. Some of our listeners might recall our show Voices from the Spring of 1990, I believe. Margaret took care of the production end: lining up the CDs and vinyl (!) from the WKMS library of nearly 3,000 discs at the time following our discussion of what types of music to play that week. Our repertoire ranged from solo songs of Brahms, Schubert, Debussy and Britten to Mass settings of Vivaldi and Haydn to opera arias and choruses of Mozart, Verdi, Rossini, Donizetti and Puccini to large-scale works for chorus, soloists and orchestra and even Anglican service music of Parry, Stanford and other British composers Margaret had come to enjoy from her time spent in England. It was her encouragement that kept me on-air at WKMS to this day."
Former Station Manager Kate Lochte shares, “As dignified and composed Margaret Hunt was, she brought cheer to one fundraiser by skating around the eighth floor. And she illuminated staff meetings with trenchant comments, always on point. She was a faithful liaison with the Paducah Symphony Orchestra, bringing their concerts to air for years. Margaret's impeccable work gave WKMS an authentic, intelligent voice. She was a saucy lass outside the office, full of mischief with lots of friends including her Saturday morning buddies who exercised then went to eat heartily at Rudy's or Martha's. It was wonderful for students and colleagues to have learned and laughed with her while gaining experience in listening to her great music selections."
Membership Director Jenni Todd remembers, “I first worked at WKMS as a college student under Margaret’s keen eye, helping create and maintain the database of classical music CDs. She was always so encouraging to all the student workers through the years. I know that I’m not unique in having been impacted by Margaret’s guidance and generosity.”
To honor Margaret’s memory, hosts Jack Dressler and George Eldred plan to broadcast a special tribute program with remembrances of Margaret’s time as “the voice of classical music in our region.” Dressler also plans to dedicate two Classical Encore programs to feature the music Margaret enjoyed and that she shared with our region while she was on the air.
A formal obituary for Margaret Hunt can be found here: